Bjørn Lomborg versus Al Gore

British court judgment on Al Gore´s film
      Lomborg versus Gore                                                                                         List of acknowledged errors      



In 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 amended guidance note before the film could be distributed to British school classes.


Useful comments to the judgment have been written by Tim Lambert here and 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 citizenship lessons.
    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 declared unlawful.
    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.

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 Conveyor"
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 greenhouse effect
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 greenhouse effect
Judgment: It is common ground that there is insufficient evidence to show that.

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.