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Planet of the Humans, a documentary film

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Climate experts criticize 'dangerous' Michael Moore film

Via GreenPolicy360: Stories of the Day / Climate News

Climate News

Planet of the Humans, which takes aim at the green movement, misleads by omission and misinformation

As Moore's film attacks a global move to renewable energy... fossil fuels and unsustainable growth continue to deliver real-world challenges

Human-caused climate change is a crisis-in-the-making

Read Post Carbon Richard Heinberg's thoughtful, nuanced 'Planet of the Humans' review.

GreenPolicy360 Siterunner:

Good science requires good data, scientific reasoning, discernment.

At GreenPolicy we often cite an axiom 'you can manage only what you can measure', which NASA cites as a foundation for their earth science missions. We agree with the scientists at NASA. NASA programs such as OCO-2, satellite remote measurements and monitoring of CO2 in the earth's atmosphere provide essential data for effective policy decisions to limit harmful emissions.

As earth systems science progresses over the coming years years, we believe a constant dialogue and debate about good data and science is not only appropriate, but is necessary.

In the case of a recently released documentary on YouTube, 'Planet of the Humans', produced by Michael Moore and directed by Jeff Gibbs, hard questions dealing with climate change/global warming, scientific data and politics, threats and range of solutions, are appropriate to ask, no matter how challenging the questions.

At the same time, we need good science -- facts, data, 'running the numbers', measuring and monitoring over time, analysis, evaluation -- to choose appropriate technology and to make personal choices dealing with climate change and our common environment. The choices are ours to make or we face the consequences of indecision and business-as-usual. Human-caused problems are realities we can observe and measure. Human-advanced answers are needed and necessary.

The thoughts of Richard Heinberg from Post Carbon Institute should be considered. His years of work in the field of environmental science, climate, and energy are definitely worthy of respect. He and the Post Carbon Institute know about renwable energy, its ups and downs. Fossil fuels too. Richard also has a breadth of experience that few have that gives him an ability to 'get real' about this controversial documentary.

His initial conclusion? The Moore-Gibbs documentary is a "conversation starter". That it is. I agree. It can't be ignored. Questions of how best to deal with the facts of climate and environmental disruption, and strategic demands for new definitions of national/global security, are here and now.

These are questions GreenPolicy360 has raised since our founding. However one looks at the Moore-Gibbs argument, the Earth is in our hands.

As planet citizens we have to act, good or bad. We are a 'planet of the humans.' Our choice. Humanity's choice. It's time we choose how to act.

Planet of the Humans: A Personal, Thoughtful Review Published at the Post Carbon Institute by Richard Heinberg

Post carbon instit logo.jpg

Review: Planet of the Humans

Richard Heinberg

April 27, 2020

"It starts a conversation we need to have"

A few days ago, Emily Atkin posted a reaction to Michael Moore’s latest film, Planet of the Humans (directed and narrated by Jeff Gibbs), in which she began by admitting that she hadn’t seen the film yet. When writers take that approach, you know there’s already blood in the water. (She has since watched the film and written an actual review. Full disclosure: I’m in the film, included as one of the “good guys.” But I don’t intend to let that fact distort my comments in this review.)

The film is controversial because it makes two big claims: first, that renewable energy is a sham; second, that big environmental organizations—by promoting solar and wind power—have sold their souls to billionaire investors.

I feel fairly confident commenting on the first of these claims, regarding renewable energy, having spent a year working with David Fridley of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to assess the prospects for a complete transition to solar and wind power.

We found that the transition to renewables is going far too slowly to make much of a difference during the crucial next couple of decades, and would be gobsmackingly expensive if we were to try replacing all fossil fuel use with solar and wind. We also found, as the film underscores again and again, that the intermittency of sunshine and wind is a real problem—one that can only be solved with energy storage (batteries, pumped hydro, or compressed air, all of which are costly in money and energy terms); or with source redundancy (building way more generation capacity than you’re likely to need at any one time, and connecting far-flung generators on a super-grid); or demand management (which entails adapting our behavior to using energy only when it’s available). All three strategies involve trade-offs. In the energy world, there is no free lunch. Further, the ways we use energy today are mostly adapted to the unique characteristics of fossil fuels, so a full transition to renewables will require the replacement of an extraordinary amount of infrastructure in our food system, manufacturing, building heating, the construction industry, and on and on. Altogether, the only realistic way to make the transition in industrial countries like the US is to begin reducing overall energy usage substantially, eventually running the economy on a quarter, a fifth, or maybe even a tenth of current energy.

Is it true that mainstream enviros have oversold renewables? Yes. They have portrayed the transition away from fossil fuels as mostly a political problem; the implication in many of their communications is that, if we somehow come up with the money and the political will, we can replace oil with solar and continue living much as we do today, though with a clear climate conscience. That’s an illusion that deserves shattering. But the film does make some silly mistakes. Gibbs claims that a solar panel will generate less energy than it took to build the panel. That’s a misleading claim. Many teams of researchers have addressed the question of energy return on energy invested for solar power, and even the most pessimistic results (with which I mostly agree) say that the technology can yield a marginal energy gain. Much of that gain goes away if we have to “pay” for the energy investment entailed in providing batteries or redundant capacity. Wind power generally has a better energy payback than solar, but the location of turbines matters a great deal and ideal sites are limited in number. Assessing solar and wind power calls for complicated energy accounting, but the film reduces that complexity to a blanket, binary dismissal.

The film is low on nuance, but our global climate and energy dilemma is all shades of gray. Gibbs seems to say that renewables are a complete waste of time. I would say, they are best seen as a marginal transitional strategy for industrial societies. Given climate change and the fact that fossil fuels are depleting, finite resources, it appears that if we want to maintain any sort of electrical energy infrastructure in the future, it will have to be powered by renewables—hydro, wind, or solar. As many studies have confirmed, the nuclear power industry has little realistic prospect of revival. The future will be renewable; there simply isn’t any other option. What is very much in question, however, is the kind of society renewable energy can support.

The fact is that we’ve already bet our entire future on electricity and electronics. Communications and information processing and storage have all been digitized. That means that if the grid goes down, we’ve lost civilization altogether. I don’t think we can maintain global grids at current scale without fossil fuels, but I can envision the possibility of a process of triage whereby, as population and resource consumption shrink, the digital world does as well, until it’s small enough to be powered by renewable electricity that can be generated with minimal and acceptable environmental damage.

I agree with Gibbs, however, that renewables are realistically incapable of maintaining our current levels of energy usage, especially in rich countries like the US. Transitioning to electric cars may be a useful small-scale and short-term strategy for reducing oil consumption (I drive one myself), but limits to lithium and other raw materials used in building e-cars mean we really need to think about how to get rid of personal cars altogether.

Mainstream enviros will hate this movie because it exposes some of their real failings. By focusing on techno-fixes, they have sidelined nearly all discussion of overpopulation and overconsumption. Maybe that’s understandable as a marketing strategy, but it’s a mistake to let marketing consultants sort truth from fiction for us.

During recent decades, the big environmental orgs wearied of telling their followers to reduce, reuse, and recycle. They came to see that global problems like climate change require systemic solutions that, in turn, require massive investment and governmental planning and oversight. But the reality is, we need both high-level systemic change and widespread individual behavior change. That’s one of the lessons of the coronavirus pandemic: “flattening the curve” demands both central planning and leadership, and individual sacrifice.

Planet of the Humans paints environmental organizations and leaders with a broad and accusatory brush. One target is Jeremy Grantham, a billionaire investment analyst who created the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment in 1997. Grantham was already a mega-rich investor before he “got religion” on environmental issues. I’ve had several face-to-face meetings with him (full disclosure: the Grantham Foundation has provided modest funding to Post Carbon Institute, where I work) and it’s clear that he cares deeply about overpopulation and overconsumption, and he understands that economic growth is killing the planet. He’s scared for his children and grandchildren, and he genuinely wants to use whatever wealth and influence he has to change the world. To imply, as the film does, that he merely sees green tech as an investment strategy is a poorly aimed cheap shot. Bill McKibben, who is skewered even more savagely, also deserves better; he has replied to the film here.

Read Bill McKibben's Response to the Michael Moore Film

Finally, the film leaves viewers with no sense of hope for the future. I understand why Gibbs made that choice. Too often, “hopium” is simply a drug we use to numb ourselves to the horrific reality of our situation and its causes—in which we are all complicit.

Yet, however awful the circumstance, we need a sense of human agency. In the face of the pandemic, many of us are reduced to sitting at home sewing facemasks; it seems like a paltry response to a spreading sickness that’s taking tens of thousands of lives, but it’s better than sitting on our hands and saying “Woe is me.” The same goes for climate change: figuring out how to eat lower on the food chain, or how to get by without a car, or how to reduce home energy usage by half, or growing a garden might seem like trivial responses to such an overwhelming crisis, but they get us moving together in the right direction.

For all the reasons I’ve mentioned, Planet of the Humans is not the last word on our human predicament. Still, it starts a conversation we need to have, and it’s a film that deserves to be seen.

(Reprinted courtesy of Post Carbon Institute / Visit at https://www.postcarbon.org/)

More Reviews:

Via The Guardian / 7 May 2020 / by George Monbiot @GeorgeMonbiot

First, the headline figures. Global population growth today is 1.05%. That’s half the peak growth rate, reached in 1963 (2.2%). In other words, population growth is not, as many claim, exponential. The rate is falling rapidly. By contrast, until the pandemic, global economic growth had been hovering around 3% for several years, and was expected to stay there. In other words, it *was* exponential.

After the (coronavirus) lockdowns, governments will do everything they can to get it back on track.

George Monbiot-Our World in Data-Population.jpg

Our World in Data notes:

“Even several billion additional people in low-income countries … would leave global emissions almost unchanged.

3 or 4 billion low income individuals would only account for a few percent of global CO2.”

How did Michael Moore become a hero to climate deniers and the far right?

By George Monbiot

A strange and disturbing story about the disastrous trajectory taken by a hero of the left - now being celebrated by the far right

The filmmaker’s latest venture is an excruciating mishmash of environment falsehoods and plays into the hands of those he once opposed

Denial never dies; it just goes quiet and waits. Today, after years of irrelevance, the climate science deniers are triumphant. Long after their last, desperate claims had collapsed, when they had traction only on “alt-right” conspiracy sites, a hero of the left turns up and gives them more than they could have dreamed of.

Planet of the Humans, whose executive producer and chief promoter is Michael Moore, now has more than 6 million views on YouTube. The film does not deny climate science. But it promotes the discredited myths that deniers have used for years to justify their position. It claims that environmentalism is a self-seeking scam, doing immense harm to the living world while enriching a group of con artists. This has long been the most effective means by which denial – most of which has been funded by the fossil fuel industry – has been spread...

... the film’s attacks on solar and wind power rely on a series of blatant falsehoods. It claims that, in producing electricity from renewables, “You use more fossil fuels to do this than you’re getting benefit from it. You would have been better off just burning fossil fuels in the first place”. This is flat wrong. On average, a solar panel generates 26 units of solar energy for every unit of fossil energy required to build and install it. For wind turbines the ratio is 44 to one.

... Planet of the Humans concentrates its attacks on Bill McKibben, the co-founder of 350.org, who takes no money from any of his campaigning work. It’s an almost comic exercise in misdirection, but unfortunately it has horrible, real-world consequences, as McKibben now faces even more threats and attacks than he confronted before.

... this is by no means the worst of it. The film offers only one concrete solution to our predicament: the most toxic of all possible answers. “We really have got to start dealing with the issue of population … without seeing some sort of major die-off in population, there’s no turning back.”

Yes, population growth does contribute to the pressures on the natural world. But while the global population is rising by 1% a year, consumption, until the pandemic, was rising at a steady 3%. High consumption is concentrated in countries where population growth is low. Where population growth is highest, consumption tends to be extremely low.

... Almost all the growth in numbers is in poor countries largely inhabited by black and brown people. When wealthy people, such as Moore and Gibbs, point to this issue without the necessary caveats, they are saying, in effect, “it’s not Us consuming, it’s Them breeding.” It’s not hard to see why the far right loves this film.

Population is where you go when you haven’t thought your argument through. Population is where you go when you don’t have the guts to face the structural, systemic causes of our predicament: inequality, oligarchic power, capitalism. Population is where you go when you want to kick down.

We have been here many times before. Dozens of films have spread falsehoods about environmental activists and ripped into green technologies, while letting fossil fuels off the hook. But never before have these attacks come from a famous campaigner for social justice, rubbing our faces in the dirt.


Via Get Energy Smart

A Compendium of Planet of the Humans Reviews


Via Forbes by Robert Bryce

Stanford Prof. and Others 'Can’t Muzzle Planet Of The Humans’
SLAPP lawsuit ruling against Mark Jacobson recharges renewables debate
Planet of the Humans has been viewed over 4.6 million times in first weeks of its release on YouTube

In the background the arguments, politics and legal actions continue

Via Vox - Planet of the Humans deceives viewers about clean energy and climate activists

Michael Moore produced a film about climate change that’s a gift to Big Oil

Via Ketan Joshi / Energy, Science & Technology - https://ketanjoshi.co/2020/04/24/planet-of-the-humans-a-reheated-mess-of-lazy-old-myths/ -- https://ketanjoshi.co/2020/05/08/the-great-giving-up-and-the-film-that-made-it-worse/

Via Newsweek / Michael E. Mann - https://www.newsweek.com/michael-moore-planet-humans-film-climate-change-1502554

Via DeSmog - Climate Deniers Rush to Promote Michael Moore Film

An anti-renewables pile on by fossil fuel supporters

Via Union of Concerned Scientists

Moore's film traffics in myths, errors and misdirection

Via Inside Climate News - Things Michael Moore gets wrong in his film

The documentary's "facts" are deceptive and misleading, not to mention way out of date

Counting the Mistakes...


Understanding future emissions from low-carbon power systems by integration of life-cycle assessment and integrated energy modelling

Renewables v fossil fuels life cycle CO2 impact-chart.png


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