‘Cool It’ leaves big questions of credibility

FRIDAY, NOV. 19, 2010

There’s plenty of room for debate within the broad scientific discussion of global climate change. The question raised by the new documentary “Cool It” is whether censured Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg deserves a place at the table.

The author of “The Skeptical Environmentalist” doesn’t deny global warming, which may disappoint some of those who embrace his “discredit Al Gore” mission.

But Lomborg’s attack on the orthodoxy of climate change policy has won him friends in the conservative and business communities and enemies in both science and environmental circles.

The Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty found him ill-qualified to be making the arguments on a subject that lies outside his areas of expertise.

“Cool It” does little to remove that taint. It’s a “What Me Worry?” spin on the science that suggests we stop letting ourselves be paralyzed into inaction by the scale and cost of the “worst case scenario” that “An Inconvenient Truth” hurled at us.

The film by director Ondi Timoner (”Dig!,” “We Live in Public”) opens with the voices of children blurting out what they know about climate change. When you hear the fear and doomsday prophecies they parrot, you’re inclined to hear Lomborg out.

He talks about allocating resources toward attacking real human problems (malaria, poverty) instead of the tiny changes he expects from all our efforts to lower the planet’s temperature over the next 100 years.

But he bends numbers, something you notice in a movie built on a point-by-point attack on Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary.

No, sea levels won’t turn Earth into Kevin Costner’s “Waterworld.” But you can’t help but notice Lomborg talks to experts who agree with him, to a point, about Antarctica, and yet somehow leave out the rapidly shrinking Arctic ice pack.

There are few dissenting voices in “Cool It.” With people like NASA’s sober-minded James Hansen and U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich there to give Lomborg a bit of cover (they don’t address him or his ideas directly), the film avoids being shrill or overly political.

And Lomborg repeatedly notes that climate change is “real, it’s man-made and it is a problem.”

But as useful as it is to chew on ideas that don’t hew to climate change dogma, “Cool It’ leaves big questions about Lomborg unanswered: Is he qualified? Is he honest? And who is funding him?

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