So Climate Spin and I saw the Sunday matinee of the Bjorn Lomborg slef-congratulation movie Cool It in Chicago last Sunday, as far as the Reader knew at the time the only showing of Cool It in Chicago in its second week. Based on the eight tickets apparently sold, we can attest that no less than 25% of the Chicago audience for the week held doctorates in the climate sciences.
It’s a bit irritating in its self-congratulation; whoever was bankrolling this effort must have decided to put up with Bjorn’s efforts at self-promotion. We have to humanize Bjorn the same way AIT humanized Gore. If Bjorn has led a singularly charmed and practically event-free life, this puts him at something of a disadvantage, but he does still love his mother, at least when a film crew is present. But the self-promotion is clearly a failure, as on conventional terms, the movie is as well. It was boring enough that CS and I both struggled to stay awake through it. (I failed.)
Of the parts that I saw, there was indeed a fundamental dishonesty: the claim that a Kyoto implementation “would only cool the earth 0.01 degrees” (I forget the numebr, perhaps it was even smaller, but this is the idea. The movie claims that “conventionl approaches” to carbon emissions are not just cost ineffective, but are simply ineffective. This trick is a common one in denialist circles. The point is not reduction in CO2 concentration per dollar spent on Kyoto. The point is conversion to non-CO2 infrastructure per dollar spent.
More to the point, if you look at something Kyoto-like as a necessary first step in the right direction, you will see that it is a first step in the right direction. Something we haven’t really seen, and, you know, ought to see, because a first step is necessary. Any sensible analysis will agree that we would have a long way to go beyond there even if Kyoto had been enacted. The main difference would be not in the numbers, but in our capacity to credibly exert pressure on other countries (notably the Chinese as it turned out) about now. And our incapacity to do that will have huge impacts into the future.
So that is all, basically, lying. The rest of it, though, seems more like misdirection; a collection of reasonable research endeavors, and a pitch for money. A plea, in other words, to buy off the research community rather than trying to destroy it. I have to say that between those choices I am on Lomborg’s side.
Randy “such-a-nonscientist” Olson may have even more of a point than he thinks when he argues that we shouldn’t be reassured by the lack of interest in Lomborg’s movie. Lomborg offers no villains, nobody to blame. That is not how you make a documentary these days. That in itself is unfortunate. More charitably to the public, you might say that people are concluding that they get enough corporate greenwashing in a typical week without going out of their way to pay or it.
It didn’t happen. And it didn’t happen in a big way. It scored 46% on Rotten Tomatoes — less than the 60% threshold needed to earn a tomato — meaning the consensus is don’t waste your time seeing the movie. It’s not a disastrously bad movie, it’s just not that good. And worst of all, it leaves people in Hollywood, with their ultra-simple, short attention span, saying, “Climate movies don’t sell.” Which means the end of the line for reaching the general public through a movie. At least for a while.
But really, isn’t that a success from the point of view that Lomborg promotes? Go back to sleep, all, nothing to worry about here, the smart people have it under control. Wouldn’t you really rather spend your ten bucks on a romantic comedy or an action adventure? Seriously?