'Cool It': Documentary a shaky take on global warming

Bjørn Lomborg in "Cool It." The "Skeptical Environmentalist" argues that global warming's effects won't be as dire as some experts claim.
Bjørn Lomborg in "Cool It." The "Skeptical Environmentalist" argues that global warming's effects won't be as dire as some experts claim.
Posted: November 12, 2010

Cool It, Sundance-winning documentarian Ondi Timoner's new movie about controversial environmentalist Bjørn Lomborg, starts off hot.

"All the ice is going to melt," a cherubic young boy's voice intones as a series of crayon drawings depict the fate of an Earth overwhelmed by global warming.

"The animals will die," the child continues over an image of a dead crayon penguin resting on a crayon ice floe. "Everyone is just going to die. . . . I'm scared that it's going to happen quite soon."

Whoa: Talk about apocalyptic! And from the mouth of babes. Just a second! Cool it!

That, Lomborg and Timoner have said, is the goal of Cool It: to give us a rational time-out amid all this global doom and gloom.

Cool It is a riposte to Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, a film Lomborg and Timoner say helped whip up an enviro-hysteria in which rational debate has been replaced by emotional rhetoric.

Trouble is, Lomborg is hardly a dispassionate observer - he's an interested player in the debate. And his ideas are nothing if not controversial.

The Danish statistician launched a firestorm a decade ago with the publication of his best seller The Skeptical Environmentalist, which attacked some of the assumptions made by the world's leading environmentalists.

Some critics denounced the book as bad science and Lomborg as a charlatan. Others championed it as a breath of fresh air.

In Cool It Lomborg presents himself as a laid-back, cheerful pragmatist.

He doesn't deny that global warming is real but argues that its effects won't be as dire as some experts claim. And he criticizes most of our efforts to forestall it as unrealistic and too expensive.

Instead, Lomborg says, we should focus our dollars on solving other global problems including malaria, malnutrition, and hunger.

Cool It offers no new insights into the internecine debates in enviro-policy.

Which is just as well.

It is at its best when examining alternative sources of energy and how their development has consistently been thwarted by the energy industry.

It also reminds us how much poverty, sickness, and misery exist outside our pampered lives.


Contact staff writer Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or tirdad@phillynews.com.

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