Director Ondi Timoner courts controversy with a purpose in this climate change-themed documentary. Presenting a very favorable view of so-called global warming denier Bjorn Lomborg, the movie might seem like a betrayal to fans of her marvelous earlier documentary, Dig!, about psych rock bands Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols. But if you make it past the bombastic first 7 or 8 minutes, you'll probably subscribe easily to Lomborg's notion that 'going green' might not be the thing to keep our planet from turning into a burning hell.
In fact, our planet might not turn into a burning hell after all, Lomborg asserts. Harrowing first minutes use the same fear-mongering techniques Al Gore hammered on with An Inconvenient Truth, but the intent is different, pointing out the immobilizing effects of such hyperbole. Independently, Lomborg began to question those techniques and the data presented, authoring 'The Skeptical Environmentalist,' which dared to purport that things might not be as dire as certain scientists might believe. Using different research to back up his claims, Lomborg unfortunately made a few errors in his book, leading to his being pilloried in the press, demonized and labeled The Anti-Christ of Environmentalism.
Timoner sets about humanizing Lomborg as he visits his Alzheimer's inflicted mother, about whom he notes that he finds strength to battle his detractors with her love. Then, relying heavily on lecture footage from Lomborg's various appearances, salting things with interview footage from both supporters and detractors, and wrapping everything up with actively engaging graphics, Timoner paints a reasonable picture of the iconoclast. But more than just rescuing Lomborg from public opinion, Timoner allows him to speak his own piece, which includes plenty of possible solutions to go along with defending his position.
No documentary is unbiased, and Timoner seems clearly pro-Lomborg, but she has the courage to give time to his detractors before cutting loose with his message. It's not like global warming pundits really need more time in the spotlight anyway, and it's important to note that Lomborg is not actually a global warming denier - he believes the planet is generally heating up as much as anybody. Where he departs from the norm follows two distinct paths: while doomsayers like Al Gore foresee oceans rising 20 feet within this century, (or something like that) Lomborg and his set of experts place that number at something closer to a probable foot - coincidentally the amount seas have risen in the past 150 years or so. Furthermore, Lomborg's calculations take a practical route, as he notes the cost of current ideas for curbing warming versus their potential benefit. The math doesn't really seem to make a lot of sense to him, as he details numerous lower-cost ways to deliver good to the human population. By Lomborg's light, combating malaria or preserving water supplies provide far more bang for far fewer bucks.
This quite thorough documentary continues on in a somewhat breathless 90 minutes to suggest a number of plausible, low cost ways to cool the planet that don't ignore the reality that we're going to continue burning fossil fuels while their cost is low. But while Lomborg takes apart Al Gore's plans, you won't find anyone disputing the feasibility of the plans Lomborg presents. As mentioned before, all documentaries contain bias, and Timoner's is no exception. On the other hand, how much transparent vetting and corroborating can you cram into a compelling feature-length documentary? Nonetheless, Cool It represents a reasonable, circumspect look at some good ideas shouted down by well intentioned but myopic environmentalists. If you're really concerned about climate change, don't simply buy into the party line, stop patting yourself on the back for using a few fluorescent bulbs and give this documentary a look.