So I watched this documentary last night:
Before watching Cool It I expected it to be just like Expelled, which, in my opinion, had a very strong right wing agenda. I don’t want to imply that everything “right-wing” is innately propaganda, or that the left isn’t just as capable of creating its own propaganda, but I disliked Expelled‘s attempt to undermine evolution by framing all creationists as victims. So I wasn’t really watching this film with much of an open mind, but by the end was actually impressed. Just a heads up, from this point on there are spoilers galore.
The majority of scientists agree that human pollution is causing climate change. While this still seems to be a politically contested issue, this film didn’t debate whether or not climate change is actually happening. Instead it focused on what we should be doing about it.
The first section of the documentary focused on the personal experiences of Bjorn Lomborg, the “controversial” author of The Skeptical Environmentalist. It shows clips of Lomborg’s persecution by the extreme left and shares some aspects about his personal life that seemed irrelevant to the point of the film. After the focus on Lomborg, it moved on to the main topic. The rest of the film resembled an interesting lecture, with video clips added to support each of his major points.
The first thing Lomborg establishes is his distrust of the current political attempts to reign in pollution. The primary solution he distrusts is “cap and trade”, which Annie Leonard also dismantles in her somewhat oversimplistic Story of Stuff series:
Both Lomborg and Leonard draw attention to the massive opportunity for corruption present in this system, but while Leonard encourages putting non-negotiable caps on carbon emissions, Lomborg argues that the economic costs of caps are too high, and that investing in alternative methods could prove more effective. He then goes on to explore some alternatives, which appear in a montage at the end of the trailer above.
This is where I got really excited. One reason I appreciated what he was saying is because he looked beyond just the environment. The documentary took a moment to explore some of the issues facing the developing world. Unfortunately, many of the countries who will suffer most from climate change are also living with such need that they don’t necessarily care to solve the issue we find so pressing here in the West.
Lomborg suggests investing more in solving the issues around health care, safety, and education that often prevent developing countries from focusing on environmental issues, rather than increasing spending in order to meet the kind of goals outlined by Kyoto.
Lomborg also argues that we should focus more on ways to make alternative energy viable, rather than focusing solely on capping the pollution caused by our current energy sources. The film also presents a few of the alternative designs that are cropping up. My dad is an inventor (I’ll let you know once he gets rich and famous from one of his designs), so I love hearing about new and more efficient ways to deal with a problem. I also care about my environment and want to be a good steward with the world around me. It’s hard to keep on caring, however, when you realize that no matter how many “green” choices you make, it makes virtually no difference as long as massive companies refuse to change their practices.
Probably the most commonly discussed alternative energies are wind and solar, which are not always ideal. Especially if you are a bird flying over Nevada’s solar power plant. In Cool It Lomborg introduces some interesting alternatives, including wave power, nuclear power without waste, water splitting to create hydrogen fuel, and algae as fuel. They also introduce some ideas for bringing down global temperatures, including urban cooling techniques, some as simple as painting surfaces white, and other simple geo-engineering concepts.
Overall I would consider Cool It a documentary worth watching. Like all documentaries it had its own agenda, but it seemed to be presenting it to, rather than forcing it on, audiences. You can obviously tell from the examples I included above that I got quite into it near the end. I have very little scientific education, however, so I would love to hear what you think of Lomborg’s arguments.