Seven years after “An Inconvenient Truth,” what has changed in the world’s efforts to come to grips with global warming? The scientific consensus has firmed up, even further. Public opinion has, at last, fallen in line with the science, assisted by any number of in-your-face extreme weather events — epic droughts, record ice melts, multiple applications of the phrase “storm of the century.”
But action? Nothing. By anyone.
So filmmaker Craig Scott Rosebraugh (“Seventh Generation”) dispenses with conveniences and niceties and goes straight for the jugular with “Greedy Lying Bastards,” a documentary about the folks who have fought, stalled and misdirected the international conversation about this dire subject for decades.
“Climate change is already with us,” Rosebraugh narrates over a montage of very recent natural disasters, from floods to droughts, wildfires to hurricanes. “We knew decades ago” that this was coming, he adds. And to make his point, he shows a very young actor Darren McGavin converse with a scientist in a 1950s educational film, shaken by descriptions of “the drowned towers of Miami.”
Rosebraugh’s film is about why no action has been taken, and it names names — discredited scientists, oil industry shills and out-and-out clowns (e.g. Lord Christopher Monckton), the people the climate change-denying corners of the media trot out to cast doubt and delay action on the warming planet.
We visit Kivalina, Alaska, an island village suing Exxon-Mobil and other big oil companies for the rising sea levels that are washing it away. Tuvalu, the South Pacific’s poster-nation for rising sea levels, has its say. But we’re also treated to wildfire victims who have lost their homes in Colorado.
And then the filmmaker gets after the usual suspects. The Koch brothers, Charles and David, who finance tea party politicians and cloaked “grassroots” lobbying groups like Americans for Prosperity, take their seat next to assorted un-credentialed paid spokespeople such as Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and ex-convict “Dr.” Jay Lehr of The Heartland Institute.
The list of “heroes” (U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, ex-EPA chief Christine Todd Whitman) is as familiar as the roll call of “villains” here. Rosebraugh borrows a page out of many a documentary script when he buys Exxon-Mobile stock in order to finally get a question to CEO Rex Tillerson. Yes, the “echo chamber” of Fox News is cited for its endless repetition of anti-climate change talking points.
What’s fresh here is the tone — rude, blunt and bordering on shrill. This is a less in-your-face Michael Moore-style take on this subject — no confrontations that Rosebraugh has himself, just bristling voiceovers and recycled footage from other TV interviewers and members of Congress taking these paid lobbyists down.
Despite its urgency, one undeniable truth facing this quick turn-around doc is that the line of scrimmage has moved. Public opinion has shifted, even in the reddest of the red states, as droughts enter their third or fourth year, as storms wash away whole communities or set records for snowfall.
The days when one film could change this debate are past, Rosebraugh seems to be acknowledging. Perhaps he feels that by matching the rhetoric and tone of the denial camp, he can get himself heard above the din. Fortunately or unfortunately, that background noise now includes the howling wind of the latest superstorm and the cracks of the world’s fast-disappearing glaciers. It’s a wonder anybody gets heard above that.
GREEDY LYING BASTARDS
3 stars (Grade: B)
Directed and narrated by Craig Scott Rosebraugh. A 1 Earth release.
Running time: 1:28
MPAA rating: PG-13 for brief strong language