By Don Simpson | November 11, 2010
Director: Ondi Timoner
Writers: Bjørn Lomborg (book), Terry Botwick, Sarah Gibson, Ondi Timoner
Starring: Bjørn Lomborg
Ondi Timoner’s documentary Cool It follows Danish author and scholar Bjørn Lomborg (The Environmental Skeptic; Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide To Global Warming), a gadfly to many environmentalists, who contends that though global warming does exist, our environmental situation is far less grave than the fear propaganda of “alarmists” such as Al Gore lead us to believe. Lomborg refutes four of the scariest “facts” presented by Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth while also criticizing the all-talk and no-action of international conferences (such as the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2009 Copenhagen Summit) which proposed outlandish actions (such as Cap and Trade and Carbon Taxing) that would cost billions and have very little positive change.
Cool It ponders whether the current budgets allocated towards climate change, global poverty, clean drinking water, education and disease could be spent more wisely. Lomborg reasons that rather than focusing on controlling carbon emissions, we should research how new energy strategies (solar, wind, algae and wave power) can be made more affordable and practical than coal and oil. Lomborg also asserts that we should simultaneously develop strategies via geo-engineering to protect the world from the effects of global warming as well as focus on fighting hunger and disease to create a better present (and future) for the world’s population. His calculations are never clearly explained, but Lomborg suggests that a yearly budget of $250 billion would address all of these problems worldwide.
Most of Lomborg’s assertions and theories are quickly glossed over — with an occasional talking head expert popping up onscreen for a minute or two to add some legitimacy to his opinions (Stephen Schneider appears as Lomborg’s only worthwhile opposition). Rather than focusing on the scientific facts and clearly explaining Lomborg’s theories surrounding global warming, Timoner approaches Cool It with the assumption that he must dedicate a significant amount of screen-time merely to convince us that Lomborg is a trustworthy subject. Cool It spends way too much time (approximately 20-minutes) at the onset of the film explaining how Lomborg was censored for scientific dishonesty (Lomborg was eventually exonerated in Danish court from the accusations) in what seems like an attempt to offer him up as a martyr for environmentalism; then, the remaining 70 minutes of the film is saturated with even more obvious attempts to depict Lomborg as the good guy. If only Cool It would focus less on Lomborg and more on Lomborg’s ideas. I also find it very frustrating that most of Lomborg’s actual ideas regarding global warming are conveyed via a classroom PowerPoint presentation (an uninspired mimicry of An Inconvenient Truth).
Personally, I tend to agree with many of Lomborg’s opinions about global warming (or, as I prefer, climate change). First and foremost, I detest the politics of fear. I also tend to doubt the true effectiveness of carbon taxing or Cap and Trade legislation, especially as the sole solution. I agree that most people are hesitant to change — especially if it adversely impacts their accustomed standard of living — and the only real way to eradicate the world’s reliance on fossil fuels is to create cheaper and cleaner alternatives. (Carbon taxing will never work for developing and third world nations.) This places the entire burden of global warming on the shoulders of the world’s scientists and the governments and investors who fund their research and development.
Where I tend to disagree with Lomborg is that I believe that we do have a role that we can play as individuals. Lomborg blatantly mocks Earth Hour and small lifestyle changes (such as switching to energy efficient light-bulbs or driving hybrid vehicles) as being ineffective. In my opinion (disclaimer: I am not a scientist), these little lifestyle changes will begin to add up as more and more people make cleaner and more efficient energy decisions. Sure, celebrating one Earth Hour per year does not actually do much good in the grand scheme of things; but it does increase humankind’s awareness that we do not need to constantly consume energy in order to survive — we can take a short break now and then (and we should take that break more often than one hour per year). Until the average person can afford to switch to clean energy, I do not think it would hurt to promote lifestyle changes that are earth friendly and economically beneficial no matter how minuscule.