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Cool It 
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Post Cool It
I saw the documentary Cool It last night. It's the story of Bjorn Lumborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, and his efforts to inject some pragmatism in the hysteria surrounding climate change. It's his own movie, so of course he's going to make himself look good, but I have to say his basic premise makes a lot of sense to me. He points out that not only are we not executing on the plans we committed to from 20+ years ago all the way through to today, but those plans are also horribly misguided and will deliver the least possible bang for the buck (e.g. 30 cents of economic value for every dollar invested).

He's no climate scientist, but he assembled something akin to a think tank, and posed to them the question (I'm paraphrasing), Where and how can we do the most good solving the world's biggest problems? They do full cost/benefit analyses. He's not a climate change denier; he says he believes it's happening, and that humans contribute substantially to it, but we're not putting any significant resources into any coping strategy that's likely to actually, you know, have a positive effect. And besides, there are much bigger problems over which we have much more control (clean drinking water, starvation, housing, malaria, etc.), mostly in the developing world.

Along the way, he tsk tsk's Al Gore's catastrophizing take on global warming, and challenges some of Gore's most impassioned points in An Inconvenient Truth. For example, the poster for that movie is a hurricane coming out of a smokestack, and the movie tries to link global warming with dramatically more damage resulting from recent hurricanes compared to the last century. Lomborg shows slides of the same stretch of Florida beach a hundred years ago and today. It's very clear that the increasing damage and death toll of hurricanes is not because hurricanes are bigger or more frequent now, it's because the coastal areas in their path are much more densely populated, so there's exponentially much more *too be damaged* by the same storms. The death toll of Katrina wasn't so much the storm itself; it was the poor engineering of the levees, the willingness of people willing to live in neighborhoods of a coastal city that were below sea level, poverty, and people's unwillingness and/or inability to evacuate. None of those has a connection to global warming.

Anyway, I enjoyed the movie a lot, and I think I learned quite a bit. I recommend it highly, if you can find a venue that's showing it.

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Fri Nov 19, 2010 2:42 pm
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Post Re: Cool It
I just had a fascinating lunch - years and years back, we had a biology teacher who had graduated from the same high school about ten years prior. He was back (yes, you can hum a few bars of "Welcome Back Kotter" if you've a mind) after getting his degree in biology and ecology and spending four years on the Alyeska pipeline project as a supervising field ecologist.

We've been out of touch until he looked me up a year or two ago, based on a shared interest in that Heinlein fellow. We had lunch back then and this past week was the first time we've crossed paths since.

He's a senior ecology and environmental impact specialist for a very large water and power agency, and has been for almost twenty years. This guy lives and breathes fieldwork - he's recovering from some minor joint surgery and hasn't gotten his desert time in lately, so is crazy to get healed and back out in the jeep. (He's not entirely a desert rat; he knows the federal and California environmental regs so thoroughly he often is patiently tutoring gummint reps in meetings and over reports.)

Understand that he quit the Alaska project, at the time it was positively throwing money at qualified people, because they wanted him to bend the reports their way. He has unimpeachable integrity when it comes to his work and doing what's right.

So you can imagine my shock when he spent a good portion of the lunch excoriating the global-warming proponents and backing up his every assertion with very credible sounding data. I 'am but an egg' in comparative knowledge and while I believe global climate change is real and significant, I couldn't argue anything he was saying. But the fact that this man, whose overall position, education and integrity I respect - especially as he is an involved field guy and not a lab rat - makes me question some of the assumptions I had on file.

(My personal opinion, based on a hunch and observation of prior ecological crises? Climate shift is real, and may significantly impact the global economy in the next few decades... but I believe they will eventually concede that human activity has little to do with it. It's a natural cycle we do not have adequate data to understand or predict. If it can be used as a lever to get us to more sensible energy patterns, so much the better - but we need to be realistic about it, too. That's pretty much all I have to say on the subject.)

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Fri Nov 19, 2010 5:10 pm
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Post Re: Cool It
Lomborg's book The Skeptical Environmentalist is quite impressive:
http://www.Troynovant.com/Stoddard/Lomborg/Skeptical-Environmentalist.html

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Mon Nov 22, 2010 7:00 pm
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