Skip to content

Cool It, a new film featuring Bjorn Lomborg, is far more convincing than An Inconvenient Truth

Danish “skeptical environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg is at least as charismatic as Al Gore and far more personable. Cool It, the film about Mr. Lomborg’s crusade to bring some rationality to the climate change issue — which premiered on Sunday night at the Toronto International Film Festival — is also every bit as well done as An Inconvenient Truth, the Oscar-winning movie about Mr. Gore’s ghastly but self-interested psychic projections.

Every schoolchild who was forced to watch Mr. Gore’s apocalyptic whoppers should also be given the opportunity to see Cool It, which presents a balanced and convincing case against doom and gloom.

The movie starts by demonstrating the disgraceful way in which children in the West have been terrorized by — and used for — catastrophic propaganda. It also cleverly uses bright-eyed poor kids in an African school to highlight aspirations that for the foreseeable future can only be fed by fossil fuels.

An Inconvenient Truth was essentially an Al Gore road trip. Cool It, while it similarly shows Mr. Lomborg on the lecture circuit, features many more interviews with experts who debunk Gore-ish catastrophism on rising sea levels, spreading disease, and polar bear deaths. Nevertheless, alarmists such as (the late) Stephen Schneider (to whom, for some inexplicable reason, the film is dedicated) and James Hansen are also given time in front of the camera.

The film — whose title comes from a book by Mr. Lomborg — notes how the erudite Dane came to his skepticism after reading an article by American economist Julian Simon that debunked many doomster claims and economic myths. Mr. Lomborg was offended and set his students to check out Prof. Simon’s work. He discovered that it was mostly true: things were not getting perpetually worse, but better. He published a book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, based on these thoroughly researched findings. It drew torrents of abuse and accusations of “intellectual dishonesty” from a branch of the Danish government, which relied for ammunition on the mainly U.S.-based environmental establishment. These accusations were subsequently proved to be not only without merit, but without content.

Mr. Lomborg points to numerous adaptive technologies — from dyke building to geoengineering — that could enable humanity to deal with whatever climate change may bring, but at a fraction of the cost of the pointless schemes promoted by the UN-corralled “international community.”

However, there are several more-than-minor quibbles with Mr. Lomborg’s approach. He concedes that global warming is a real and potentially serious issue, but the film makes no reference to Climategate or to the tendentious errors found in the last assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In fact, this looks like a matter of strategy on Mr. Lomborg’s part, because his prime target is the ineffectiveness — according to the climate establishment’s own figures — of official “solutions.” Cap and trade is an invitation to fraud on a huge scale. Despite massive subsidies, we are a long way from viable “alternatives” to hydrocarbon-based energy. The commitments made by global governments over the past twenty years have been at best examples of democratic hypocrisy, at worst fraudulent.

This brings us to the second major problem with Mr. Lomborg’s approach. Having accepted the scientific reality of climate change, he then embraces the “Global Salvationism” that is arguably one of the major reasons for people buying dubious science in the name of helping out the world’s poorest people. If we really are concerned about poor people, he notes, then instead of spending hundreds of billions annually on economically damaging policies that won’t change the climate, why not just target specific problems such as health, education and clean water? This sounds eminently sensible until you realize that hundreds of billions, if not trillions, have been spent on direct aid in the past fifty years, often only to make matters worse.

One of Mr. Lomborg’s initiatives is the Copenhagen Consensus, a small group of brilliant people — including several Nobel Prize winners — that he assembled to do cost-benefit analyses of poverty policies. They have concluded that attempting to regulate the weather is a sensationally ineffective way of spending tax dollars. But while this exercise is valuable in highlighting policy folly, it in many ways supports the top-down approach that has been at the root of so much of development policy’s corruption and ineffectiveness.

Again, Mr. Lomborg supports a moderate carbon tax to provide the funds for a vast increase in research and development on energy alternatives without explaining how the governments who will collect and allocate these funds will be able to spot the “technologies of the future.”

One of the many questions raised by the movie is why somebody as manifestly well-intentioned as Bjorn Lomborg should have been so demonized and misrepresented. While several people in the film note that “fear sells,” much deeper inquiry is needed into the dark political/psychological heart of the green movement. “Cooling it” always tends to be a good principle in heated debate. The issue is how the debate got so heated — and so skewed — in the first place.

Financial Post, 13 September 2010