By David K. Johnson, Ph.D., King’s College
In the movie Snowpiercer, the planet has frozen over. Superficially, some may say it argues that people should do more to combat climate change right now. But, looking carefully, signs of lukewarmerism can be found in Snowpiercer. It may be viewed as taking a position on climate change equivalent to lukewarmerism.
The Plot of Snowpiercer
In Snowpiercer, to combat climate change, the governments of the world have dumped a cooling agent called CW-7 into the atmosphere, only to have the plan backfire and deep-freeze the entire planet.
Because of Earth being frozen, humanity’s few survivors live on a never-stopping ‘snow-piercing’, circumnavigating train built by an eccentric billionaire named Wilford. The plot follows a revolution of ‘tail-section dwellers’ who slowly make their way to the front of the train to confront Wilford.
Now, this doesn’t mean director Bong Joon Ho is a lukewarmer—as usual, it’s simply being said that, in Snowpiercer, a lukewarmer can find many ideas, points, and analogies they agree with. But what is lukewarmerism? And how does Snowpiercer embrace it? Let’s begin by defining the terms.
This is a transcript from the video series Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy. Watch it now, on Wondrium.
The Difference between Global Warming and Climate Change
Although they’re often conflated, ‘global warming’ and ‘climate change’ aren’t the same. Global warming is the rising of the average overall global temperature. Climate change is the effect of global warming, like the Poles melting, growing seasons shifting, rainfall averages changing—things that have already been seen happening.
Ocean warming has already caused ocean currents to slow and made hurricanes and typhoons more severe. Some places in the Middle East are nearly uninhabitable, and Russian permafrost is melting.
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Deniers Don’t All Agree
There are some who deny this but denialism comes in many forms. There are global warming deniers who claim the globe isn’t getting hotter. Then there are climate change deniers, who admit the globe is warming but don’t think it’s changing the climate.
There are also those who deny anthropogenic climate change; they deny that human production of greenhouse gases is to blame for climate change. And then there are those who call themselves lukewarmers—who acknowledge anthropogenic climate change but simply maintain that the worries about it are exaggerated. It simply won’t be that bad.
Claims of Lukewarmers
Snowpiercer seems to be a lukewarmer’s movie because it endorses that idea and many notions lukewarmers use to defend it. First of all, lukewarmers, like Snowpiercer, don’t deny the globe is warming—and for good reason. Temperatures are empirically measurable, and experts have been keeping careful track of global temperatures for years.
It may occasionally be unseasonably cold or snow somewhere on a particular day in May, but all evidence indicates that the average global temperature has been steadily rising since the Industrial Revolution. Indeed, nine of the 10 hottest years in recorded history have been since the turn of the century, with the top four including 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. The only people who publicly deny this are non-experts like politicians.
Along with scientists, lukewarmers and Snowpiercer also endorse the fact that global warming is the result of greenhouse gas emissions, like CO2, and that it’s causing climate change. Not only is there a direct correlation between the modern increases in greenhouse gases and average global temperatures, but it is known exactly how and why increasing greenhouse gases would have a warming effect.
What’s more, millions of years of correlation between the two and corresponding changes in climate have been discovered. Philosophically speaking, when it comes to establishing causal relations, one cannot do better than this.
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Lukewarmerism in Snowpiercer
With all this in mind, it can finally be seen why Snowpiercer is a lukewarmer’s movie. The human efforts to combat climate change backfired and froze the entire planet. So apparently global warming wasn’t as bad as the scientists were saying, and the consequences of the solution were far worse than the problem, just like the lukewarmers suggest.
For lukewarmers, it’s that climate change is exaggerated and drastic reductions in fossil fuel use will cause a global recession. Then there’s the film’s plot. The tail-section-dwellers are rebelling, but it turns out this was all according to Wilford’s design. He’s ‘gone bad’ by becoming obsessed with keeping the train’s population in perfect balance, with everyone in their proper place, so the train will be sustainable.
He’s become an evil, vile, social and environmental engineer, willing to sacrifice the lives of the poor to protect the delicate ecosystem of his train—just like lukewarmers think environmentalists are willing to sacrifice the lives of the poor by curtailing fossil fuel use and thus making energy unaffordable, to protect the environment.
Lastly, Wilford has created a religion on the train that has everyone convinced that if the train ever stops they’ll “all freeze and die”—when, in fact, (spoiler alert) the world is actually warming and life on the outside is possible. In the same way, according to lukewarmers, environmentalists have created a religion that has everyone wrongly convinced that life in a warmer world will be impossible.
Common Questions about the Signs of Lukewarmerism in Snowpiercer
Lukewarmerism is the claim that although global warming and climate change cannot be denied, the effects they will have on the planet and on the human species have been exaggerated. Signs of lukewarmerism can be found in Snowpiercer.
In Snowpiercer, the human efforts to combat climate change backfired and froze the entire planet. So apparently global warming wasn’t as bad as the scientists were saying, and the consequences of the solution were far worse than the problem, just like the lukewarmers suggest.
Lukewarmers think that climate change is exaggerated and drastic reductions in fossil fuel use will cause a global recession.