|‘Cool It’ Film Review: The Devil Is in the Details|
|Monday, 08 August 2011 00:00 | Written by Rick Theis | Review|
Cool It is a film about Bjørn Lomborg and his proposition that limiting the amount of carbon being released into the atmosphere is not the best way to reduce the threat of global warming. He prefers instead that we rely on geo-engineering. That is, he touts man-made, technological solutions—akin to those that have caused this crisis in the first place. The film is based on his error-riddled book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, which has made him the scourge of environmentalists everywhere.
The Prince of Darkness?
Before I get to an objective critique of the film, I’d like to explain why that is difficult. I attended a critics’ screening at New York’s beautiful Bryant Park Hotel followed by a reception in the hotel’s bar. There I met and talked with the film’s subject, Bjørn Lomborg, and its director, Ondi Timoner (who also directed Dig!). What they told me changed my already negative view of the film for the worse.
In his trademark black T-shirt, the youthful, blond and blue-eyed Bjørn Lomborg looked the stereotypical Dane. What is it about Danes, especially those wearing black? They always give the impression of being extremely healthy and intelligent. Lomborg is certainly the latter. And for those who are dying to know (Hugo Chavez, are you an EcoHearth reader?), Lomborg did not smell of sulfur. However, the film had definitely left me with the impression that something was rotten in the state of Denmark. It wasn’t long before director Timoner let slip some information that confirmed my suspicion.
A Shocking Revelation
Armed with this information, I next spoke with Lomborg. I pointed out to him some of the film’s flawed logic and the dearth of hard data in the film to back up its assumptions. He admitted the potential for disaster in geo-engineering, his preferred solution to global warming, but argued that scientific solutions would be so much less costly and disruptive to society than cutting back on fossil fuels. He added that since geo-engineering research was cheaper yet, at least it should be pursued. I didn’t buy it. There are plenty of examples of man’s attempts at manipulating nature going awry. And in the case of global warming, we are betting the whole planet—perhaps even the very existence of our species—on our supposed understanding of the extremely complex ecological system we inhabit. It seems the height of human hubris.
Lomborg patiently and confidently discussed these and other issues with me. Then I told him the film seemed to me to be an excessively one-sided portrait of him and asked who funded it. Suddenly he seemed ill at ease. He shifted his weight from foot to foot. His eyes darted about. And he stumbled a bit as he explained that he had approached an “independent producer” with his idea to make the film to spread the word about his position on environmentalism. The producer was able to raise the money and voilà. I asked if he had had any control over how the film came out. He admitted, “Well, yes. In my contract with the producer I have the right to control what goes in the film.” Then Lomborg quickly excused himself.
A Sham Documentary
Lomborg’s position in the film and companion book is that present efforts to stop global warming are neither cost-effective nor even effective. He alleges, for example, that the European Union’s $250 billion 20-20-20 pledge (its plan to reduce greenhouse gases to 20% of 2000 levels by the year 2020) will decrease global temperatures by less than one degree by the end of the century. Yet, he never mentions just how much the atmosphere might heat up if we do nothing. The difference between that number and the EU reduction is the relevant statistic.
Sloppy Research and Writing
This site exposes examples of plagiarism and myriad factual errors—evidence of sloppy research and science at best, intentional deception at worst. The site gives circumstantial evidence of the latter, pointing out that “[a] normal person would apologize or be ashamed if concrete, factual errors or misunderstandings were pointed out - and would correct the errors at the first opportunity given. Lomborg does not do that. For example, when The Skeptical Environmentalist was heavily criticized in a review in Nature, Lomborg´s reaction was: ‘If I really am so wrong, why don´t you just document that?’ - and then, when this was documented, he ignored the facts.” The site goes on to illustrate specific instances of Lomborg’s failure to correct proven mistakes in his work.
There are at least two books having the purpose of addressing errors in Lomborg´s book. One, A Skeptical Look at the Skeptical Environmentalist, was written by esteemed biologist and two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner E. O. Wilson. Another, The Lomborg Deception was authored by Howard Friel.
The Final Act?
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