Ondi Timoner’s “Cool It” is meant to be an answer of sorts to Davis Guggenheim’s Oscar-winning “An Inconvenient Truth,” the movie that lit a fuse on the growing concern about global warming and the way humans have created and hastened its spread.
Timoner’s film focuses on Bjorn Lomborg, an amiable Dane with a blond Beatles’ haircut who, despite his academic and scientific credentials, still affects grad-student wear of black t-shirts and jeans. He’s the author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” which he points out several times in the film, does not deny the threat of global warming.
Rather, Lomborg’s point is that the suggestions that Al Gore makes in “An Inconvenient Truth” to shrink our carbon footprint – and the efforts being made by the U.S. and other governments to cut back on carbon dioxide – are having minimal impact on the actual amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. He argues that billions are being spent – hundreds of billions – on efforts that will only have an infinitesimal impact over the next 50 years.
Instead, Lomborg offers a variety of alternatives, including nuclear power, wind and solar and bioengineering. He does so in reasonable and reasoned ways, making these seem like no-brainer choices.
But here’s the problem with Lomborg’s approach and the whole “Cool It” ethos: It only adds fuel to the ridiculous argument that, in fact, global warming is not a problem. Lomborg never says that. But he does mock Gore and the film sets up Gore and “An Inconvenient Truth” as targets – which they already are to the various oil conglomerates that want to do away with all efforts to scale back our dependence on fossil fuel.
In other words, “Cool It” may not say that Gore is wrong about global warming or the imminent nature of its impact – but the people that Timoner interviews in the film do. And that lends credence to the know-nothing, anti-science forces who don’t care about nuance or niceties. They won’t bother with Timoner’s shadings – to them, Lomborg’s message is that Gore is wrong – period.
Which is why this seemingly settled issue – that global warming is a worldwide threat that is nearing a tipping point – continues to be a debate, argued by people who have a financial stake in causing confusion and keeping actual policy from being made.
Yes, the ideas that Lomborg suggests in this film are potential solutions that should be explored. But they shouldn’t come at the expense of current efforts. And Timoner’s presentation of Lomborg’s arguments would be a little more plausible if the only person arguing against Lomborg didn’t seem like such a stereotypically frothing-at-the-mouth tree-hugger.
Obviously, there are zealots on both sides. But it’s hard to find any idealism among the anti-Gore forces. Their agenda is about profits first. Which makes Lomborg a prophet whose conclusions may be correct but whose message in “Cool It” is ripe for distortion and corruption, even within the film itself.