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The Gratuitous Global Warming Alarmism In the movie ‘Reminiscence’

By Aaron Brown

The sci-fi noir movie Reminiscence will likely be remembered mainly for having the worst opening all time for a major studio release, but what I found most interesting is the gratuitous alarmism. The movie is nowhere near as bad as the reviews and box office suggest—it suffered from having a simultaneous release on HBOMax which no doubt hurt theater sales, and for being a downer about stuff people worried more about before the pandemic—an unlikely date choice during reopening. I suspect it will do better in future streaming as people appreciate some fine acting and cinematography, and a competent, if formulaic, story.

The movie begins with narration unrelated to the plot. It seems that in the near future, perhaps ten or fifteen years from now, global warming has forced everyone to sleep in the daytime and work and play at night. People in the movie wear modern business suits with undershirts and vests in Miami and New Orleans, and no one ever sweats or mentions how hot it is. Outdoor scenes are mostly shot in daylight. No one connected with the movie other than that narrator seems to have remembered that it was hot. It makes no difference to the plot.

Now Lisa Joy, who wrote, directed and produced the movie, is smart enough to have graduated from Stanford, attended Harvard Law and worked for McKinsey. Presumably she knows, or can find out, that global mean temperatures are not likely to rise even 0.5°C in the next ten or fifteen years, at that any rise will mostly be in warmer nighttime lows than in daytime highs. That would leave New Orleans cooler than 200 of the 500 largest cities in the world today, and Miami cooler than 100. None of those cities have resorted to sleeping in the daytime.

The narration also describes sea level rise, which from evidence of the movie appears to be between 30 and 300 feet in Miami (there are considerable inconsistencies). Again, Joy knows or should know that few people project more than six inches of rise in Miami in that time horizon—mostly from the land subsiding rather than ocean waters rising.

But the much larger distortion is that no one moves when homes are flooded. They slosh though the water filling the streets, and take small boats when it’s deeper, rather than walk/swim a few hundred yards inland to the new shore and find new places to live. Thousands of cities in human history have been flooded by changing sea levels, shorelines and rivers and not once have people remained to soak and eventually drown. They build new cities.

Now the rising water is important to the film’s imagery, which plays on the metaphor of memory versus sinking into water. It would be plausible, by the standards of dystopian sci-fi, to posit that failing public infrastructure has caused frequent flooding in poor parts of Miami (or more logically, New Orleans) and people put up with the flooded basements and streets, and blocked sewage and storm run-off, because they cannot afford better housing. People live with that in Venice, Amsterdam and many other places. But no one lives in places permanently and deeply flooded.