film "Cool It" by Ondi Timoner, presenting Lomborg´s approach to
the film´s contents based on notes taken when watching a
presentation. These notes are incomplete and not necessarily very
Preliminary critical comments are inserted on certain subjects.
Dennis Kucinich (democrat who ran for nomination as a president
candidate in 2008; he is opposed to nuclear power) is seen at his home.
He tells about the efficiency of his solar panels.
The problem is their price. Solar panels cost a fortune. The
electricity produced costs $250 per thousand kWh (?).
We see Daniel Kammen, IPCC lead author and specialist in alternative
energy sources. He says that wind turbines are vulnerable to the NIMBY
(Not In My Back Yard) problem. But obviously there is plenty of space.
Wind turbine parks can be set up in desolate places and at sea.
We see Lomborg in airplanes looking at marine wind turbine parks in
Denmark and UK.
Lomborg: Electricity produced by wind turbines costs $120 per thousand
kWh (?). The cost is going down 20 percent per decade. So wind mills
will probably become competitive. But you can buy too early. At present
we have set up way too many windmills way too soon. Comment:
Lomborg distorts information on the efficiency
and costs of Danish wind turbines. One of Lomborg´s
coworkers produced a report for the Danish right-wing think tank CEPOS,
stating that Danish wind energy was heavily subsidised by taxpayers.
Rebuttal of such statements may be found here: link.
Copenhagen Consensus on Climate
We return to the Copenhagen Consensus Conference on Climate in
Wahsington DC in 2009. Lomborg tells us that he has assembled the best
economists in the world. We see Thomas Schelling, Roger Pielke Jr. and
Nancy Stokey. Comment: Roger Pielke Jr.
is a well known moderate climate skeptic, but not an economist. His
field of study is environmental policy, and he is a strong opponent of
those who dare to criticize Lomborg (see here on Lomborg-errors). He hardly
contributes to the
quality of economic considerations, but certainly helps assure that
conclusions will fit into Lomborg´s agenda.
- Nancy Stokey talks about green energy costs and the importance to
make it cheap.
The need to store energy
Wind energy is said not to be unreliable at present. The most important
issue is to invent storage mechanisms for solar and wind energy.
We see chemistry professor Daniel Nocera at MIT, who works on
artificial photosynthesis, i.e. electrolysis of water to split it into
hydrogen and oxygen. By putting hydrogen and oxygen separately into
fuel cells, you can store 100,000 times more energy per volume than in
an ordinary battery.
If you invest $100 billion per year in research you may reach an
efficiency 50 times larger than today.
If something does not happen in this field within 5 years from now, he
will be disappointed.
Jonathan Trent, NASA Ames Research Center, studies how to grow algae.
You can do that when processing waste water. Much of the oil that we
are now pumping up came from algae that lived millions of years ago.
Many species of algae produce huge amounts of oil. To keep planes
flying we need an alternative source of oil. That could be algae. To
grow enough fuel for all aviation we would need 10.5 million acres,
that is 128 miles X 128 miles. We have the space for that.
Nathan Myhrvold, co-founder of `Intellectual Ventures´, says:
Give anyone on the planet US energy levels. Intellectual Ventures has
created the firm TerraPower which is deveoping a new kind of nuclear
reactor that uses depleted uranium (spent fuel). It is called a fourth
generation nuclear technology. The waste problem is small, because
after 150 years the spent fuel has low radioactivity. Bill Gates is
interested in promoting the technology. The process has up to now only
been investigated by computer modeling. Until a test reactor has been
built, we cannot know for sure if it works. As to the cost, it is
believed that the energy price will be competitive to coal.
Stephen Salter, professor emeritus at Edinburgh, built in 1977 a wave
tank to study utilization of wave energy. His agenda was to find an
alternative energy source that would function during the winters in
Scotland. We see his invention, the so-called Salter´s duck,
which can stop 90 percent of wave motion and can convert 90 percent of
that to electricity. The potential in wave energy is that it could
supply fifty percent of USA´s energy needs.
If the potential is so large, why has it not been implemented? The
costs of a full-scale test would be high. The assessment task was given
to people from the Atomic Energy Commission, which had an obvious
interest in turning the project down and did so in 1982. In their
report, they built in the assumption that because of the utilisation of
wave energy, an undersea electric cable would break on average once in
1,000 years, and this hypothetical cost made the project unprofitable. Comment: A
quick check on the internet (here) seems to
confirm the story about the unjustified turning down of the wave energy
- We need a coherent science led policy. There are no millionaires from
solar or wind energy.
The change from a coal based infrastructure to an oil based
infrastructure took fifty years. The next transformation may therefore
also take fifty years.
Adaptation will be necessary, at least during a transitory period.
Richard Lindzen: We humans have adapted to many things. We can adapt to
Adaptation to sea level rise: building dikes. Dikes have been
used in Holland for centuries.
River outlets must pass through the dikes. To protect the inland during
floods, sluices close the outlet when seawater levels are high.
In 1953 a massive storm hit Holland and many people died. It was a
wake up call, and in the following years an ambitious flood defence
system was conceived and deployed.
In 2005 New Orleans got its wake up call.
Ivor van Heerden headed the investigation team in the days after
hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. His comments in public media were
highly critical of the government´s levee system. Because of his
criticism, he got fired. Today he says that the city needs a decent
levee system building on Dutch experience. Katrina was a disaster only
because the levees failed.
Jon Sader is the director of a firm that builds new homes for residents
who lost everything in hurricane Katrina. The houses are built with new
construction technologies and materials that make green, energy
efficient, storm resistant homes.
Adapting to the urban heat island
In 2100, 80 to 90 percent of all people will live in urban areas. So
the urban heat effect will be important. Cities become warmer than the
rural landscape because there is so little water, so little greenery,
and dark asphalt surfaces absorb heat from the sun.
We hear about the European heat wave in 2003, when many people died.
Lomborg says: "But we can do something about it". There are cheap ways
to make cities cooler. We can reduce the amount of sun energy absorbed,
and reflect the sun´s energy back into space.
Example: How to make Los Angeles cool at a cost of about 1 billion
Instead of ordinary concrete, use pebble concrete where water goes
through. It has a lighter colour and reflects more light. Paint
roofs and other surfaces in light colours.
Lee Lane is director of the geo-engineering project at American
Cut to Stephen Schneider. He says: "I have always supported research in
There was also (unintended) geo-engineering in former times. When
humans cut down the forest, climate changed.
In 1783 the Laki volcano on Iceland erupted with devastating local
effects. But there were also longer-ranging effects, because dust and
sulfur particles from the eruption clouded the skies in Western Europe
and caused a very cold winter in 1784. Benjamin Franklin was aware of
this. He understood that the dust from the volcano blocked the
Once more, the large eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 sent a lot of
sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, and the globe was cooled.
In geo-engineering, we may produce an `official volcano´ and we
can do it locally.
The plan is stratospheric aerosol injection. Permanent lines, fixed at
the ground, are suspended up to a height of 25 km. The lines are
furnished with nozzles that eject aerosols. The cost of the project? It
could be tested for tens of millions of dollars, and implemented for
hundreds of millions of dollars. But the benefit could be about 18
Cut once more to Stephen Schneider .
Next theme: cloud brightening. Large bubbles or drops are dark, small
bubbles or droplets are more white. If the surface of clouds can be
manipulated to have more small droplets, they will be more white and
reflect more of the sun´s rays.
We are presented with a project in which a fleet of boats
spray seawater droplets into marine clouds to make them reflect more
sunlight. Each boat will cost about 1.5 to 3 million dollars. Comment: The most extensive
criticism of this project is written by Alan Robock on the RealClimate
web site, here.
- One more option is just to
catch CO2 right out of the sky.
Cut once more to Stephen Schneider.
Cut to David Vaughan who talks about pumping sea water up onto the
Another option is to plant a trillion trees.
Al Gore is not keen on geo-engineering.
Stephen Schneider: There is a moral hazard. Geo-engineering is a way to
buy time until we become better at solving the problems, it is not a
permanent solution. Comment: Steven Schneider
died in July 2010. Throughout his career, he was against
geo-engineering and adaptation as methods to `fix´ the climate
problem in an easy way. This attitude is mentioned directly in his
So those parts of the
interview with him that have been included in the film, are not very
representative of his opinions when he was alive. Now that he is dead,
we cannot obtain his comments to the way he is presented in the film.
Economics Economics has to evolve.
The time it took from production of the first aeroplane to production
of the first rocket was about 60 years.
The message from Al Gore was that we must do something about global
warming. As a result of this, a lot of scientists got totally
Daniel Nocera: the solution is us, the scientists.
Lomborg presents a radically practical solution. He has a total budget
of $250 billion per year, which, he says, it what the carbon cutting
programs would cost the European Union.
The money should be used simultaneously on various issues:
$100 billion per year should be used on research in how to
tackle climate problems, i.e. to find green solutions. To this is added
billion for geo-engineering, $12 billion for dealing with urban heat
islands, and $36 billon for adapting to sea level rise and inland
flooding. In total this means using $ 153 billion per year on climate
issues. This leaves $ 97 billion per year for other global problems .
This reamining amount is then spent on health issues ($ 33 billion per
year), hunger ($ 32 billion per year), water supplies ($ 10 billion per
year) and education ($22 billion per year). Comment: After
the film in Copenhagen, Lomborg was asked from the
audience, what is the source of the economic estimates. The answer was
that some had been computed by economist Richard Tol, and the results
may be found on the Copenhagen Consensus web site. Many other figures
have been computed by Lomborg himself, using the DICE computer
model of William Nordhaus. This is also indirectly evident from the
book Cool It, where the source for many figures is stated as Nordhaus
2006, which refers to the DICE and RICE computer models. Lomborg has
run these computer models himself, which means that nobody can check
the validity of these computations.
- Democratic senator Jay Inslee is one of the authors of the book
Apollo´s Fire, in which he argues for creating millions of
green-collar jobs and lifting dependence on foreign oil and coal. He
says: We are going to do all three, that is an effort to fight both
malaria, HIV and global warming.
Lomborg asks: "Why didn´t you do that for the last ten years?" Comment:
The answer to Lomborg´s rhetorical question is probably that Jay
Inslee could not mobilize a majority in favour of his proposals,
partially because many politicians have listened to Lomborg´s
assertions that it would be wrong to reduce consumption of oil and