The new documentary Cool It from acclaimed filmmaker Ondi Timoner (DiG!, We Live in Public) is a breath of fresh air for anyone sick and tired of the fear-based approach to fighting climate change. With the help of Bjørn Lomborg — the Danish environmentalist and author with which she co-wrote the film — Timoner’s Cool It acts as a rebuttal of sorts to Al Gore‘s documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Lomborg is author of the controversial book The Skeptical Environmentalist, in which he posited that much of the money that industrialized nations are pouring into the fight against climate change is being ill-spent.
The film was born out of what Lomborg saw as a lack of a middle ground, “The whole climate debate has been marred by the fact that just two positions have been viewed as acceptable: either you are a climate change denier or you are Al Gore and the world is coming to an end,” told the Agence France-Presse. Lomborg does not deny that climate change is happening, in fact his entire argument is based on the fact that climate change is very real — the difference between Lomborg and others is that he believes that we’re not doing the right things to combat it. Cool It acts as a vessel for Lomborg’s ideology, in it he calls out the alarmists and fear-mongers in the climate change debate and explores practical alternatives to current models.
Cool It begins with a sobering talk with a group of school age children in the United Kingdom. The kids were asked to talk about and to draw what they thought the climate on Earth would be like in the future — their responses were not very hopeful, with most predicting melted polar ice caps, parched deserts, rampant pollution and the end of humanity. To hear 9 and 10 year old kids paint such a grim picture of their perceived future was extremely depressing. The conversation with the children illustrates Lomborg’s first point: climate change alarmists have gone too far with their rhetoric if kids are this frightened for the planet they will inherit. True first world problems.
Lomborg then travels to Nairobi, Kenya to talk with school children living in a slum. The kids weren’t concerned about climate change, what worried them was having a good education, decent healthcare and a roof over their heads. If industrialized nations spent half of what they do on a yearly basis fighting climate change, and put it towards education and healthcare in these developing nations they could level the playing field. Lomborg believes that by helping these countries with their internal problems, we would empower them to deal with external, global problems like climate change.
At the heart of the film is Lomborg’s cost-benefit analysis of the climate change situation. He estimates that industrialized nations spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on fighting climate change in ways that will yield very little real benefit. Worldwide temperatures are expected to increase anywhere between 2 to 6 degrees Celsius over the next century. Lomborg claims that even if every industrialized country on the planet continues to spend billions of dollars a year the way they have been, their efforts would only decrease world wide temperatures by a minuscule percentage of a degree by the year 2100.
To close out the film, Lomborg explores many alternative sources of energy. He examines existing technologies like wave-generated electricity and the soon to be built fourth generation nuclear reactors, which can actually use spent nuclear materials for fuel, thereby reducing the half-life of the material to decades instead of centuries. Lomborg then takes a closer look at the controversial science of geo-engineering — better known as weather control. While many of these options may seem far-fetched, Lomborg’s point remains: if industrialized nations put their money into the research and further development of these technologies humanity would be much better off in the long run.