By Lucy Sherriff
A UK judge has ruled that schools are allowed to show Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, but only if the film is accompanied by guidance highlighting the areas where the ex-vice president of America strays off the scientific terra firma, the BBC reports.
Mr Justice Burton said teachers could show the film, but must highlight nine assertions in the film that are not supported by mainstream scientific consensus, including a claim that polar bears are drowning on long swims between icebergs.
Despite these rogue Arctic ursines, the judge seems to be happy that the main thrust of the film is not political, nor likely to indoctrinate anyone.
Other problem areas included an assertion that the sea would rise up to 20 feet “in the near future” as ice in Greenland or Western Antarctica melts. The judge said this was an alarmist statement. He added that scientific consensus held that that kind of sea level rise would be possible if Greenland’s ice melted, but that that melt would happen “after, and over, millennia”.
The judge also dismissed Gore’s claim that the retreating snowline on Mount Kilimanjaro could be directly attributed to human-induced climate change, saying that the science to establish such a link does not exist.
The government sent copies of the film to all secondary schools in England, while the ruling administrations in Wales and Scotland did the same. But school governor Stewart Dimmock of Dover, a member of the New Party, took the government to court, saying the distribution breached rules governing what may be shown in schools.
The judge said Mr Dimmock has “substantially won” the case. He found that “but for the new guidance note, the film would have been distributed in breach of sections 406 and 407 of the 1996 Education Act”. These sections cover political indoctrination and the treatment of political issues in schools.
Dimmock said he was “delighted” with the outcome, which also saw him awarded two-thirds of his £200,000 of legal fees.
The government also professed itself happy with the ruling, noting that the judge had not taken issue with the mainstream arguments in the film.
David Adam, environment correspondent
Gore’s climate film has scientific errors – judge
The judge made his remarks when assessing a case brought by Stewart Dimmock, a Kent school governor and a member of a political group, the New party, who is opposed to a government plan to show the film in secondary schools.
The judge ruled that the film can still be shown in schools, as part of a climate change resources pack, but only if it is accompanied by fresh guidance notes to balance Mr Gore’s “one-sided” views. The “apocalyptic vision” presented in the film was not an impartial analysis of the science of climate change, he said. […] and there was “a view to the contrary”.
The nine points:
- The film claimed that low-lying inhabited Pacific atolls “are being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming” – but there was no evidence of any evacuation occurring
- It spoke of global warming “shutting down the ocean conveyor” – the process by which the gulf stream is carried over the north Atlantic to western Europe. The judge said that, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it was “very unlikely” that the conveyor would shut down in the future, though it might slow down
- Mr Gore had also claimed – by ridiculing the opposite view – that two graphs, one plotting a rise in C02 and the other the rise in temperature over a period of 650,000 years, showed “an exact fit”. The judge said although scientists agreed there was a connection, “the two graphs do not establish what Mr Gore asserts”
- Mr Gore said the disappearance of snow on Mt Kilimanjaro was expressly attributable to human-induced climate change. The judge said the consensus was that that could not be established
- The drying up of Lake Chad was used as an example of global warming. The judge said: “It is apparently considered to be more likely to result from … population increase, over-grazing and regional climate variability”
- Mr Gore ascribed Hurricane Katrina to global warming, but there was “insufficient evidence to show that”
- Mr Gore also referred to a study showing that polar bears were being found that had drowned “swimming long distances to find the ice”. The judge said: “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”
- The film said that coral reefs all over the world were bleaching because of global warming and other factors. The judge said separating the impacts of stresses due to climate change from other stresses, such as over-fishing, and pollution, was difficult
- The film said a sea-level rise of up to 20ft would be caused by melting of either west Antarctica or Greenland in the near future; the judge ruled that this was “distinctly alarmist”