Oct. 12, 2007 Time
British Court: Gore Film 'Political'
Al Gore may have just won the Nobel Peace Prize, but some of his ideas are under fire in the British court system. Showing schoolchildren Al Gore's award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth is a political act, a High Court 民事第一審 British judge has said, ruling on a challenge by a parent to remove the film from secondary schools. Although it does not ban the film, the decision requires that the film be shown with guidance notes to comply with laws prohibiting "partisan" material in the school curriculum.
In his 17-page ruling, published Wednesday, Justice Michael Burton wrote: "It is now common ground that it is not simply a science film although it is clear that it is based substantially on scientific research and opinion but that it is a political film."
The criticism comes after months of legal and political maneuvering. In February, the national government announced plans to send a DVD of the documentary to each of England's 3,385 secondary schools as part of a climate change packet. In May, Stewart Dimmock, a parent of two from Kent and a member of a local school's governing board, initiated court proceedings to remove the film, which he called "propaganda," from schools. He also gained the support of the New Party, an independent, right of center political party, and launched a website called Straight Teaching http://www.straightteaching.com/, which explains his position.
"I am elated with today's result, but still disappointed that the film is able to be shown in schools," Dimmock said following the ruling. Gore, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this morning for raising awareness of man-made climate change, has not commented publicly.
While accepting the broad arguments of the film, the judge pointed out nine scientific errors and omissions that he believes Gore raised in the context of alarmism and exaggeration. For instance, Gore refers to a study indicating that polar bears have, in recent years, started drowning as they swim up to 60 miles (97km) in search of ice. According to Justice Burton, "The only scientific study that either side before me can find is one which indicates that four polar bears have recently been found drowned because of a storm." He also dismissed what he called the film's "Armageddon scenario" in which the world's melting ice caps could cause sea levels to rise by up to 20 feet (6m) in the near future. Such a rise could take place, he said, but "only after, and over, millennia."
There was also not sufficient evidence to back the film's claims that global warming caused Hurricane Katrina, the melting of snows on Mount Kilimanjaro or the evaporation of most of Lake Chad, he said.
Government attorneys amended their existing teacher guidance notes following a preliminary ruling last Tuesday, and specifics of those guidelines were debated with Dimmock's attorneys before the court. Those notes detail, on a scene-by-scene basis, the areas where teaching staffs nationwide will be required to point out opposing arguments and scientific errors. According to the guidance, which is now available on the government's Teachernet web site, it is designed to help teaching staff "encourage their pupils to assess the validity and credibility of different information sources and explore different points of view so as to form their own opinions."
John Day, Dimmock's attorney, still wants the film removed and has plans to appeal the ruling. He believes the new guidance is no solution. "It's an unfair burden on teachers," he told TIME, noting that teachers will now need to wade through a 60-page document in order to understand the film's inaccuracies. "At the end of the day, if a teacher makes a mistake, they'll be breaking the law," he said. For already overworked teachers, that's an inconvenient truth indeed.
October 11, 2007 www.canada.com
The 11 inaccuracies that the court found are not quibbles. They represent the film's most spectacular claims about the dangers of global warming, and form the very basis of the film. Were the film to be edited to have these inaccuracies removed, in fact, vanishingly little would be left.
- The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro demonstrate global warming. The government's expert was forced to concede that this is not correct.
- The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 caused temperature increases over 650,000 years. The court found that the film was misleading: Over that period, the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature rises by 800 to 2,000 years.
- The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina, which it suggests was caused by global warming. The government's expert had to accept that it was "not possible" to attribute one-off events to global warming.
- The film attributes the drying up of Lake Chad to global warming. The government's expert had to accept that this was not the case.
- The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing Arctic ice. It turned out that Gore had misread the study: In fact, four polar bears drowned because of a particularly violent storm.
- The film threatens that global warming could stop the Gulf Stream, throwing Europe into an ice age. The claimant's evidence was that this was a scientific impossibility.
- The film blames global warming for species losses, including coral reef bleaching. The government could not find any evidence to support this claim.
- The film suggests that the Greenland ice covering could melt, causing sea levels to rise dangerously. The evidence is that Greenland will not melt for millennia.
- The film suggests that the Antarctic ice covering is melting. The evidence was that it is in fact increasing.
- The film suggests that sea levels could rise by seven metres, causing the displacement of millions of people. In fact, the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40 centimetres over the next 100 years, and that there is no such threat of massive migration.
- The film claims that rising sea levels have caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand. The government was unable to substantiate this claim and the court observed that this appears to be a false claim.
The judge's final decision is expected within the week. It promises to change how and what students are taught, and to empower teachers and students alike who choose to think for themselves. In classrooms in Canada and elsewhere around the world, meanwhile, our children are not empowered to question the conventional wisdom on climate change, and teachers continue to show An Inconvenient Truth without any guidance to the children in their charge.