NOAA scientists are delighted that their institution, in the person of scientist Jack Hall (played by Dennis Quaid), is the star of the major motion picture The Day After Tomorrow. But they administration doesn’t like the film’s portrayal of Vice-President Dick Cheney, who denies that global warming is on the way. NOAA planned to put up a website about abrupt climate change to coincide with the release of the film, but the project was nixed by the government.

In Grist Magazine, Amanda Griscom quotes NOAA scientist Mark McCaffrey as saying, “We thought this movie presented an incredible education opportunity to create a public dialogue that would demystify these widely misunderstood problems and showcase some of the things we do here at NOAA to help observe the earth system.” But after he got permission from NOAA to put up the website, word came down from on top that the project was “indefinitely on hold?with no further explanation.” This is reminiscent of the recent clash between NASA and the administration over the film. An anonymous NOAA scientist says, “In hindsight, it’s not much of a surprise given that [weeks ago] NASA scientists had been ordered to keep mum about the film. But we’re out here in Boulder and somehow we never got the message that we weren’t supposed to be doing this.” But just as with NASA, the light of the internet shining on all these would-be controllers of information has chased them all away, and now NOAA has been told it’s all right to post the website.

One reason the government may have wanted to squelch the information is that they actually plan to reduce the 2005 budget for NOAA’s paleoclimate program. One NOAA scientist says, “I really enjoyed the movie?even with the questionable science?But the sad thing was that it makes this program look really robust, when it’s being significantly defunded. In fact, the 2005 budget all but eliminates research on abrupt climate change.”

McCaffrey is one of the victims of the budgets cuts. A NOAA scientist says, “He’s already on his way out the door because they’ve decided that education outreach on climate-change science isn’t necessary or financially doable. So when you see Dennis Quaid fighting the White House trying to get the word out, it’s hard not to think of the bizarre parallel that in the real world our own leadership is making that very difficult.”

To learn how the film fits the facts, click here, here, here, here and here.

Can we ever understand what’s really going on?or are we ruled by secrecy?

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