People not only don’t like to change, they generally won’t if it drastically impacts their level of comfort. This is the fundamental conundrum of the global warming issue, and the key reality addressed by Cool It, which asks if money currently spent on climate change problems—as well as global poverty, clean drinking water, and disease—might be used more wisely. Ondi Timoner’s documentary is, at heart, a platform for The Skeptical Environmentalist author Bjorn Lomborg, who contends (contrary to the accusations of his detractors) that global warming exists and is a serious problem, but is a dilemma that’s less grave than “alarmists” would have you believe and one that should be tackled via more reasonable approaches. In its early going, the film goes a bit far in positioning Lomborg as a valiant lone voice of truth under attack from a monopoly of vested interests, and indulges in the same type of cute pop-doc aesthetics (cartoon graphics, an avalanche of stats and graphs, numerous talking heads) that have come to rule the genre. Nonetheless, it cogently and persuasively lays out its obvious, and yet far-from-embraced, thesis: that the only real way to obliterate America’s, and the developing world’s, reliance on fossil fuels (and their resultant CO2 emissions) is to create cheaper, more effective alternatives.
Shots of Lomborg feeding Kenyan children prove excessive attempts to depict the man as a cheery, compassionate good guy, when such concerns are irrelevant to the validity of his arguments. Fortunately, though Lomborg pays somewhat cursory lip service to some of mainstream environmentalists’ concerns, he does refute enough of their—and, specifically, An Inconvenient Truth‘s—more dire sky-is-falling assertions to elicit credibility. When slamming international conferences’ all-talk, no-action efforts, which in Kyoto amounted to proposals that would cost billions to affect infinitesimal change, Lomborg comes across as sane and well informed. Moreover, there’s logical weight to his line of reasoning (also promoted by Al Gore) that directing millions at both creative new fuel strategies (such as those which involve solar, algae, and wave power), as well as at pressing global catastrophes like hunger, malaria, and HIV, would insure a better future and present for the world population.
Cool It spends excessive time on tantalizing future-tech (like Cloud-Brightening) that’s unlikely to ever alter our climate change troubles, and its rat-a-tat-tat pacing lends the film a certain measure of glibness. Still, the film’s stance toward its Big Questions remains clear-headed, rooted as it is in the pragmatic assumption that green innovation and adaptation, rather than bound-to-fail demands that modern citizens sacrifice their current expectations for energy, is a more realistic way to keep the Earth running.