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Default Global Warming and Common Sense - 11-13-2010, 04:32 AM

Movie Review

Cool It

Roadside Attractions
The Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg in “Cool It,” a documentary based on his book.

Global Warming and Common Sense


“People are going to die,” pipes a child’s voice at the beginning of “Cool It,” Ondi Timoner’s cacophonous portrait of the Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg, whose 2001 book, “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” earned him the ire of the green movement and an accusation of scientific dishonesty. That accusation didn’t stick, but Mr. Lomborg’s reputation as a global-warming denier has been tougher to shake off.

More About This Movie

This film, based on Mr. Lomborg’s book of the same name, should go some way toward image rehabilitation, even if Ms. Timoner is more fearful of boring than confusing us. (Visions of “An Inconvenient Truth” might have been dancing in her head.) Planted firmly in the middle ground between end-is-nigh panic and drill-baby-drill denial, Mr. Lomborg believes the hysteria surrounding global warming has stifled common sense and encouraged countries to budget enormous sums of money to achieve negligible reductions in temperature.
“The current approach is broken,” he says, and to prove it he founded the Copenhagen Consensus Center, filled it with economists and unleashed them on our most pressing global challenges. Systematically applying cost-benefit analyses to a variety of green technologies and persistent worldwide problems — disease, poverty, education — Mr. Lomborg concluded that improving our planet demanded a more creative, less fearful allocation of resources.
But after reproving his critics, the news media and climate activists in general for employing “scare tactics” to gain public attention, Mr. Lomborg is at the mercy of a director eager to avoid the same charge. Too often cutesy animation and adorable children risk obscuring Mr. Lomborg’s fascinating assertions. One of these is contained in an eye-opening section on initiatives like cap and trade, with a damning Enron memo taking center stage. Another, focusing on the Atomic Energy Commission’s claimed suppression of a promising wave-power technology, is almost heartbreaking in its sense of loss.
By the second half, however, Ms. Timoner has found her footing, and the film really digs in. Debunking claims made by “An Inconvenient Truth” and presenting alternative strategies, “Cool It” finally blossoms into an engrossing, brain-tickling picture as many of Al Gore’s meticulously graphed assertions are systematically — and persuasively — refuted. (I was intrigued to hear Mr. Lomborg say, for instance, that the polar-bear population is more endangered by hunters than melting ice.)
Blond, boyish and with an irrepressible faith in human adaptability, Mr. Lomborg is the anti-Gore. Too bad, then, that the final section of the film shunts him to the margins during a whirlwind tour of frontier technologies, including artificial photosynthesis and geo-engineering. This last-minute barrage of experimental energy strategies may leave you more stupefied than hopeful, but “Cool It” is all about the pep: playing down the talking heads and playing up the “git ’er done.” If algae can suck up carbon dioxide and spit out oil, what on earth are we worrying about?
“Cool It” is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). Frightened children and crude animation.
Opens on Friday nationwide.
Directed by Ondi Timoner; written by Terry Botwick, Sarah Gibson, Bjorn Lomborg and Ms. Timoner, based on the book “Cool It” by Mr. Lomborg; director of photography, Nasar Abich; edited by Debra Light, Brian Singbiel and David Timoner; music by N’oa Winter Lazerus and Sarah Schachner; produced by Mr. Botwick, Ms. Gibson and Ms. Timoner; released by Roadside Attractions. Running time: 1 hour 28 minutes.

A version of this review appeared in print on November 12, 2010, on page C8 of the New York edition.
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