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Extreme Weather

Impressive footage of the dangers of catastrophic weather events omits information about climate change

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This new Omnimax documentary profiles three sets of people either studying or battling the consequences of extreme weather. In Alaska, scientists take stock of glaciers that a warming planet is causing to disintegrate, contributing to rising sea levels. On the Great Plains, stormchasers track the destructive paths of tornados. And in California, firefighters cope with the consequences of a decade of drought: terrifying wildfires fueled by dead trees and dry brush. Director Sean Casey’s images are impressive on the big domed screen, and the sight of tons of crashing ice, frenetic funnel clouds and raging forest fires suggests the film crews were nearly as intrepid as the people they documented. Nonetheless, Extreme Weather misses a huge opportunity: Nowhere in its 40 minutes does this National Geographic production address the causes of climate change, which the vast majority of scientists agree are mostly human-induced emissions of greenhouse gasses. Viewers who are ill-informed (or outright climate-deniers) are likely to leave the theater with the impression that extreme weather is simply happening due to “natural forces,” and that scientists and first responders have things under control — all of which defies the scientific consensus that the problem is both man-made and a mortal threat to civilization.

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