If Al Gore’s doomsday scenarios of “An Inconvenient Truth,” seemed a little too much like Chicken Little’s fear-mongering, you might want to view Bjorn Lomborg’s “Cool It!” Based on Lomborg’s book of the same name, “Cool It!” is more than a simple attack on Gore’s hyperbole. It creates a discussion into the way we approach a vast array of world problems, of which global warming is just one.
Providing an interesting contrasting view, economist, political scientist, and author (The Skeptical Environmentalist) Lomborg never denies the issues of environmental protection, nor does he suggest we should abandon all efforts. What he does suggest is a reprioritization for the world’s limited financial resources and an end to the scare tactics employed by Gore and others who imply the world will come to an end if we don’t put all our eggs in the global warming basket.
Lomborg’s controversial position has derived much criticism, most notably from Stephen Schneider. Before his death in July, Schneider was Professor of Environmental Biology and Global Change at Stanford University. In one of several interviews “Cool It!” director Ondi Timoner (“We Live in Public”, “Dig!”) taped with the professor, he refers to Lomborg as “the devil incarnate.” The director herself admits that she initially viewed Lomborg as the “anti-Christ” until she became personally acquainted with him.
Such vehement criticism and socially charged labels set the stage for the battle Lomborg is up against within the environmental community. It also poses the question of why such horrendous, personal attacks on someone with an opposing point of view, especially since Lomborg’s viewpoint has strong substantiation. And, let’s face it, a Nobel Prize and Oscar aside, Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” has not convinced everyone that the message it carried was entirely truthful.
Numbers Don’t Lie
Lomborg views the world as the economist that he is. So, it’s no wonder when he convened the Copenhagen Consensus Center he would fill his think tank with other economists. And, like it or not, global warming is about the numbers – and big numbers they are. The European Union alone plans on spending $250 billion a year on carbon offsets.
While Lomborg argues that unwarranted panic has no place in productive discussions, he acknowledges the need for the debate. As shown in “Cool It!”, there is still plenty of debate even amongst those who see the benefit in Lomborg’s approach of applying cost-benefit analysis as a large part of the discussion.
The Real Inconvenient Truth
While Lomborg concedes the inconvenient truth of global warming, he debunks the apocalyptic scenarios that have been undertaken in an effort to attract billions in environmental issue funding. Money that, according to Lomborg, is being spent on costly, ineffective, and inefficient solutions. Lomborg argues that global warming should be addressed, but that the unwarranted panic set in motion by Gore and proponents of “An Inconvenient Truth” has diverted attention and financing from far more severe global issues – like poverty, AIDS, malnutrition, and education.
Lomborg questions the notion that funds are deserved simply by those “who shout the loudest.”
The real inconvenient truth seems to be that if people put their money where Lomborg’s mouth is, environmentalists and environmental researchers may see the effects where it hurts the most – in their funding.
How to Cool It!
“This is not a doomed planet,” Lomborg says at one point in “Cool It!”, and, by the end we begin to believe him. Lomborg’s premise of approaching global problems from a place of creativity, rather than of fear, comes across no clearer than in the end of the film. As “Cool It!” moves past Lomborg’s opposition, we see an array of ideas that not only seem possible but extremely practical.
Painting streets and rooftops white, Lomborg claims, reduces temperature by redirecting a city’s warmth, mitigating the minimal effects of global warming. Along with urban cooling and geo-engineering, Lomborg proposes the use of alternative energy sources, such as algae fuel and wave power, to help combat the problem while still allowing for a reasonable standard of living.
In “Cool It!” Lomborg and Timoner have portrayed not only the problem of global warming but addressed much greater issues needing global awareness in a film that is immensely hopeful.
The sky just may not be falling afterall.