The newest entry in the growing list of global warming documentaries opens, horror-movie-style, with dramatic footage of lightning storms, floodwaters, wildfires and drought-strangled fields, as though weather itself were something new and terrifying. The statistics come later, suggesting that extremes of climate are, in fact, occurring more widely and frequently and that they’re the result of human activity. But to grab your attention, the film starts with scare tactics.
What, you were expecting a calmly reasoned argument from a film called “Greedy Lying Bastards”?
There actually is plenty of sober — and sobering — evidence presented to support the film’s thesis that (a) climate change is real, (b) it’s our fault and (c) a bunch of bad guys have prevented us from getting a handle on it. It’s that last part, alluded to in the film’s title, that is the film’s bread and butter.
Filmmaker Craig Scott Rosebraugh seems to take a kind of perverse glee in hauling out the worst offenders among what he calls the climate change deniers for public shaming. He’s a skinny, deadpan Michael Moore, appearing on camera to figuratively wring his hands, but only occasionally. He doesn’t need to. The film’s titular villains do a pretty good job of hanging themselves, through evasion, self-serving doublespeak and baseless assertions.
At the front of the line leading to Rosebraugh’s gallows are the Koch brothers, David and Charles, industrialists and conservative activists who contribute heavily to what Rosebraugh calls the climate denial propaganda machine. Along with such well-known right-wing pundits as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, the film’s other targets include Jay Lehr of the conservative Heartland Institute, a think tank that once infamously paid for a billboard picturing Unabomber Ted Kaczynski next to the sarcastic words, “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”
Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) also is singled out for his obstructionist rhetoric, which includes repeatedly referring to global warming as a “hoax.” There are many, many other rogues — check out the sea of mug shots on the movie’s poster — but perhaps the most amusing of them is a guy named Lord Christopher Monckton. Despite — or perhaps because of — his cartoonishly bug-eyed physiognomy as much as his outlandish statements, Monckton is presented as a kind of poster child for irrational public policy. He’s still living down his 1987 proposal to quarantine AIDS patients.
For true believers, the threat of global warming is no laughing matter. Still, “Greedy Lying Bastards” finds a way to mix a dash of humor with its simmering outrage. A silent close-up of Monckton’s face (which is, quite frankly, pretty funny looking) makes do as a rebuttal of his arguments.
Rosebraugh isn’t joking though. The film’s slickness is tempered by its sense of urgency. “Greedy Lying Bastards” is part infomercial, part call to man the barricades.
PG-13. At AMC Hoffman Center and Angelika Film Center. Contains some obscenity. 90 minutes.