Last week we held a screening of the documentary Cool It at the GreenBlue offices as part of our monthly environmental film screening. The film, based on the book Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming, is about the book’s author, Danish economist and political scientist Bjørn Lomborg, and his alternative (and sometimes controversial) approach to combatting climate change. The Los Angels Times notes, “If Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” left you feeling as if we’ve already lost the battle against global warming, “Cool It” is a tantalizing counterpoint that will make you wonder if maybe we’ve just been going about it the wrong way.” Below a couple GreenBlue staff members provide their insights on the film and some of Lomborg’s provocative ideas.
Development and Communications Associate Ashley Holmes: In Cool It, Bjørn Lomborg, who is largely against most conventional thinking on global warming solutions, proposes a more creative allocation of global resources to solve the problem by focusing on more cost-effective solutions. He suggests that the $250 billion the European Union spends per year on carbon offsets could be spent more wisely to alleviate poverty, disease, and lack of education in developing countries while simultaneously reducing global warming. The bulk of this budget (about $100 billion) would be spent on energy R&D to reduce the costs of these new technologies. Another $50 billion should be spent on adaptation for the unavoidable risks of climate change, and $1 billion would go to geo-engineering research. The remaining $99 billion would be spent in the developing world on necessities like clean water, education, and healthcare. While Lomborg makes a compelling case, I am not entirely convinced that the solution to such a complex problem can be summed up into such a tidy budget. Regardless of the cost of the solution (whether it will be $250 billion or much more than that), the film leaves you wondering how we will be able to garner the political will across so many diverse countries to invest in solving climate change without an immediately visible payoff.
Project Associate Danielle Peacock: In Cool It, Bjørn Lomborg appears to correlate concern for the world’s largest problems with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He argues that the poor, hungry, sick, and jobless of the world are focused on fulfilling their basic needs (and rightfully so), while climate change is a concern of rich, developed societies. To reach the point of focusing on climate change is to reach fulfillment of all other needs – equating to the top stages of Maslow’s pyramid. Essentially, it is an expensive “first world problem” that we inefficiently invest our money in. What stuck with me the most was Lomborg’s failure to properly address the interconnected nature of climate change and the environment to these basic needs of food, health, education and income. Sincere sustainability conversations must focus on the systematic interconnection of these issues. They feed upon each other, and cannot be analyzed as isolated issues. It is a complexity that we must remind ourselves of in our personal and professional lives.
Project Associate Eric DesRoberts: I think the film appeals to many by talking about the sustainability agenda within a valuation framework. This is something more tangible and relatable to most people and at the very least increases awareness of the dialogues happening around environmental and social injustices.
One concern that was validated in the film was the polarization of the research community. Many of the proposed ideas identified by the film’s protagonist appear to have short-term or more immediate results. Some of the naysayers seemingly have a more long-term scientific grit and grind approach, but I believe there is need for both and I don’t think they are exclusive of one another. The long-term approach requires constant adjustment, which leaves plenty of opportunities for many short-term projects.
Read other film reviews from GreenBlue’s monthly environmental film series.