November 18, 2010

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Cool it (PG)
Bjørn Lomborg, Danish scientist, takes a critical look at the world’s response to global climate change in Cool It, a documentary that takes the black-and-white world-is-ending message of An Inconvenient Truth and gets all gray with it.

Bjørn Lomborg isn’t some global warming denier. He agrees that it’s happening. His disagreement with others in the scientific community is how to respond. His argument is that instead of focusing on onerous and unpopular attempts to cut carbon emissions, the world should focus on adapting to the coming changes and developing cheaper alternative fuels so that eventually the U.S. or China or whoever will prefer algae oil or whatever to coal and petroleum.

Bjørn Lomborg’s ideas get resistance from the scientific community — why is not entirely clear here; it seems like it may be because he approaches dealing with climate change via cost-benefit-analysis. For example — melting ice caps kill polar bears. Yes, he says. But shooting polar bears kills more polar bears. So, if number of dead polar bears is the problem, we shuold just stop shooting them — the numbers killed by global warming would be far outweighed by the numbers killed by people shooting them. As I understood it, this makes Lomborg unpopular (extrapolating the polar bear thing to his overall argument) because it doesn’t address the number killed by the global warming.

The movie loses steam when it is focused on this Bjørn-against-the-world setup.Nothing here seems to be so very different from the An Inconvenient Truth way of looking at climate change. It just has different ideas about policy. The stuff about answering Al Gore’s slide show (with Lomborg’s own slide show — dorkiest celebrity feud ever) and building Lomborg up as a misunderstood prophet who has been shunned by some science elite feels weak and strained.

Meanwhile, in the section on ideas for adaptation or alternative fuel, the movie is all kinds of nerdy fun. Painting sidewalks and rooftops white to cool cities, getting energy from ocean waves, the aforementioned fuel oil made out of algae — the sections of the movie highlighting these inventions radiate a kind of science-nerd optimism. That and the overall ideas espoused by Lomborg are far more exciting than the tease of his being the anit-Gore. B-

Rated PG for thematic elements. Directed by Ondi Timoner and written by Terry Botwick, Sarah Gibson and Timoner (from the book by Bjørn Lomborg), Cool It is an hour and 28 minutes long and is distributed in limited release by Roadside Attractions.

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