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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Adrian, your thoughts on the wave still on Africa? Potential?
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654. JLPR
convection weakening


Lets see if it recovers at d-max

*oh never mind, its coming back xD
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Quoting BahaHurican:
I see where u are coming from. I'm waiting to see what eventuates with this next round of the MJO. If anything else develops before the season ends, I think it will happen then. The SSTs aren't so spectacularly warm that they will provide enough fuel for a system to buck the odds on all the other points...


Something that I have been noticing is that even when there has been a strong upward MJO pulse that has settled over the basin, the effects from El Nino have been pretty much in control during the entire season and have made the MJO pulse null and void in most cases with exception of that one spike in action back in early August.
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I know u guys have been wondering what happened to the wet.... lol

It's been fairly rainy here all summer, but when it's not raining, it's been hot and muggy. Mostly we've been at 90 or just above, but that sure gets hot at 3 p.m.....
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Even though some development of the eastern atl wave is possible i concur with the NHC on its chances at doing anything significant aren't great at this time. Heading into a pretty dry stable airmass.

adrian
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Quoting pottery:
Hydrus, 641.
The dust is in retreat right now I think. And is above the wave, if the wave keeps west.
All that can change though.
It is a healthy looking wave any way.
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You are probably correct there Baha.
There is an area of showers east of me, that I am trying to encourage this way too LOL
Have had 115 mm so far in Sept. And 92mm of that fell on 17th and 18th. Other than that, its been a dry, hot one.
Got to 35c today again.
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Quoting Dakster:
Ice = True, but if a pattern sets up that protects CONUS that can't be bad.

Any pattern that spares the CONUS after last year and 2005 is a GREAT thing!!

Makes for a quieter season! Quiet=Peace!! Good time for the average Atlantic coastal residents to prepare for the future, which is bound to be more lively than this year!!

About 2 yrs ago, my 27yr old son, wife & 4 kiddos and I were going to move to W Galveston Island, rent a beautiful house 1 mi from the GOM and Galveston Bay, and do something different after 27 yrs in DFW!! LUCKY for us we decided to wait!! Ike submerged that area under 8' of water for 30 hrs!!

Rather see no storms than storms making a parade into the Caribbean, GOM and up the E Coast of the US!!!
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Quoting cchsweatherman:


No problem man. You do make a good point that we could still threats to the Caribbean, but given how the environmental conditions in that region have been throughout the season, it doesn't seem that likely that we will see any development there.
I see where u are coming from. I'm waiting to see what eventuates with this next round of the MJO. If anything else develops before the season ends, I think it will happen then. The SSTs aren't so spectacularly warm that they will provide enough fuel for a system to buck the odds on all the other points...
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Hydrus, 641.
The dust is in retreat right now I think. And is above the wave, if the wave keeps west.
All that can change though.
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Quoting pottery:
The wave on the coast of Africa actually has a lot going for it in terms of development.
SAL is minimal, water temps are good, and there is a fair amount of moisture across the trop. atl right now.
The one item against it is the shear. If the wave remains below 15n I think it MAY have a chance to become more than a wave...
Hey, pot. The big biter all season has been that shear. This is a pretty large area, and the circulation seems to be organizing slowly. Perhaps it has a chance, as u say. I'm not feeling that confident about it right now, though.....
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Quoting BahaHurican:
That's what I thought u meant, but wanted some clarification. This could be good news, but doesn't save Caymans / Greater Antilles / Bahamas from possible further threats. It'll be interesting to see how things work out over the next 3 - 4 weeks....


No problem man. You do make a good point that we could still threats to the Caribbean, but given how the environmental conditions in that region have been throughout the season, it doesn't seem that likely that we will see any development there.
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Quoting pottery:
The wave on the coast of Africa actually has a lot going for it in terms of development.
SAL is minimal, water temps are good, and there is a fair amount of moisture across the trop. atl right now.
The one item against it is the shear. If the wave remains below 15n I think it MAY have a chance to become more than a wave...
Good Evening Pottery, I think there is alot of Saharan dust out there, take a look if you have a moment...
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The wave on the coast of Africa actually has a lot going for it in terms of development.
SAL is minimal, water temps are good, and there is a fair amount of moisture across the trop. atl right now.
The one item against it is the shear. If the wave remains below 15n I think it MAY have a chance to become more than a wave...
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Quoting Tazmanian:



i dont no why evere one ues WU wind shear maps they are NEVER %100 right
Which one do you think is 100% right ? I use the one on the Navy sight.
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Quoting cchsweatherman:


I'm not saying we won't see any more storms this season, but it appears the threat to the Eastern United States and possibly even Gulf of Mexico will be decreasing significantly in the near future since the long range forecast models all show some rather strong troughs digging down into the northern Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard in the coming weeks.
That's what I thought u meant, but wanted some clarification. This could be good news, but doesn't save Caymans / Greater Antilles / Bahamas from possible further threats. It'll be interesting to see how things work out over the next 3 - 4 weeks....
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Goodnight all!

Presslord - Keep up the good work with Portlight. I will be in touch.
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Quoting iceman55:
all going said SEASON NOT OVER YET 100% that fact!







i dont no why evere one ues WU wind shear maps they are NEVER %100 right
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Quoting StormW:


Could very well be. CCHS is pretty sharp as well...and if he's taken the time to do a really in depth analysis, then chances are pretty good. I on the other hand, haven't had the time to do much long range analysis.


Thanks for the confidence man. Been learning from you and have been modeling my approach after yours.
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Quoting stormpetrol:
Big wave coming off Africa, I think the Cape Verde Season is about ready shut down though.
I think we may have enough left for maybe another 2 weeks of these waves. Dunno if any of them will do much more than pop off the coast, though. The consistent feature this year seems to be that shear belt...
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Quoting BahaHurican:
So are u thinking no more storms in the basin at all, or just storms that head off to the east instead of impacting the US?


I'm not saying we won't see any more storms this season, but it appears the threat to the Eastern United States and possibly even Gulf of Mexico will be decreasing significantly in the near future since the long range forecast models all show some rather strong troughs digging down into the northern Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard in the coming weeks.
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Ice = True, but if a pattern sets up that protects CONUS that can't be bad.
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Thanks. I tried that about 10 times and yes, that finally worked.


I had that problem awhile ago. I edited and saved my preferences again and it went away. No gaurantees...
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U know, looking at 619, it doesn't look like the season is over; more like we're in a lull. I don't know about landfalls, but I strongly suspect there's "life in the old girl yet".....
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Big wave coming off Africa, I think the Cape Verde Season is about ready shut down though.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Refresh the page. It's the only thing that has worked for me.

Anybody else had this issue recently? It started for me last weekend, I think...
Thanks. I tried that about 10 times and yes, that finally worked.
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Quoting StormW:


Try these. Use the dropdown menu under the "FIELD" column.

FSU

PSU


HEY STORMW... Thanks.

What is your thought on what CCHSWeatherman is talking about a fall pattern setting up.
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
HELP ! I keep clicking on show all and it keeps going back to show average.
What do I do now ? Anyone ?
Refresh the page. It's the only thing that has worked for me.

Anybody else had this issue recently? It started for me last weekend, I think...
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Quoting cchsweatherman:
Throughout the day, I have been sitting down and taking a much closer look and doing some pretty in-depth analysis for the latest computer model runs in regards to the long-term pattern. If the current long range models do verify, we could see an active storm track for the Eastern United States which could not only bring much below normal temps, but effectively shut out the United States from tropical threats as well. It seems that the pattern could be changing now across the Eastern United States into a late fall pattern.
So are u thinking no more storms in the basin at all, or just storms that head off to the east instead of impacting the US?
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613. jipmg
Quoting cchsweatherman:
Throughout the day, I have been sitting down and taking a much closer look and doing some pretty in-depth analysis for the latest computer model runs in regards to the long-term pattern. If the current long range models do verify, we could see an active storm track for the Eastern United States which could not only bring much below normal temps, but effectively shut out the United States from tropical threats as well. It seems that the pattern could be changing now across the Eastern United States into a late fall pattern.


Ive expected a very cold winter ever since before hurricane season, the signs of EL NINO were all there
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Entering the CATL

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JFVWS...as many times as Dr. Masters has mentioned my name in his blog...Do you really think I'm bothered that you do?

although I do suspect it will get you whacked...
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HELP ! I keep clicking on show all and it keeps going back to show average.
What do I do now ? Anyone ?
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Presslord.....

d-_-b
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Evening everyone.

Quoting Chicklit:


Why isn't anything developing?
Good question. I think we have some strong guesses, but nothing so far to help us successfully predict.

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Throughout the day, I have been sitting down and taking a much closer look and doing some pretty in-depth analysis for the latest computer model runs in regards to the long-term pattern. If the current long range models do verify, we could see an active storm track for the Eastern United States which could not only bring much below normal temps, but effectively shut out the United States from tropical threats as well. It seems that the pattern could be changing now across the Eastern United States into a late fall pattern.
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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.

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