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  • - And then the other half of me looks at

  • the current coronavirus situation

  • and the climate change as like yeah, actually,

  • we know what to do in these situations too,

  • and we're still doing nothing about it.

  • (dramatic music)

  • Hello, my name is Dr. Victoria Petryshyn.

  • I am a professor of environmental studies

  • at the University of Southern California.

  • I have a PhD in geobiology, and for the past 10 years

  • I have been reconstructing past climates on Earth.

  • Today, we're gonna be looking at

  • a number of different disaster movies

  • and trying to figure out which one of thems did it right,

  • which ones did it wrong,

  • and how maybe they could have been improved.

  • We're gonna start with one of my all-time favorite

  • disaster movies, The Day After Tomorrow,

  • in which the North Atlantic Current is disrupted,

  • which causes global cooling,

  • a lot of weather catastrophes,

  • and the dawn of a new ice age.

  • Here we go, a giant tsunami is about to hit Manhattan.

  • Probably not, no.

  • A tsunamis is gonna be caused usually by an earthquake,

  • so a tsunami happens when the sea floor

  • suddenly goes up and down.

  • The East Coast of the United States

  • is what's known as a passive margin.

  • There is nothing on the sea floor

  • that is gonna cause a giant tsunami

  • unless an asteroid hits in the middle of the ocean.

  • Now, what might happen is that if you have

  • the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet

  • and the Greenland ice sheet,

  • you will get sea level rise

  • that will start to flood New York,

  • and in fact, this is something

  • New York is very worried about.

  • They have proposed a billion dollar sea wall

  • to try to keep out rising sea water.

  • It will never be in the form of a massive tsunami

  • that comes and levels the city in 30 seconds.

  • It's the super freeze.

  • Could a huge air mass come in

  • and freeze everything in its path that quickly?

  • No, that's not going to happen.

  • So, in order to do that, you would essentially have to

  • stop the sun from existing.

  • Could New York be plunged into some sort of deep freeze?

  • Well, there are a couple of scenarios in which yeah,

  • that could happen.

  • In fact, the northeast experiences frequently now

  • what is known as a polar vortex,

  • and that happens, you get a lot of really, really

  • deep cold temperatures.

  • What's happening is that normally all of that

  • really cold air stays around the Arctic Circle.

  • What's happening with climate change is that

  • that air mass is destabilizing,

  • and it's dipping down into the continental U.S.,

  • which is actually kind of hard sometimes

  • for people to wrap their minds around

  • because the polar vortex reaching into New York,

  • or Boston, or anything like that

  • is an actual effect of warming in the Arctic,

  • so it seemingly getting colder at times

  • is a direct result of warming instead of cooling.

  • Our next movie is The Swarm,

  • which I don't know much about,

  • but we're gonna watch the trailer for the movie,

  • so we will learn about it together.

  • - [Man] For more than 20 years,

  • scientists have known that a swarm of killer bees

  • has been headed towards the United States.

  • Now, Warner Brothers presents Irwin Allen's--

  • - And they've done nothing?

  • The Swarm. - The Swarm.

  • The Swarm is now a movie I must watch immediately.

  • But could this happen?

  • So yeah, there are animal migrations

  • that do kind of invade.

  • I don't think their target is the human race.

  • Most of the time they're mostly looking for flowers.

  • Can a swarm of something, a plague of locusts,

  • something like that, come and move into the United States?

  • Sure, absolutely.

  • There's no reason to say--

  • I mean, it's not gonna be like us and the 70s Roberts

  • taking them on with flame throwers,

  • but we are definitely seeing

  • insects creeping up into our domain

  • that haven't been here before.

  • In Los Angeles, we used to never have mosquitoes.

  • Now we have a lot of mosquitoes

  • that carry things like West Nile, maybe Zika,

  • and the big culprit behind this

  • is that so much of our climate is changing,

  • that the insects are now moving north

  • looking for more favorable climates,

  • so could a giant swarm of killer bees invade Texas?

  • It might not be bees, it might be mosquitoes

  • that carry disease with them, but yeah, sure.

  • We'll give this a why not.

  • Our next movie is Wall-E,

  • an adorable cautionary tale

  • where excessive consumerism has really made the Earth

  • an enormous garbage dump,

  • and the human race now lives on a spaceship

  • waiting for the day when they can return to Earth

  • and when life is again possible on Earth.

  • I love this movie.

  • They got the space junk pretty right.

  • Is the premise of Wall-E possible?

  • Could we have actually trashed this planet

  • to the point where all of humanity

  • has to leave and go someplace else?

  • And then we're just gonna send some robots

  • back in to clean it up.

  • I don't think it would actually--

  • I'm a little more optimistic.

  • I don't think it would ever get to the point

  • where we would actually take off on a spaceship,

  • if only because we don't have the ability

  • to get on a spaceship and go someplace else

  • at this moment, so we really do have to

  • sort of take care of what's here

  • because there is no other option for us at this point.

  • I thought it was actually really interesting

  • that they had the wind turbines up there

  • in the beginning.

  • There's a big problem in environmental studies right now

  • with even if you have renewable energy,

  • if you have solar panels or if you have wind turbines,

  • there are parts of those that are enormous,

  • especially the giant fiberglass blades.

  • They're huge and they're not recyclable.

  • We don't really have good answers to that yet,

  • so overall I'm optimistic that no,

  • we would actually pump the brakes on this

  • before we got as far as Wall-E,

  • and then the other half of me

  • looks at the current coronavirus situation

  • and looks at climate change as like yeah,

  • actually we know what to do in these situations too,

  • and we know how it's damaging our country,

  • damaging the world, and we're still

  • doing nothing about it.

  • So I cling to optimism.

  • I know there are very smart people,

  • very passionate people,

  • my students, I see, are working on these problems,

  • but you know, there's a lot more to help us.

  • Up next we have San Andreas.

  • In this movie, the San Andreas Fault ruptures,

  • causing a bunch of major earthquakes around the fault,

  • and the only person who can save the day

  • is of course, The Rock.

  • (helicopter whirring)

  • Hollywood sign's going down.

  • First of all, if the San Andreas Fault ruptures,

  • like the big one, the big one,

  • if you have, let's say, a magnitude eight

  • earthquake in Los Angeles,

  • will all of the buildings start to crumble instantly?

  • Probably not the way they show in this movie.

  • All of the buildings in Los Angeles

  • are built to withstand a certain amount of shaking,

  • so even, and if you've ever been in Los Angeles

  • in an earthquake, what you see is the buildings

  • kind of sway back and forth.

  • They're on rollers, so what you have in an earthquake

  • is the first wave hits,

  • and that's the shaky up and down, okay?

  • That is what's known as the P Wave.