The informative “Merchants of Doubt” plays like a sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth,” a landmark film that raised awareness of global warming. Only this time around, the enemies of awareness have struck back, and it ain’t pretty.
“Merchants” exposes the climate change “experts” who enrich themselves by fooling the American public with bogus claims that cast doubt on scientific research – and thus protect corporate profits. Beyond making a buck, many of these glorified lobbyists also see climate change as a leftist conspiracy to impose socialism on their idyllic way of life.
Though the film touches on how these purveyors of misinformation have distorted such issues as food safety and fire retardants, its front-and-center issue is the global warming “debate.”
Director Robert Kenner (“Food, Inc.”) takes us back to the days when the tobacco industry invented the playbook for obfuscation, stalling smoking regulations for 50 years despite indisputable research linking cigarettes to cancer.
Tobacco’s modus operandi was to plant the seeds of skepticism about credible science, to create a sense of debate when there should have been none – the same things that many of the same pundits are doing today, despite a wide consensus that our planet is in a heap of trouble.
Kenner is obviously a master of the documentary form, keeping the proceedings brisk and entertaining. He can’t resist getting a little too jocular, however, overplaying his hand by including a magician’s act that serves as a metaphor for the tricks that the “experts” perform to deceive the public.
Much more powerful are the moments like the interview with climate change “expert” Marc Morano, who luxuriates in his shifty tactics and misdirection plays. To him, it’s all fun and games – he’s both slick and scary.
Perhaps the biggest impression is made by conservative Bob Inglis, a former South Carolina congressman who was decimated at the polls after daring to suggest that humans have a role in global warming. (He’d gone to Antarctica to see for himself.)
When (and before) the end credits roll, you will probably feel a sense of outrage – and helplessness.
‘Merchants of Doubt’
B+ DIRECTOR: Robert Kenner.
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes.
RATING: PG-13 (brief strong language).