13 Dec 2016

Before the Flood -- the review

I was originally hesitant to watch Leonardo DiCaprio's film on climate change (the trailer is a little too Hollywood), but I am glad that I saw it at a screening last week in Den Haag.

I recommend that you watch it (it's no longer free online but there are copies around), as ol' Leo has done an excellent job at exploring the problem, what needs to be done, and what's being done. (There's definitely some "gee whiz" hyperbole, but it's not totally inappropriate.)

As a post-screening discussant, I had the following comments:
  • The 20/80 rule: Most people watching the movie -- the 20 percent -- want to do the right thing (eating less meat, not flying, etc.) but "the rest of us" -- the 80 percent -- can't be bothered to act. That's why a carbon tax would be so useful, as it prods everyone into finding ways to use less. (Same holds for "raise prices" with water.)
  • REAL global agreements to reduce GHG emissions will stumble over (a) accounting for emissions via production or consumption (if consumption, then China looks better and the EU does worse) and (b) deciding rights/reductions via existing emissions ("grandfathering") or population (global environmental justice). Those aspects block agreement on cap and trade regimes that will depend on some countries (citizens) paying others, which is politically unpopular.
  • I favor carbon taxes because they are more transparent and raise revenue that can be returned to citizens. Crooked politicians hate the transparency, businesses dislike paying, and environmentalists dislike rebating the money to citizens rather than directing it to "green" projects they favor.
  • In the movie, a guy from the Sierra Club says we need to cut GHG emissions, but the Sierra Club joined with fossil fuel interests to oppose Washington State's W-732 carbon tax initiative. That's pretty sad.
  • Senator Inhofe (OK) is shown in the movie, claiming that the existence of a snowball "proves" climate change is a hoax. That was bad enough, but Trump has named Pruitt, Oklahoma's Attorney General, as his head of the EPA. They are already asking for the names of climate scientists (presumably to fire them). Just terrible.
  • Finally, the movie was not nearly as aggressive as it should be, in my opinion, as they did not go over the increasing probability (as "all the predictions are being surpassed") of more than the 2m of sea level rise IPCC forecasts for 2100. Shouldn't we think about how to prepare (or react) to the quite possible 6-9m of increase? Yes, we should, so head over to my Life plus 2 meters project to subscribe to new posts and -- more important -- the soon to come book and Kickstarter campaign to raise prize money for authors of works for the NEXT book!
Bottom Line: I give this movie FIVE STARS for giving a useful overview of the challenges we face due to our failure of collective action.

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