Scientists Call BS on Moore Film

April 29, 2020

CleanTechnica:

Writing in Vox, Leah Stokes, an assistant professor at the University of California Santa Barbara and frequent writer on environmental issues, says

There are critiques that can be made of environmental NGOs. But the way activists are portrayed in this film is inaccurate. One of the film’s main theses is that the climate movement is captured by corporations. As Gibbs puts it, environmentalists are “leading us off the cliff.”

The evidence for this assertion? The Union of Concerned Scientists’ support for electric vehicles. And Sierra Club’s promotion of solar. And the fact that 350.org has received funding from environmental foundations. I fail to see how any of these facts are problematic.

The most egregious attack is made against Bill McKibben, a dedicated and kind environmental leader. As he has said, he has never taken any money for his environmental activism with 350.org. Watching this film, you might mistake him for a robber baron. McKibben wrote to the filmmakers, to clarify his views. They did not write back. As he put it: “That seems like bad journalism, and bad faith.”

One of the main themes of the movie is that the climate crisis is attributable to too many people competing for scarce resources. While the size of the Earth’s human population is of concern, the film never once draws attention to the perfidy of fossil fuel companies and electric utilities over the past several decades as they raked in record profits while lying through their teeth about the impact of their business activities on the environment.

The movie also quotes prices for solar power installations and conversion factors that are over a decade out of date. The worst sin of all for CleanTechnica readers is that the movie pumps air into the pernicious myth that electric cars are just as dirty as conventional cars because some electricity comes from burning coal. For that reason alone it deserves nothing but scorn.

The Guardian reports the environmental community has reacted with fury at the film. Josh Fox, who made the documentary Gasland, has written a letter signed by various scientists and activists urging the film be removed from the internet because it is “shockingly misleading and absurd” and “trades in debunked fossil fuel industry talking points” that question the affordability and reliability of solar and wind energy.

Climate scientist Michael Mann was one of the people who signed the letter. He tells The Guardian the film includes “various distortions, half-truths and lies” and that the filmmakers “have done a grave disservice to us and the planet by promoting climate change inactivist tropes and talking points.”

Bill McKibben says, “I am used to ceaseless harassment and attack from the fossil fuel industry, and I’ve done my best to ignore a lifetime of death threats from rightwing extremists. It does hurt more to be attacked by others who think of themselves as environmentalists.”

There are few people who can say they have done more to bring the issue of an overheating climate to the attention of the world than McKibben, the founder of 350.org, who has been jailed on many occasions for his implacable opposition to the burning of fossil fuels.

It’s impossible to know what axe Jeff Gibbs and Michael Moore have to grind by making this film. If nothing else, it gives ammunition to the Heartland Institute and Fox News crowd who are always happy to find new ways to bash environmentalists.

Thatt’s not to say renewable energy has not had its stops and starts and gone down a blind alley or two. But to say the green energy advocates are in bed with the Corporate America, particularly the fossil fuel industry, seems a bit of a stretch and suggests little more than a deliberate disinformation campaign. Moore and Gibbs really need to explain why they have elected to make such a bad faith attack and why now.

24 Responses to “Scientists Call BS on Moore Film”

  1. Gary Says:

    It’s only natural — i.e. illusional — for environmental activists to have faith that climate activism hasn’t been co-opted by capitalism. Indeed, many climate activists are laboring under the illusion/delusion that (so-called) “green” capitalism is salvific.
    “Most people think they belong to a species which can be master of its own destiny,” John N. Gray, author of Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, writes. “This is faith, not science… Looking for meaning in history is like looking for patterns in clouds… We cannot be rid of illusions. Illusion is our natural condition.”

  2. indy222 Says:

    I would more say that the FF and Big Business community is climbing into bed with the greens, rather than the Greens are going out of their way to climb into bed with the enemies. It’s a marketing strategy, now that their persistent lies and climate-gate strategies have failed.
    They fund PBS Nova, they fund this and that and greenwash it, while still persisting in their determination to burn everything they can rather than leave it in the ground. By getting the under-funded Greens hooked into their money and their desire to look like they’re becoming moral citizens, they disempower the proper rage of the youth, and pave the way for more complacency as we dawdle our way towards a crippled planet, and the oldsters of the FF and Big Business try to feather their last years as best they can.

  3. Sir Charles Says:

    Solar and Wind Cheapest Sources of Power in Most of the World

    Solar and onshore wind power are now the cheapest new sources of electricity in at least two-thirds of the world’s population, further threatening the two fossil-fuel stalwarts — coal and natural gas.

    The levelized cost of electricity for onshore wind projects has fallen 9% to $44 a megawatt-hour since the second half of last year. Solar declined 4% to $50 a megawatt-hour, according to a report Tuesday by BloombergNEF.

    The prices are even lower in countries including the U.S., China and Brazil. Equipment costs have come down, technologies have improved and governments across the world have boosted clean-power targets as they seek to combat climate change. That could squeeze out coal and natural gas when utilities develop new power plants.

  4. stephengn Says:

    I wish there were some way to check if Moore has a recently opened, recently flush bank account in the caymans. The film raised some good points, but obscured so much more. Moore knew what he was doing would help deniers. The timing of the release was especially suspect. Something stinks here and I for one will never trust Moore again.

    • jimbills Says:

      No need for the conspiracy theory. Jeff Gibbs is a longtime composer and producer of many of Moore’s films. This was Gibbs’s project, one judging by the footage he has been working on in a near solo basis for two decades, and Moore helped him release it, probably as a personal favor.

      The film first released in July 2019 at a small film festival. Moore posted it on Youtube now for free, coinciding with Earth Day, probably because he knew it would get some views in a quarantine. There’s no money involved. I suppose one could take Moore as accepting loads of cash from corporate interests by helping release a film slamming others for getting in bed with corporate interests if one wanted, though.

      Or, it could just be Occam’s Razor that Moore likes controversy.

  5. Keith Omelvena Says:

    “Criticising action on climate change that falls short of reforming capitalism is a great way to get nothing done while global emissions continue to increase.” I think that is the very point Moore addresses with the movie. I see zero evidence of a turn around in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, more of a hint of exponential, as the curve steepens. After thirty years of climate awareness and the problem accelerates. There is an obvious conundrum here and it isn’t going to be solved by the voices that shout “you can consume as today, technology can solve everything” !

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      Good grief – try imagining the curve IF we had not made advances with RE. It would be worse, not the same.

      AGW is caused by CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. You stop emissions, you stop AGW. And you stop emissions by switching to RE.

      It’s a simple problem with a simple solution.

      And it has zero to do with consumption or population.

      • Keith Omelvena Says:

        And yet the virus did what all the previous non actions did in a month? What’s lacking is will, and false narratives! What kind of idiot thinks you can burn your way to a low carbon future? Or grow your way to sustainability? Consumption and population are 100% the problem!

        • jimbills Says:

          I get your point, but a little grammatical error there – ‘false narratives’ aren’t lacking, they are abundant.

          Potential false narratives:

          1) Growth can continue unabated and we will manage to replace all fossil fuel emissions in a timely enough manner to avoid dramatic climate change. All scenarios to replace all fossil fuels in the electrical sector by 2050 REQUIRE actions many times more aggressive than those under the Paris Accords.

          2) Purely renewable sources, mainly wind and solar, have the ability to replace all fossil fuel sources, and most nuclear ones, in a timely enough manner, with that growth. There is currently over 25 TWh of global electrical production per year. It grows at about 2.1% per year. Solar plus wind has been growing at about 1% total electrical production per year for the last decade:
          https://yearbook.enerdata.net/renewables/wind-solar-share-electricity-production.html

          Last year, for the third year in a row, marked another global high in carbon emissions, despite plummeting coal use.

          3) We will simultaneously replace the entire transport sector with EV, hydrogen, and/or biofuel vehicles in a timely enough manner with that growth. There are currently over 1.25 billion cars in the world and growing. There were 7.5 million plug-in vehicles in 2019 (and growing, but fast enough?). This does not include trucks, trains, ships, and airplanes.

          4) We will have enough resources, especially rare earth metals, to create all of these replacements. Link below.

          5) We will simultaneously find replacements or offsets for emissions from plastics and cement use, other industrial processes, and agriculture – with economic and population growth.

          6) There will not be significant emissions (or dramatic pollution) from these massive changes.

          If ANY of the above 6 narratives are false, there will be major problems with replacing fossil fuels in a timely manner. We have about 9.5 years to cut global carbon emissions by 49% of 2017(!) levels to limit warming by 1.5 degrees C, and have to continue that pace afterwards – with growth.

          Now, I’m NOT saying we shouldn’t do these things. We ABSOLUTELY should. But pretending growth has no effect on our ability to do what’s needed is willful ignorance. We’re going to reduce emissions dramatically in 2020, and that will be because of major economic contraction. When the economy picks up again, emissions will also rise.

        • Gingerbaker Says:

          “And yet the virus did what all the previous non actions did in a month? “

          No, all the virus did was slow down gasoline consumption. All it did was reduce the level of fossil fuel => emissions <= somewhat. But atmospheric CO2 still went UP.

          You can not understand AGW until you understand it is a calculus problem, not an arithmetic problem.

          It is precisely the classic calculus homework problem where you have a bucket that has a small hole in its bottom, and a hose is pouring water into the bucket. Water can only escape through the hole at a capped rate. The water can flow in at different rates. Any flow in that is faster than the flow out, and the water level rises. It is a dynamic system – the water level changes.

          The same with AGW. Atmospheric CO2 – [CO2] – decreases only slowly through the natural carbon cycle. It becomes, basically, rock. All the carbon on the planet – the CO2, the methane, the biomass ( ie, the cows!) was in equilibrium with the natural weathering process. The level of CO2 was constant. Inflow and outflow were closely matched. [CO2] was 175 ppm. Life was good.

          And then came the industrial revolution. Fossil fuel use began and grew. Think of it as a second water hose added to the problem. Because of that second hose, water began filling the bucket at an increasing rate. And the water level rose. [CO2] is now over 400 ppm.

          Fossil fuels are that second hose. The first hose is all the natural processes that occur on Earth whether humans are here or not. We can not affect that first hose very much.

          But it is the second hose that will kill us. Whether or not that second hose is running faster or slower, it is still filling up the bucket.

          All the pandemic did was slow down the flow sightly to the second hose. Emissions went down sightly. But [CO2] want up. Because fossil fuels are still being burned on planet Earth, adding new carbon to a carbon cycle that can only process so much at a time.

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        And it has zero to do with consumption or population.

        Fewer people means fewer SUVs, fewer cows, and fewer acres to grow food.

        AGW would be higher with more “Anthros” and lower with fewer “Anthros”.

        • Gingerbaker Says:

          Ten times fewer people who still use fossil fuels will produce a million times more GHG emissions than 10 times as many people who are carbon free. => population does not matter.

          Same for consumption.

          The only thing thing that matters is not burning fossil fuels. Cows, for the millionth time, ffs, are part of the natural carbon cycle. Fossil fuels are not.

          The only thing thing that matters is not burning fossil fuels.The only thing that matters is building and deploying the new RE we need to replace the machines that burn fossil fuels.

          The only thing that matters is building and deploying the new RE we need to replace the machines that burn fossil fuels.

          The only thing that matters is building and deploying the new RE we need to replace the machines that burn fossil fuels.

          The only thing that matters is building and deploying the new RE we need to replace the machines that burn fossil fuels.

          The only thing that matters is building and deploying the new RE we need to replace the machines that burn fossil fuels.

          The only thing that matters is building and deploying the new RE we need to replace the machines that burn fossil fuels.

          The only thing that matters is building and deploying the new RE we need to replace the machines that burn fossil fuels.

          The only thing that matters is building and deploying the new RE we need to replace the machines that burn fossil fuels.

          The only thing that matters is building and deploying the new RE we need to replace the machines that burn fossil fuels.

          The only thing that matters is building and deploying the new RE we need to replace the machines that burn fossil fuels.

          The only thing that matters is building and deploying the new RE we need to replace the machines that burn fossil fuels.

          -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

          You don’t build that RE, nothing else you do will solve AGW.

          It’s also a hell of a lot easier than changing our population – which is a 100 year project, and already well on its way to success, anyway.

          And a hell of a lot easier – and smarter – and more honest – than telling people our energy future means your quality of life must go down and your suffering must go up. Because those things do NOT have to happen.

          => Once you have 100% RE – no matter what else happens with population or consumption – atmospheric CO2 will go down every day.

          Conversely, if you do NOT have 100% RE, you could kill 3/4 of the people on the planet and make everybody eat only rice and beans and shiver with cold in winter – and atmospheric CO2 would still go UP every day.

  6. gmrmt Says:

    Michael Moore has never been a very good documentarian. His best doc, “Bowling for Columbine”, basically asked a lot of good questions but its’ best parts; an animation and a stand-up routine, were written by other people. The effect of the doc was diminished by a cheap stunt involving a senile Charlton Heston at the end of the film. I’m afraid Moores’ stock in trade has always been cheap stunts and this is just another one.

  7. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    [That’s] not to say renewable energy has not had its stops and starts and gone down a blind alley or two.

    And if energy advances in the 2020’s are anything like the great computer tech advances in the 1990s, there will be a lot of investment money lost to bad, ill-timed or even just barely-outperformed power/energy/storage tech companies, along with some huge winners.

    As with the computer tech industry, I expect a lot of power engineers and materials scientists to jump from startup to startup as new ideas are tried and tested.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      All symptoms of the failure of leaving the most important thing in the world in the hands of market capitalism, who doesn’t want to fix the problem.

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        Capitalism is a powerful force, but it’s essential to make it secondary to human rights and disallow it from externalizing costs to society (à la Robert Reich). Unfortunately, many of the “capitalist” talking points these days are just ways to protect the status quo for the current winners and their rent-seeking behaviors (e.g., overlong patent and copyright protection) in lieu of useful competitive production.


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