Hank: Dale, you giblet-head, we live in Texas! It's already 110 in the summer, and if it gets one degree hotter, I'm going to kick your ass!
One might say "Global Warming is the New Nuke", since it has largely supplanted the role the A-bomb once had in fiction as a catalyst for The End of the World as We Know It.
In fiction, the effects of global warming are often drastically exaggerated for the purposes of creating immediate drama. Everything within a thousand miles of the tropics becomes an inhospitable desert, with places like Canada, Siberia and Scandinavia becoming the last refuges of humanity. Massive tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires start striking all over the planet. Absurdly swift rises in the sea level are also fairly common, with fictional works frequently portraying walls of water flooding all the coastal cities on the planet all at once rather than extremely gradually. A sea level rise of that magnitude necessitates the melting of most of the world's major ice sheets, something that would take decades in any realistic scenario. Here is a good app for demonstrating this point. Even the worst-case predictions for global warming don't involve any kind of sudden globally catastrophic event of the sort so popular in disaster movies, but rather a planet that gradually becomes less hospitable to human life. While global warming is often referred to as being rapid, that's "rapid" in geological terms. Compared to past cooling and warming trends (the ones that have brought Earth into and out of its past ice ages), a century-long gradual rise in temperature that substantially affects human life would be very rapid indeed.
In reality, while there are some possible (but less likely) scenarios where there could be movie-style doomsdays (and even in these unlikely scenarios, "doomsday" wouldn't happen everywhere at once), in general global warming is a far more subtle phenomenon, with its potential effects being long-term phenomena such as more frequent and more severe droughts, famines, floods, and possibly magnification of certain common weather patterns, generally more heavily affecting the less developed parts of the world where farming is more difficult and food somewhat scarcer than in the developed world. Because the environment in the real world is complicated, no single drought or melted glacier can ever be shown to have resulted only from global warming; the effect only appears in statistical data gathered over many years, and can only be tentatively identified as a contributory factor in some of these effects.
For the developed world, the most relevant consequences of global warming may not be its direct effect on the local weather, but rather the effects that changing weather patterns elsewhere might have on the geopolitical climate. The increasing frequency and intensity of famine and other various ecological problems that might result could conceivably cause political unrest and upheaval in the populations of developing countries. The tension in particularly sensitive regions of the world could start wars, even nuclear ones. In short, the (very) long-term situation might ultimately resemble Mad Max more than Waterworld.
A debate among the media and the general public rages on over the veracity of climate change, especially anthropogenic global warming. This is no longer the case in the accredited peer-reviewed scientific community, where it is accepted that the world is warming and the debate has moved on to what are the specifics of warming, and possible solutions. We won't get into the more specific scientific nitty-gritty of what the facts are here. We're about media rather than science, and it could be Flame Bait.
The debate, in any event, rages on in full view of the media; very few doubt that this intense Flame War between various factions of the political community continues to produce massive amounts of heat and very little illumination, save the possibility of the future invention of an argument-powered lightbulb.
Climatologists nowadays more often use the term "climate change" rather than "global warming" as a broader term applied to all complex changes in the globe's climate, past, present, and future rather than a simple increase in "average worldwide" temperature—when one area gets warmer and drier, other may get colder and wetter as the oceanic and atmospheric conveyor belts that move heat around the planet shift location. Another term has also started coming up, "global weirding" which covers more or less the same place as "climate change."
Note: This page is only for examples concerning the portrayal of global warming in fiction. With all due respect and sensitivity, Real Life examples need to be avoided. Global warming as a rather controversial and politicized issue has become pure Flame Bait (especially in The United States).
- In Transformers: Super-God Masterforce, the main effect of the Decepticons' Kill Sat is to erode the ozone layer. A single shot quickly results in the polar ice caps melting and flooding at the base of the Himalayas. Which is a research flub, because ozone is a greenhouse gas, and destroying it would cool the earth.
- Although it would greatly increase the rate of sunburn and melanoma, as ozone blocks high energy ultra-violet light coming in from the sun.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion manages to both play with and avert the problem. Second Impact (also a man-driven catastrophe) causes the destruction of Antarctica first, resulting in a lot of underwater real estate.
- It's somewhat important to note that Second Impact's name comes from it being an asteroid impact (or at least that's the cover story), which is a much better reason for rapid sea level rise than an intensification of the greenhouse effect.
- And what actually happened, the activation of an alien terraforming device, is an even better reason, particularly since there's not enough water on Earth to raise sea levels as high as they are shown.
- It's somewhat important to note that Second Impact's name comes from it being an asteroid impact (or at least that's the cover story), which is a much better reason for rapid sea level rise than an intensification of the greenhouse effect.
- In Jubei-chan, the reason that Freesia was freed from being a Human Popsicle.
- In the original manga of X/1999, Kamui's mother burns to death because she was the 'shadow sacrifice' for the earth and took all of the earth's misfortune (aka, global warming) onto herself. Okay, maybe death by fire was a little more dramatic than the real thing, but...
- I dunno, all that heat increase for the volume of the biosphere, condensed into the 1.2 - 1.4 cubic feet average volume of an adult human female would be pretty durn extreme
- The Humongous Mecha of Patlabor were originally developed to construct barrier dams to protect coastal cities from being flooded due to global warming. It's portrayed realistically insofar as the flooding is not catastrophic. In fact, it's merely a part of the background.
- In an early chapter of Yotsuba&!, Asagi introduces Yotsuba to the concept of air conditioners, but Ena tells her about global warming, leading to a brief stint as an environmental crusader to her father (Koiwai: "You know about that?!"), until Asagi calms her down by saying that if the Earth gets too hot, people can use the air conditioners to cool it down again. This might be a metaphor for the need for technical solutions to climate change. . . or a cute story about a kid.
- In Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, sea levels have risen dramatically, submerging entire cities, although global warming is never explicitly mentioned as the cause. The extreme version of this trope is averted however, since the rise is shown to be happening gradually, over generations. This greatly adds to the atmosphere of the work: Humanity is slowly fading away, and the fact that this is a slow and gradual Cozy Catastrophe, rather than an explosive overnight change, just makes it more poignant.
- Daphne in the Brilliant Blue has it to where the world completely flooded and most of the cities lived in underwater cities until a few decades ago. Most of the land is artificial aside from a few mountains that just peak above the sea.
- Ice Age 2: The Meltdown. Justified, as it takes place at the end of the last ice age, when the Earth's climate was starting to warm.
- The end of the Rite of Spring segment of Fantasia had all of the dinosaurs going extinct because of a massive drought caused by a sudden warming of the Earth's climate. Shortly after the last dino goes extinct, the entire Earth is flooded, submerging whatever continent is still on that planet.
- In the Danish children's film Help! I'm a Fish, a scientist creates a potion that allows people to turn into fish fearing that global warming is melting down the polar ice caps.
- Waterworld has the entire planet, save a few high mountaintops, covered by water. This would require more water than is currently on the planet: were all the ice caps to melt (a process which would take centuries at the present rate), the sea level would rise over 220 feet - catastrophic, sure, but there would still be plenty of solid land left.
- The Day After Tomorrow revolves around a sudden catastrophic global Ice Age precipitated by global warming. This concept is very loosely based on a theory that global warming will disrupt certain mid-Atlantic ocean currents, resulting in a 20-30 degree Fahrenheit temperature drop across much of Europe and North America. Note that the theory doesn't predict that it'll happen in only 2 days, nor that it will form super-cooled columns capable of freezing the fuel(!) in a running(!!) helicopter engine.
- The movie of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea features a non-human-caused version of global warming, predating the contemporary issue. The ice caps melt, leaving chunks of ice to rain down on the Seaview, which ignores the fact that ice, you know, floats. It's shown how hot it's getting around the world by taking Stock Footage and tinting it fire engine red. Oh, and we haven't even gotten into the absurdities of how this was caused in the first place. It's resolved through Deus ex Nukina, of course. (Don't ask why this is the plot of a movie titled Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea.)
- The backstory of A.I.: Artificial Intelligence has global warming destroying Earth's ecosystems and causing sea levels to rise by a hundred meters. Most of the Third World is effectively uninhabitable, while the rich nations managed to use their advanced technology to survive. At the end of the film, the reverse has happened — a new ice age has wiped out humanity, leaving behind only the intelligent robots that they built, who have evolved into Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
- In Soylent Green, the greenhouse effect has led to year-round temperatures in the 90s and 100s, so crops cannot grow and people can only be fed by the Soylent Corporation's processed products, including their latest innovative product.
- Though axed from the theatrical version, in James Cameron's Avatar, the earth has been doomed to die from the destruction of its ecosystems in part to humans' role of contributing to global warming and deforestation. With the earth no longer a suitable home world, this is what influenced the RDA to evacuate humans into space colonization and eventually settling on Pandora.
- In the tokusatsu black comedy The World Sinks Except Japan: Global warming has made the sea levels rise so much that every land mass in the world has sunk... except for Japan. Though that doesn't make Japan much of a safe refuge, not with giant monsters trashing the place.
- The opening of World War Z includes a montage of television figures talking about mysterious diseases and the increase in CO 2 in the atmosphere; this is never brought up again. There is reason to expect that changes in climate could cause new diseases (as, e.g., animals are forced out of their habitats and new strains of flu emerge). There is currently little reason to believe that it would unleash a zombie plague.
- Bill Williamson in Rampage is a believer of global warming, since he is an atheist and very pro-science. He has blamed global warming and pollution for the poor economy since global warming leads to ruination or depletion of natural resources and he believes skeptics and deniers of this phenomenon should be executed by gunfire.
- In Children Of Mother Earth, this trope turned most of the world into desert-like countries, in which life is only possible with massive use of technology, and famines are common. On the other hand, there is Greenland, which became green again due to the global warming, and which the inhabitants, by wisely using the knowledge of former mistakes, made a good place to live in.
- A novel by Arthur Herzog portrayed global warming (well before most average people understood it at all) as rapidly transforming the entire planet into a desert, nearly boiling off the oceans before some Applied Phlebotinum just barely saved the world.
- In Ben Bova's Empire Builders and sequels (The "Grand Tour" universe), the ice caps don't melt en masse, but global warming eventually hits a "cliff" where several ecosystem-critical weather systems fail at once, leading to massive devastation across the Earth and setting the stage for the rise of several power-mad theocracies across the globe.
- Michael Crichton's State of Fear is all about the controversy over global warming. It is worth noting that it resembles the accusations of Climategate and Glaciergate, but differs substantially in the details in that in the book, climate change as a whole is a hoax, whereas in the two 'gates, the greens insist that all it proves is that two scientists need better proofreading.
- Quite well handled in the Sands of Sarasvati. It involves the icecaps of Greenland partially melting into unknown caves beneath the island, causing the entire ice mass to slide on a bed of molten water into the sea, causing a megatsunami that threatens the nuclear powerplants built on the coastlines. It's also written by an actual environmental scientist, and aside from the aforementioned caves, is based on sound science. It helps that it's set 20 Minutes into the Future to escalate the force of global warming, as well.
- In The Amber Spyglass, the portal between the worlds created an increase of temperatures that made things harder for the native sentient polar bears. They are later driven to the Himalayas, and things aren't any better there
- Lois Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga is set far enough into the future that sea levels have already risen; London is protected by a system of barrier walls.
- This is a major background element and plot point of Paolo Bacigalupi's biopunk novel The Windup Girl. The novel takes place in 23rd century Bangkok, which is actually below sea-level after Global Warming has taken it's toll and only survives thanks to enormous sea-walls and powerful pumps that work throughout the monsoon season. This becomes a plot point when the foreign merchant Carlyle has the only replacement parts for about half the pumps available in his warehouse outside Thailand, which he uses as political leverage. In the end, it doesn't last and Kanya lets the city drown to save the people of Thailand from foreign influences such as Carlyle.
- Carbon Diaries 2015 and its sequel Carbon Diaries 2017 by Saci Lloyd takes place in Great Britain after global warming has caused climate change, and as a result, people are rationed the amount of carbon they can use.
- Stephen Baxter puts an interesting twist on this in his Northland Trilogy where global warming and sea level rise causes masses of problems for the stone age tribes that lived in what was to become the North Sea 10000 years ago. This is of course the warming to the current global temperature and sea levels.
- This is the backstory of the world of Dark Life: risen seas mean that the only land availible is on the bottom of the ocean.
- Harry Harrison's Make Room! Make Room! (the basis for the film Soylent Green) features Global Warming as a side effect of overpopulation.
- In the Red Mars Trilogy of Kim Stanley Robinson, this is a background plot element (since most of the action takes place on Mars, naturally), although it becomes more prominent in the third volume when the entire Antarctic ice cap melts, flooding large portions of the Earth.
- The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster asserts that global warming is caused by the absence of pirates (modern pirates like the Somali pirates are not really pirates). It's a parody of the False Cause fallacy.
- Arctic Rising takes place in a near future where The Arctic Circle is melting, the Northwest Passage is a major shipping corridor and there are farms on Baffin Island.
- Zeus Is Dead: A Monstrously Inconvenient Adventure: Artemis, goddess of nature (among other things) claims to have come up with global warming in an effort to get mortals to respect the environment more.
- Tobias Buckell's books Arctic Rising and Hurricane Fever take place in a warming future where the 'Arctic Tiger' nations' economies are booming from newly accessible oil in the North and trade through the Northwest Passage, while Caribbean islands like Anegada sink beneath the waves forever.
- In the Left Behind book The Remnant, one of God's Bowl Judgments is this on a scale that is very lethal to both the undecided and those who have taken the Mark of the Beast and worshiped Carpathia's image. It causes the polar ice caps to melt, raising the sea level and causing the dead carcasses of sea animals from a previous Bowl Judgment to wash further inward. It lasts until God causes a supernatural Big Blackout in New Babylon with His next Bowl Judgment.
- Subverted on The Twilight Zone, in an episode where the Earth was heating up due to having shifted closer to the sun. (And apparently had stopped rotating, as there was no more night in the city where the characters lived.) A subversion, because the Karmic Twist Ending is that it's All Just a Dream by a young woman whose Earth is freezing rather than roasting.
- The wildlife Speculative Documentary The Future Is Wild had a waterworld stage as one of Earth's natural climatological shifts of the millions of years that the show covers. The Global Ocean, like all the other periods, had its own set of weird critters living in it.
- In an episode of My Name Is Earl, Earl visits a former stoner he robbed (who now lives in a hippie commune), and learns about global warming. He becomes scared, and spends the episode obsessively trying to go green. After Earl has a breakdown, the ex-stoner helps him see that he doesn't have to do everything and that he can only do his best.
- In the Doctor Who episode "Robot of Sherwood", the Doctor finds the weather unseasonably warm and mild for autumn. Clara suggests global warming, but the Doctor points out that's not likely in 1190.
- In The Expanse while never discussed explicitly, it is shown in the opening montage that shows the development of the solar system. There are also clearly seawalls around New York City to keep the rising sea at bay. Which is also a source of irony. While those in space are killing each other over water, Earth is practically drowning in it.
- Played for laughs in The Party Zone; the ozone is shown as a translucent blue layer with cracks in it, and is one of the ramp targets the player must shoot for.
"Enter the Ozone through this man-made hole!"
- This trope is one of the prime features of the Earth sim game Fate of the World.
- In keeping with its Cyber Punk setting, Jump Raven takes place in a USA that's been sold off to the highest bidders, wracked by global warming and militias of street thugs. You spend the game in a future New York where it's always night and enormous walls have been placed to keep back the ocean.
- In Civilization IV, Global Warming is one of the disasters that can strike your larger cities in the late game. The effects of "global warming" in game are bizarre, strike locally and aren't restricted to coastal towns or other locales most likely to be affected by actual global temperature increase. Just imagine a news story about buildings being DESTROYED in downtown Denver by GLOBAL WARMING and you'll see how strange this gets. The older games treated it more severely, however, with a global meter that tracked pollution output and would do nasty things like raise sea levels, destroying any cities or units on coastal plots, although some of the weird effects might be explained by exceptionally strong storms and such.
- In Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, runaway pollution can make terrain change, earth sink, and if you don't have a Pressure Dome, the rising water can destroy cities (and units who apparently couldn't escape from the slowly raising water). But fear not, because with a Pressure Dome the city becomes a floating city, plus your formers can raise the land, and if you get the Planetary Council to agree, you can launch a solar shade to cool the planet.
- The Planetary Council can also decide to melt the polar ice caps, causing global warming on purpose (which isn't as nonsensical as you might think, they are Terraforming Planet after all). You can arrange this in order to flood your rival's coastal cities.
- In Brink, global warming has caused the seas to rise, covering most of the Earth.
- In the PS1 game Submarine Commander, the Earth experienced global warming so fast that the crew of the titular submarine doesn't realize it, and when they surface, it's all sea. The ending is even more absurd: the inverse, global cooling, happens just as fast, via satellite. It's so fast that after the final battle, your submarine that took catastrophic damage and was sinking, is rescued by water levels receding so fast that the submarine is stranded on top of high-rise buildings.
- This is one of the possible consequences of letting your ecosystem become unbalanced in Spore. You can cause it yourself by running around enemy planets with a heat ray, causing settlements there to undergo Critical Existence Failure.
- Curiously, if you reverse the process fast enough after they capitulate, you can preserve the T3 rating of the planet with all the plants and animal.
- Global warming is a part of the dystopic backstory of Frontlines: Fuel of War, with a "super-hurricane" hitting Alaska in 2021.
- Lethal Skies is set in an Ocean Punk type setting after melting glaciers have flooded most of the planet.
- Happens in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, when the villains' attempt to control weather-based legendaries lead to massive climate changes threatening to wipe out humanity. Since this set of games (and the Pokémon franchise as a whole) does appear to have subtle environmental messages in place, it may well have been intentional.
- Battle Engine Aquila is based during a war over the 13 remaining islands after the sea level rises.
- Since Civilization: Call to Power and its sequel continue much further into the future than a normal game in the main Civilization series, this concept is taken to its logical conclusion. The problem gets much, much worse before ultimately getting better through the use of advanced technology (and, possibly, ecoterrorism). Of course, by that point, the majority of your population will have likely already relocated to undersea cities and/or space - both of which don't suffer from pollution whatsoever - rendering the point somewhat moot.
- Anno 2070, the futuristic spin-off of the series, takes place in time where global warming has gotten so bad that people were forced to settle on what were formerly mountains, and the game revolves around colonizing these small pieces of land.
- SOON: Part of the future backstory. The climate change played havoc with the world before Dr Fang's research helped to stop the damage. If Atlas messes with the past to prevent this from happening, traveling to 2023 grants the player with a Bad Ending where Australia is now underwater.
- Splatoon's backstory indicates that mankind and almost all land-dwelling animals were killed off due to global warming rising the sea levels. The sequel shows that there are still ruins of human civilization ever after twelve millennia, used as stages in the Salmon Run mode.
- The Onion has an article on the melting ice exposing secret arctic villain lairs.
- In Cracked's recent list of possible ways the world could end fairly shortly, two are global warming related. Truth in Television, Rule of Funny, or nonprofessional research tactics? Only the writers know.
- Majora's Mask Abridged has a throwaway joke in one episode blaming flooded Hyrule on global warming.
- Freefall, planet Jean, 2001: mentions it in relation to Helix's Vampire Florence theory.
- Chainsawsuit, 13 Feb 2009: tries to outdo this.
- Calamities of Nature, 11 Jan 2010: discussing the ways of thinking about this.
- Luke Surl, 24 Mar 2010: comics add
HeatFund Raising Thermometer.
- The Whiteboard:
- A Wonderful Life episode of Captain Planet in which Wheeler didn't join the Planeteers (and some of the villains went into the past to increase pollution levels) showed Manhattan half-submerged by the Atlantic Ocean in the the alternate future.
- Parodied on The Simpsons; Lisa examines a museum diorama of Manhattan which promises to show what the effects of global warming will be "over the next three years"; the city is entirely submerged, with tiny plastic bodies floating around. In an attempt to reassure her, Marge says "Three years is a long time."
- In another episode the kids go on a field trip to Springfield Glacier, which is reduced to a pathetic hunk of ice floating in a lake. Lisa spends the whole trip ranting about global warming, with the park ranger flatly denying it because "the government's stance on global warming is that it does not exist".
- Apparently in the 2005 20 Minutes into the Future episode taking place eight years in the future. Maggie sends a video postcard enjoying the Alaskan beach and shows a polar bear barely surviving.
- The Futurama episode "Crimes of the Hot" revolves around global warming. A educational film shown at the beginning shows that the solution was to put ice cubes from Halley's Comet (the only source of ice that doesn't have bugs in them) into the ocean. But when Halley's runs out of ice, a conference is called, where Prof. Farnsworth reveals that the cause of global warming is pollution from robots. So all the robots are lured to the Galapagos islands, where they are to be destroyed. Farnsworth saves the robots and prevents global warming at the same time by having all the robots vent upward at once, thus moving the Earth further away from the sun and solving the problem once and for all.
But...ONCE AND FOR ALL!
- The "educational film" is actually used in An Inconvenient Truth. It helps that Gore's daughter is one of Futurama's writers.
- In the earlier episode "Xmas Story", Fry comments that mountain snow is beautiful and glad global warming never happened. Leela responded it did, but nuclear winter canceled it out.
- South Park has quite a few anvilicious episodes attacking Global Warming in general, and The Day After Tomorrow in particular. In the episode, "The Goobacks", the unemployed rednecks were talking about how to make sure the future never happens so that the people from the future won't take their jobs. One guy suggested using Global Warming to cause an Ice Age. That idea was shot down since it was idiotic. In the episode "Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow", Stan and Cartman destroyed a beaver dam and the resulting flood was blamed on global warming.
- Overall, South Park dismisses the idea of global warming because the creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone don't believe it to be real. However, they acknowledge that their cartoon can't be considered entirely accurate.
- In the finale episode of Brickleberry, Woody Johnson fired up a factory to burn up fossil fuels at a record breaking speed which created so much global warming that once he heated up the planet too much, alien cows arrived deciding now's the perfect time to take over the earth and so they use laser guns to kill the main cast minus Steve, whom they enslave, and wipe out humanity taking their place as the dominant species of the planet.
- Global Warming was 'solved' by the villain Killface in Frisky Dingo. While he attempted to destroy the earth with a rocket that would drive it into the sun, the rocket instead moved the earth 1 foot away from the sun, effectively undoing global warming permanently. He parlayed this into a failed Presidential run, his slogan being 'I solved Global Warming! Now you can have your factories, and your SUVs and your tanks.'
- SpongeBob SquarePants advocates the consensus that global warming is real and caused by humans.
- In Season 1's "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy", the Shady Shoals clerk is reading a newspaper that says "Global ocean warming".
- Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of the series, was inspired by global warming to produce the short "The Endless Summer" to educate children about the dangers and causes of global warming. Mr. Krabs tried heating up Bikini Bottom using just one car to cause carbon emissions so that summer never ends and he can make money off hot customers coming to his pool for a swim. SpongeBob, being so excited about an endless summer, throws in a lot more cars and inadvertently sets his town on fire. Everyone in Bikini Bottom run towards the Krusty Pool, and they ran past it, with Patrick claiming he and everyone else are leaving cause it's too hot here. At the end, SpongeBob tries to take a dive into the boiling hot pool, but it evaporates before he lands.
- The Amazing World of Gumball sometimes delves into the topic of global warming:
- In "The Loophole", Gumball and Darwin tell the dangerously Literal-Minded robot Robert to protect all life on earth. He concludes that humanity is the greatest threat to life on earth for contributing to global warming, leading him to try to Kill All Humans.
- "The Faith" has Gumball and Darwin try to cheer up Alan by singing a song about how life isn't bad despite all of the bad stuff that happen. One of the things they sing about how "the environment is suffering and might not be reversed". Later on in the song, a character is seen reading a newspaper with the headline "GLOBAL WARNING — NO HOPE".
- "The Candidate" has the students of Elmore Junior High stuck in a damp room, as they decide to elect a leader to sort their limited food supply. Darwin keeps bringing up the rising temperature of the room, but everybody else ignores him or shrugs it off. The school's boiler eventually blows up, leaving the school in ruins.
- Family Guy: It's a snow job/by Obama/and his crew