Enemy of Climate Consensus Gets a Soapbox in Cool It


The nitty-gritty science of global warming is tough enough to evaluate without the sort of hard-sell Ondi Timoner pushes on behalf of her subject, Bjørn Lomborg. Author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and the movie’s eponymous source book, the Danish adjunct professor of statistics became, over the past decade, a thorn in the side of the environmentalist consensus on climate meltdown. Given a soapbox (and an inexhaustible supply of black tees), the fresh-faced gadfly gets to air back-of-the-envelope cost-benefit objections to widely accepted proposals and entertains what-if alternatives that sound dubious for the long-term. Thanks to knee-jerk condemnation by scientists back home, he’s cast as the rationalist victim of groupthink, and has a counterproductive advocate in Timoner. How seriously can you take any portrait that follows a segment of criticism with its subject doting on his momma and a testimonial from his assistant? Versed in the visual rhetoric of check-this-out pseudo-journalism, the Sundance-approved director of DiG and We Live in Public displays a weakness for heavy-handed pivots, unexamined arguments, and wall-to-wall filler music. Even if Lomborg has a good case to make, it’s short-changed by the film’s selective centerpiece: Yale lecture footage in which he responds to the movie An Inconvenient Truth (complete with a hilarious cutaway to one audience member’s the-man’s-got-a-point-there nod). Timoner does present a colorful cast of supportive scientists and scores a funny dig at green-cause indoctrination with a classroom of schoolkids with cute British accents fretting over Dad’s toaster usage. But by the time we’re being hustled through the finer points of algae energy and the renewed viability of dikes, Lomborg sounds like an infomercial huckster, down to the vow to have money for “all the remaining problems of the world” thanks to his low, low price for managing global warming.