Movie Review – Carbon Nation

Joanna Schroeder

I took a brief break from my 2012 La Nina Reading list to watch a documentary on climate change.  Carbon Nation touts itself as a “climate change solutions movie that doesn’t even care if you believe in climate change.” Yet this movie does care about climate change.  The narrator says, “We thought we had time to figure things out. Trouble is there is no more time. Climate change is happening now.”

The movie features many of the same players and same technologies as other films – Lester Brown, Van Jones (who just released Rebuild the Dream, which I will be reviewing soon), Amory Lovins, and Thomas Friedman.  In terms of technologies, it covers wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels, and it also has sections that discuss land use, deforestation, transportation, and energy efficiency.

The movie was well done, interesting and had great graphics. In addition, I really liked some of the people who were interviewed – real down to earth people who are taking clean technologies into their own hands. The other thing I liked about the movie was the way it broke down how each technology or action will or can affect carbon.

What do I mean?

For example, globally, the world uses 16 terawatts (TWh) of energy each year. Of those, it is estimated that when fully developed, solar could produce 86,000 TWh, geothermal 32 THw, and wind 870 THw. In other words, these three technologies alone could replace all fossil fuel based energy and leave room for growth. This doesn’t even include the amount of energy saved and carbon reduced when you factor in gains from energy efficiency and land use strategies.

There were many ideas that I think will resonate with our readers. One in particular related to the fact that we have solutions to the problem ready now, so why aren’t they being deployed? One reason is that until clean energy is cheaper than carbon energy, change won’t happen. Many of those interviewed said that the world needs a powerful market signal to tilt away from fossil fuels (carbon-based energy). Many of these same people agree that a good place to start is to focus on carbon-based fuels.  One idea is to apply a fee based on how much carbon is in the fuel. In this scenario, biofuels would be less expensive than petroleum based fuels and electric vehicles would be less than any other current technology.

What might the leading energy source be? In terms of electricity, the Chena geothermal power plant is producing energy for 5 cents a kilowatt while natural gas was 30 cents a kilowatt.  The owner predicts in three to four years, it will by only 1 cent a kilowatt. Then on the fuels side, plug-in electric vehicles can operate today at only 10 percent of the cost of a traditionally powered car. This too is pennies on the dollar.

People tend to get overwhelmed with solutions and oftentimes feel they can’t comprehend a way for them to make a difference.  This movie can help you do just that – throughout and at the end there are easy ideas for people to adopt to effect change.  For those who are interested in carbon’s role in climate change this is an entertaining and educational film and definitely worth the investment in cost and time.

book reviews, Carbon, Environment, global warming, Video