Story at a glance
- Filmmaker Michael Moore's new documentary on renewable energy sources feature outdated arguments.
- He defended his film on Hill.TV.
Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Michael Moore’s latest film is receiving backlash for allegedly misleading viewers with inaccurate depictions of the modern green movement protesting climate change.
The film, titled “Planet of the Humans,” was released on April 21, ahead of Earth Day, and argues that the green movement is hypocritical in its environmentally friendly advocacy.
The film describes itself as “a wake-up call to the reality we are afraid to face: that in the midst of a human-caused extinction event, the environmental movement’s answer is to push for techno-fixes and band-aids.” Instead, the film’s producers say that economic concerns and population growth need to be addressed to effectively curb climate change.
Despite the premise, the film has been criticized by advocacy and scientific organizations for offering dated depictions of the technology companies aim to use to combat climate change.
Yale Climate Connections explained that the film, which follows environmental activist, journalist, and director Jeff Gibbs, draws false conclusions to portray clean energy sources in a negative light. Among the film’s arguments, it asserts that solar panels use more fossil fuels than they offset, electric cars are charged through coal-burning energy, as well as drawing issues with other renewables.
Experts point out that while some solar technology creation emits fossil fuels and that some electric cars run on coal-burning energy, the carbon offset is still comparably less than fossil fuel sources. So while renewable technology does have a carbon footprint, it is smaller than that of nonrenewable energy, making it more environmentally friendly.
Scientists have been quick to recognize this caveat and speak up.
Reported by The Guardian and Mother Jones, climate scientist and Pennsylvania State University Professor Michael Mann signed a letter authored by fellow documentary filmmaker Josh Fox demanding the film be retracted by Moore and Gibbs.
Mann reportedly said that the film features “various distortions, half-truths and lies,” and that the film’s creators “have done a grave disservice to us and the planet by promoting climate change inactivist tropes and talking points.”
Inside Climate News also notes that the film features facts that are outdated, debunking the claim that renewable energy sources, like solar, wind, and nuclear, have life-cycle emissions comparable to natural gas and coal, when in reality, they do not.
Research documented by the Nature Energy journal showcases that cumulative fossil fuel emissions from upscaling low-carbon power — other than hydropower — are smaller than direct sectoral fossil fuel emissions from natural gas or coal power plants.
Moore spoke with The Hill.TV in response to the film's critics, saying that "We are lifetime, lifelong environmentalists, and if we can't say to each other 'hey look we might be on the wrong path here'...why don't we have the discussion on what we need to do because it cannot go on any longer."
Fox was also featured on the segment, and defended his criticism.
"To attack the basic premise that renewable energy works is patently absurd," he said.
In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that countries must not let Earth’s target temperature rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius to prevent devastation warmer temperatures can have on both the environment and civilization. This requires countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions from sources like factories, cars, and livestock to prevent them from getting trapped in Earth’s atmosphere, causing rising temperatures.
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