The Age of Stupid--a movie review

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:45 PM GMT on September 24, 2009

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I attended an interesting film premier Tuesday night--the international release of the anti-global warming pseudo-documentary The Age of Stupid. The movie opened at 440 theaters in the U.S., plus hundreds of theaters in 63 other countries, for a total viewing audience organizers estimated at one million people. This was a Guinness World Record for largest simultaneous movie premiere, according to the organizers. The evening began with a live satellite simulcast beamed from New York City, hosted by Gideon Yago of MTV/CNN fame. We were treated to live interviews with British director Franny Armstrong, producer Lizzie Gillett, as well as movies stars like Gillian Anderson (X-files) and Heather Graham ("we need to stop climate change, or else we're screwed"). Some humorous moments were provided by several protesters pretending to be corporate CEOs, who wore Model X7 Survivaballs as they rolled down the recycled pop-bottle green carpet (survivaballs' motto: "while others look to Senate bills or U.N. accords for a climate solution, we look to our best engineers"). We also heard rock star Moby perform on a sound stage powered by four bicyclists peddling on an specially-designed stationary bike rack. Very cute.

After about twenty minutes of these preliminaries, the 92-minute long Age of Stupid movie began. It opens with some beautiful computer animation of the Big Bang and four billion years of evolution, terminating in the year 2055. As the animation screeches to a halt, we are shown jarring scenes of London drowned by rising seas, Las Vegas drifted over by sand dunes, Sydney burning (eerily appropriate after yesterday's fiery red-orange skies spawned by Sydney's record dust storm), and a ruined Taj Mahal in a scorched landscape. I thought this was a bit overdone, since it is highly unlikely that climate change will be able to cause any of these effects by 2055. The scene then shifts to a futuristic building in the ice-free Arctic, where actor Pete Postlethwaite stars as the curator of an archive of human knowledge. He begins looking at old documentary footage from 2008 and asks the question, why didn't we stop climate change when we had the chance?


Figure 1. A flooded London in the year 2055 in The Age of Stupid.

The rest of the movie is a documentary, shot over the past four years in the UK, Nigeria, New Orleans, Iraq, Jordan, The Alps, and India. Six separate stories are followed:

Alvin DuVernay, a Shell Oil scientist who rescued 100 people after Hurricane Katrina
Layefa Malemi, a woman living in Shell's most profitable oil region in Nigeria
Jamila and Adnan Bayyoud, two Iraqi refugee kids trying to find their brother
Piers Guy, a wind farm developer fighting the anti-windfarm lobby in England
Fernand Pareau, 82-year old French mountain guide
Jeh Wadia, a businessman starting a low-cost airline in India

The six stories are interwoven and told in multiple sections, with jumps back and forth to curator Pete Postlethwaite in the future, who is viewing these documentary clips on his futuristic video screen. I found this creative approach to story telling a bit disorienting, but give the film maker credit for trying something innovative. Interspersed with the documentary footage are some fairly compelling animations. My favorite was an illustration of how America's excessive consumption is responsible for at least 1/4 of China's greenhouse gas emissions, since we buy so much cheap junk from China (which often ends up back in a China landfill). A lot of preaching goes on in the movie, with the film maker criticizing our excessive consumerism and our willingness to fight wars over oil. I thought the most compelling story of the six documentary pieces was the tale of the Nigerian woman living in the toxic mess that the oil industry has made in Nigeria. Cheap oil at the pumps in America has huge hidden costs that we don't appreciate.

While the movie did have some interesting sections with messages Americans need to hear, I thought overall the movie was too long and too dull to be worth spending a full-price movie admission ticket for. At least one of the six documentary sections should have been cut--92 minutes is too long for a documentary. It's pretty hard to make a gripping documentary movie about global warming, and The Age of Stupid and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth are not gripping. You're better off viewing these at home on DVD. Rating: two stars (out of four).

After the movie, the live simulcast from New York City resumed, and we heard speeches from Kofi Annan, former U.N. Secretary General, who called climate change "Perhaps the biggest challenge we face today". Also speaking was the President of the Maldives, an island nation mostly situated less than two meters above sea level. Sea level rise from climate change is a huge threat to his nation, and the president made a pledge to make his nation the first country to be carbon-neutral, by 2020. We also heard from the scientist who heads the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Rajendra K. Pachauri, who affirmed the movie's contention that we need to have global emissions of CO2 stop increasing by 2015 in order to avoid dangerous climate change.

The Age of Stupid as part of a media blitz
The release of The Age of Stupid this week was timed to bring visibility to the climate change issue and help mobilize public opinion in advance of the crucial U.N. Climate Change Conference, which will be held December 7 - 18 in Copenhagen, Denmark. At that meeting, the leaders of the world will gather to negotiate an agreement to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The new agreement will be the world's roadmap for dealing with climate change, and the stakes are huge. The Age of Stupid is key part of a major push green lobby push this week to publicize their key goals:

1) Reducing the 3% per year increase in CO2 emissions we've seen this decade to 0% by 2015.
2) An 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.
3) An eventual return to CO2 levels of 350 ppm--well below the current level of 388 ppm.

Activists are targeting the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh this week as part of their effort; four Greenpeace protesters hung a "Danger: Climate Destruction Ahead, Reduce CO2 Emission Now" banner from a Pittsburgh bridge and dangled beneath the bridge for two hours yesterday. Greenpeace activists were also present as I walked out of the Age of Stupid premiere Tuesday, gathering signatures in support of a petition to urge CO2 controls be agreed upon at the December Copenhagen conference.

A return salvo from the fossil fuel industry and its allies is coming in the next few weeks. They have their own British film maker, Ann McElhinney, who has created a documentary titled, Not Evil Just Wrong, which premiers October 18. They've stated their goal of beating the record for simultaneous theaters airing a movie premiere set by The Age of Stupid. I'll be sure to write a review on Not Evil Just Wrong when it comes out.

Tropical update
There is a new tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa yesterday that is generating some disorganized thunderstorm activity over the Cape Verdes Islands. This morning's QuikSCAT pass showed an elongated circulation two hundred miles southwest of the Cape Verdes Islands. Wind shear is a moderate 10 - 20 knots over the disturbance, and some slow development is possible over the next few days. The disturbance will have to overcome some dry air to its west, though. None of our reliable computer models are forecasting tropical storm development over the next seven days.

Jeff Masters

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754. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Philippines Atmospherical Geophysical Astronomical Services and Administration

"ONDOY" has intensified into a Tropical Storm as it moves towards Aurora-Isabela Area.

Tropical Cyclone Bulletin #5
=======================
At 5:00 p.m PhST, Tropical Storm Ondoy located at 14.8ºN 125.2ºE or 360 kms east southeast of Baler, Aurora has 10 minute sustained winds of 65 km/h (35 kts) with gusts up to 80 km/h (45 kts).

Signal Warnings
====================

Signal Warning #2 (60-100 km/h)

Luzon region
1.Catanduanes
2.Camarines Norte
3.Camarines Sur
4.Polillo Island

Signal Warning #1 (30-60 km/h)


Luzon region
1.Albay
2.Burias Island
3.Quezon
4.Marinduque
5.Rizal
6.Bulacan
7.Aurora
8.Nueva Ecija
9.Nueva Vizcaya
10.Quirino
11.Isabela

Additional Information
========================
This disturbance is expected to enhance the Southwest Monsoon and bring rains over Central and Southern Luzon and Visayas Residents living in low-lying areas and near mountain slopes in areas affected by the Southwest Monsoon and those under signals #1 and #2 are alerted against possible flashfloods and landslides.

Those living along the coast under signal #2 are advised to be on alert against big waves generated by the storm.

The public and the disaster coordinating councils concerned are advised to take appropriate actions and watch for the next bulletin to be issued at 11 P.M. today.
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The map shows some nasty weather in KY and Southern IN in the near future, as if they need more bad weather.
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but not worth losing too much sleep over.
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Looks like another yellow circle to fret about for a while.
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Goodnight John-boy
Goodnight Mary-Ellen
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...TROPICAL WAVES...

TROPICAL WAVE IS ALONG 29W/30W S OF 19N WITH A 1010 MB LOW ON
THE WAVE NEAR 13N MOVING W 20-25 KT. WAVE IS ALONG THE LEADING
EDGE OF A MOISTURE MAXIMUM AS INDICATED BY THE TOTAL
PRECIPITABLE WATER IMAGERY WITH SAHARAN DUST TO THE N AND BEING
DRAWN INTO THE SURFACE LOW. SCATTERED MODERATE WITH EMBEDDED
CLUSTERS OF ISOLATED STRONG CONVECTION ARE FROM 13N-17N BETWEEN
27W-30W AND FROM 12N-15N BETWEEN 30W-34W.

TROPICAL WAVE IS ALONG 58W S OF 19N MOVING W 20-25 KT. WAVE IS
ALONG W EDGE OF AN UPPER RIDGE DRAWING UPPER LEVEL MOISTURE N
AWAY FROM THE WAVE. CLUSTERS OF SCATTERED MODERATE CONVECTION
ARE FROM 10N-14N BETWEEN 49W AND THE WAVE AXIS.

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2am yellow
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me too night
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Weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning.


on that note im out, have a good one
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
CV season in my books is overe
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in my books hurricane season is overe done its time too start looking forword too next year



its a EL Nino weak or not there is vary high wind shear out there


i think we may see one more name storm and thats it for the year
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Have a goodnight WS
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
cchs - appreciate the analysis.
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sorry about the global warm... i mean climate change debate, I tend to get carried away, and like to argue my point, sorry again guys
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting mrnicktou:


I have proof but I'm not going to annoy the blog with that as apparently people aren't to happy about it. So if you want to PM me and I can show you proof


Read what I said.

Quoting PcolaDan:

Never said whether I agreed nor disagreed with GW.

Which means I may or may not agree with you. I don't need "proof" one way or the other. A discussion would have been fine, but you put anyone who disagrees with you on the defensive with your statement. There has been enough BS on this blog today.

I never divulge my feelings on politics, religion, nor GW on here.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
have a good one cchs
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting Murko:


Do you mean the ones that originally started warning in the 70s & 80s? Or the ones a few years ago who said "our calculations were wrong... it's gonna be worse"? I think you'll find that these days, 90% of SERIOUS climate scientists would agree that man is having a significant impact on the current warming of the Earth. But, hey, we can always find one guy who says the oposite, it's just a case of who you want to agree with. Some people believe in faeries. I don't agree with them, call me supid.

yeah the ones serious about taking our money. did you watch the video posted earlier? did you see the hypocrites? i did, and i notice the ones crying are the ones doing the worst harm. i don't fly, but all those global warming cry babies do. they do all the time. did you know the worst one of all, al gore didn't even turn his lights out on earth day. if they are so serious, and the problem is sooo bad then why aren't they following their own advice. i can tell you. its about money and thats all. they are all getting rich on people like you who fear and hang on to every word they say. look at them, watch them, they are hypocrites. i guess we should all plug our butts up so we don't release any carbon, but if we did that the world would end because we would all spontaneously combust. lol!
Member Since: September 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1294
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
img src="http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/PS/TROP/TCFP/data/current/mainrfpa.pngLink" alt="" />http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/PS/TROP/TCFP/data/current/mainrfpa.pngLink
Still can't figure out how to post link. I tried but it didn't work. Sorry about that.
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Guess this pointless global warming banter should be my cue that its time to sign off for the night. Have a good night everyone and I will try and be on tomorrow and update my site.

One parting note: I'm not expecting either the Cape Verde tropical wave or the Western Atlantic disturbance near Bermuda to become tropical cyclones due to good subsidence (dry air) and rather unfavorable environmental conditions.
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img src="http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/PS/TROP/TCFP/data/current/mainrfpa.pngLink" alt="" />http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/PS/TROP/TCFP/data/current/mainrfpa.pngLink
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Quoting mrnicktou:


I have proof but I'm not going to annoy the blog with that as apparently people aren't to happy about it. So if you want to PM me and I can show you proof


good idea. look, just because you have "proof" of something doesnt mean you have to try to force it on us. you know what I mean? I personally believe that GW is a naturally occurring event that is being enhanced by humans, but I am also open minded and respect others views.
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
I see the symbol too. It's in the grid 2 left of and 1 below the CV islands. Weird...
Quoting JLPR:


that solves the mystery
its old =P

Wow, I feel dumb now. Long day... :P
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Quoting JLPR:


lol I replied to you at 708 already XD
Yes, I see that now. Sorry.
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718. JLPR
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Check the date !


lol I replied to you at 708 already XD
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Quoting PcolaDan:

Never said whether I agreed nor disagreed with GW. Was a sarcastic comment based on your, I know what's right and anything else is stupid, comment out of nowhere. That's been the predominance of this blog all day. Healthy discussion are fine. But ignorant statements have led the day.


I have proof but I'm not going to annoy the blog with that as apparently people aren't to happy about it. So if you want to PM me and I can show you proof
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Quoting mrnicktou:
I would quote the guy but i can't so whoever asked me for my output. I say its gonna be quiet maybe something but you shouldn't take my advice on hurricanes other things that i read books on and study you could. I'm hoping for something to track as long as it stays away from land


ok cool, thanks for your input tho
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
Quoting mrnicktou:


Answer me this. How did the Ice Ages end if my SUV didn't put CO2 in the atmosphere? One question answer that.
How did the Ice Ages end?

Never said whether I agreed nor disagreed with GW. Was a sarcastic comment based on your, I know what's right and anything else is stupid, comment out of nowhere. That's been the predominance of this blog all day. Healthy discussion are fine. But ignorant statements have led the day.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting JLPR:


Yep I know that I used that map a few years ago =P
Its been awhile since I have seen it
but that sure seems to be an error
it should be shaded with the corresponding colors not given a TC symbol
Check the date !
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I would quote the guy but i can't so whoever asked me for my output. I say its gonna be quiet maybe something but you shouldn't take my advice on hurricanes other things that i read books on and study you could. I'm hoping for something to track as long as it stays away from land
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Quoting Chicklit:

Check out cape verde dude.
IMOH


Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360
708. JLPR
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
The map says Sep 9 so I think that was Fred


that solves the mystery
its old =P
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Quoting tornadodude:


have a good one chicklit, im guessing one more storm this year. pure guesswork

Check out cape verde dude.
IMOH
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Quoting juniort:
thank you, so can I conclude that tropical cyclone development is posible, I am seeing a cyclone symbol on the chart?
The map says Sep 9 so I think that was Fred
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Quoting mrnicktou:


The blog is about that today or i wouldn't


ok well you stated your opinion, thanks. so what is your view on the remainder of this season?
Member Since: June 28, 2006 Posts: 25 Comments: 8360

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.