a recent case at a UK high court a judgment
was made that certain claims in Al Gore´s
film " An Inconvenient Truth" were somewhat misleading and required an
note before the film could be distributed to British school
Useful comments to the judgment have been written by Tim Lambert here
In February 2007, the English `Department for
Education and Skills´ issued a news release stating that Al
Gore´s film "An Inconvenient Truth" would form part of a pack on
climate change to be sent to every secondary school in England,
Scotlaqnd and Wales. When
this pack was actually sent to the schools on 2 May 2007, it contained
not only Al Gore´s film, but also four other short films and a
cross-reference to an educational website containing teaching guides
showing how to use the resources in this pack in science, geography and
Stuart Dimmock, a state school governor in Kent and
a father of two sons in the school, took action to counter this
initiative. He has some connection
to a leading sceptic organization in the UK, that campaigns
against Al Gore´s film and promotes the heavily criticized
alternative film “The Great Global Warming Swindle”. He brought a case
before a high court, claiming that Al Gore´s film promotes
partisan political views, and as the promotion of such views is
forbidden by the Education Act, the distribution of the film should be
As expert witness before the court, the claimant
brought professor Robert Carter of James Cook University, Queensland,
Australia. The defendant brought dr. Peter Stott from the
Meteorological office´s Hadley Centre.
The judge found that the film is substantially
founded upon scientific research and fact, albeit that the science is
used to support a political programme. He accepted the proposition that
the film advances four main scientific hypotheses, each of which
accords with the latest conclusions of the IPCC, (1) global
temperatures have been rising significantly, (2) climate change is
mainly caused by man-made emissions of greenhouse gases, (3) climate
change will, if unchecked, have significant adverse effects, and (4)
there are measures that could be taken to mitigate the effects. The
judge also agreed with a statement made by Dr. Stott that "Al
Gore´s presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate
change in the film was broadly accurate." But even when he agreed on
this, he also acknowledged that "there are errors or deviations from
the mainstream by Mr Gore." Professor Carter provided a schedule of
"alleged errors or exaggerations and waxed lyrical". The judge was
persuaded that some of them - 9 in all - merited careful
examination. In the judgment, they are designated a `errors´, i.
the word "errors" is put between inverted commas. Each such
`error´ is commented upon in the judgment. Next, the judge
considers if the teacher´s guidance was sufficient to compensate
for these `errors´, and he concludes that this was not fully so.
The defendant accepted this view, made amendments to the Guidance Note
on the website, and accepted to distribute the amended notes in hard
copy. With these changes made, the judge was satisfied and made no
order on the application.
|THE 9 POINTS CONSIDERED IN THE JUDGMENT
1) Sea level rise of up to 20 feet (7
metres) will be caused by melting of either West Antarctica or
Greenland in the near future.
Judgment: This is distinctly alarmist. The melting would only happen
over millenia, and insofar as the film suggests that this will happen
in the immediate future, it is not in line with scientific consensus.
2) Low lying inhabited Pacific atolls
are being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming.
Judgment: Mr Gore states that the citizens of these Pacific nations
have all had to evacuate to New Zealand, but there is no evidence of
any such evacuation having yet happened.
3) Shutting down of the "Ocean
Judgment: According to the IPCC; it is very unlikely that the Ocean
Conveyor will shut down in the future, though it is considered likely
that thermohaline circulation may slow down.
4) Direct coincidence between rise in
CO2 in the atmosphere and in temperature, by
reference to two graphs.
Judgment: Although there is a general scientific agreemnt that there is
a connection between CO2 and temperature, the two graphs
do not establish what Mr Gore asserts.
5) Glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro are
being melted by the greenhouse effect
Judgment: The scientific consensus is that it cannot be established
that the recession of snows on Mt Kilimanjaro is mainly attributable to
human-induced climate change.
6) Lake Chad dried out because of the
Judgment: The drying up of lake Chad is far more likely to result from
other factors, such as population increase and over-grazing, and
regional climate variability.
7) Hurricane Katrina was caused by the
Judgment: It is common ground that there is insufficient evidence to
8) Death of polar bears
Judgment: This is based on only one scientific study which indicates
that four polar bears have recently been found drowned because of a
storm. This does not support Mr Gore´s description.
9) Coral reef bleaching and species
loss are being exacerbated by the greenhouse effect
Judgment: According to the IPCC, if the temperature were to rise by 1-3
degrees centigrade, there would be increased coral bleaching and
widespread coral mortality, unless corals could adopt or acclimatise,
but it is difficult to separate this effect from effects due to other
stresses, such as over-fishing and polluting.