Friday, October 9, 2009

From Brent Cunningham

DATE: Oct 9, 2009

Hi, Joe,

In what sense can you read a statement like "there is no climate crisis" (from the film's website, underlined) as being "agnostic about whether and to what degree humans are causing climate change"?

In what sense is "CO2 has little effect on planetary temperatures" (same source) not a pre-judging of the scientific data by people unqualified to make such judgments? In what sense is such a statement merely a "whiff" of skepticism and not an absolute yet unsubstantiated conclusion?

In what sense is "ice is the enemy of life" (the very first statement the filmmakers put in the trailer that they approve of!) grounded in a sane discourse about climate change, and not itself a hysterical piece of pseudo-logic?

I'm sorry, Joe, I don't accept this really is somehow about religious zealotry on my part. I don't feel at all hysterical, and I'd like to know where my rhetoric crossed that line for you. It wasn't easy to say what I said, and I did a lot of research on the film and filmmakers beforehand, listened to some of their online debates/interviews, watched the trailer six or seven times, and read through most of their site. I'm sorry I failed to locate the names of the contributors despite a lot of hours the site. Otherwise, I stand by what I said: unless the film is a totally different animal from their trailer and their website, your friends have made a film that is irresponsible and illegitimate--quite beyond their economic and social views which I happen to disagree with too.

Can we take one of the few quantitative moments from the trailer and just look at it?

Adam Rose says:

"you're talking about 7 million jobs in the united states" [i.e. jobs being lost because of some unspecified environmental regulations presumably connected to cap-and-trade & which haven't actually been proposed yet]

the film cuts to:

terrifying images of factories going into negative filmic space (evocative of nuclear blasts), windswept negatively-filmed streets (again evocative of devestated nuclear landscapes), and finally (in case you're an idiot and missed the point): some random flames evocative of some hell or other.

Patrick Moore is meanwhile saying:

"that [i.e. losing those 7 million jobs in the US] would bring civilation crashing down to its knees, and hundreds of billions of people would die"

(btw I listened to this many times over, since there aren't hundreds of BILLIONS of people on earth and never have been even if you count everyone who ever lived, but I'm quite sure he says billions not millions!)

This whole tiny arc is intellectually dishonest in every conceivable way. In fact, since the film was shot in 2008, the US has shed 7.2 million jobs, so I guess we're already burning in those flames, and those hundreds of billions of deaths have already taken place...except it was LACK of regulation, of Wall Street fiscal products, that brought civilization crashing down to its knees.

Let me be clear: I'm not especially comfortable having a politician like Al Gore be the face of climate science either, and I think there's room for lots of critique of him, but at least he footnotes and quotes rigorous studies and does some actual research and sticks to the topic. Your friends are overtly bundling scientific debate about climate change with hotbutton social issues like raising taxes and restructuring the industrial economy and malaria.

You seem to think it's a good thing this film has twenty-five enemies, from Rachel Carson to Obama's health care plan to "nanny state socialism." That's NOT a good thing for a film that purports to be about a scientific debate and is aggressively marketing itself as a film with something to say about climate change. Again, I'm not the one saying the film is taking a firm and aggressive position on climate change, that's what the film's publicity and web site says!

We can argue all day about social policies, and about the economic impact of eco-friendly laws and policies. We can argue about what actually helps the poor be healthy and happy (coal mines!, right?), and we can disagree, as I know we do, about basic economic models. I'd even like to think we could do that all fairly respectfully. I don't know that such debates are productive of much, but they're at least legitimate. But what is illegitimate here is the claim this film has a contribution to make to a scientific debate when it actually doesn't. It's so shrill it's not even a useful or skeptical corrective to Gore. Rather it's ham-handed social activism and rightwing propaganda *masquerading* as having scientific concerns. If Michael Moore made an eco-picture, even though I'd likely agree with most of the basic social views it would advance, I promise I'd condemn it as illegitimately injecting ideology and emotional manipulation into a largely scientific debate too.

Still, I'll watch it if you want me to. And you can watch Capitalism, A Love Story. Then we can meet back here and say how our views haven't changed at all, ok?



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