PORTLAND (AP) – Environmental activists in Maine have latched onto a new summer disaster movie as a way to spread their message about the perils of global warming.

Volunteers for the Natural Resources Council of Maine will pass out fliers to movie goers at Portland-area theaters on Friday and Saturday nights after the opening of “The Day After Tomorrow.”

On Friday, at Hoyts Falmouth Cinema 10, the Sierra Club and the Maine Council of Churches will host a preview of the movie that depicts global disaster caused by climate change.

The preview will be followed by a panel discussion featuring a University of New Hampshire scientist, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and others.

The Sierra Club also plans to host a series of local house parties and picnics this summer to talk about air pollution and global warming. A hybrid car tour will be stopping at different beaches along the East Coast, reaching Maine on July 12.

Environmentalists admit that many of the special-effects scenarios featured in “The Day After Tomorrow” are far-fetched. The $125 million movie’s pivotal scenes include a snowstorm in New Delhi, tornadoes in Los Angeles and grapefruit-size hail in Tokyo.

For scientists, abrupt climate change usually means change that happens over a few decades, not a full-blown ice age that impossibly descends on New York City within just a few days.

“This movie distorts global warming, obviously,” said Maureen Drouin, northeast regional representative of the Sierra Club. “It’s a disaster movie. But we also feel that the Bush administration is distorting the science on global warming.”‘

Mark Hays, outreach coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, compared the movie to a “good fable.”

“It essentially seeks to entertain while touching on more basic truths,” he said.

“The basic truth here is that global warming is real, it’s happening today, and there are going to be impacts that hit close to home here in Maine.”

To Jon Reisman, it is all just so much hype. Reisman, associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias, said environmentalists’ activities around “The Day After Tomorrow” fit a pattern in the development of climate change policy.

“To get it on the agenda,” he said, “you have to make people think something terrible is happening.”

The flier to be handed out this weekend urges Gov. John Baldacci to support a climate-change action plan that will be sent to the Legislature this fall.

AP-ES-05-27-04 0917EDT

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