Re An Inconvenient Truth

A review of the civil court case involving the film, “An Inconvenient Truth”

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On 10 Oct 2007 Mr Justice Burton of the England and Wales High Court decided a civil case brought by Stuart Dimmock, a citizen, against the Secretary of State for Education and Skills.

The case involved the decision by the defendant to distribute the former US Vice President Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, to schoolchildren as part of an educational package. The defendant claimed the film contravened the Education Act which forbids the promotion of partisan political views during teaching and requires a balanced presentation of opposing views when political issues are raised.

The Court noted the film won an Oscar, was a dramatically presented and highly professionally produced film and was built around the charismatic presence of Mr Gore.

The Court noted the parties had agreed that the film promotes political views in the wider sense of the word political, however it found a teacher presenting a partisan film does not necessarily equate to a teacher promoting it. A balanced presentation does not necessarily require equal time to opposing views, rather that the presentation should be fair and dispassionate.

The Court agreed with the defendant’s suggestion that four hypotheses were accepted by the great majority of the world’s scientists, namely global temperatures had been rising significantly over the previous half century, climate change is mainly attributable to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, climate change will, if unchecked, have significant adverse effects on the world and its population and there are measures individuals and governments can take to mitigate its effects.

The parties had agreed that these hypotheses represented the present scientific consensus.

The parties did not agree with the suggestion that Al Gore’s presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film are broadly accurate. The Court did not feel it necessary to decide that particular question nor could it analyse the scientific questions raised.

However the Court was persuaded that there were nine errors in the film.

1. Sea level rises of up to 20 feet (7 metres) will be caused by melting of either west Antarctica or Greenland in the near future. This was distinctly alarmist and not likely to happen until after millennia.

2. Low lying inhabited Pacific atolls are being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming. There is no evidence of any such evacuation having yet happened.

3. Shutting down of the ‘Ocean conveyor’ (where the Gulf stream meets the Arctic waters in the Atlantic Ocean). It is unlikely that the conveyor will shut down.

4. Direct coincidence between the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere and in temperature and the two graphs show an exact fit. The two graphs do not establish what Mr Gore asserts.

5. The snows of Mt Kilimanjaro. It cannot be established that the recession of snows on the mountain is mainly attributable to human-induced climate change.

6. Lake Chad. The evidence is not sufficient to attribute the drying up of the lake to global warming rather than other factors, such as population increase and over-grazing, and regional climate variability.

7. Hurricane Katrina. There is insufficient evidence to attribute the devastation in New Orleans to global warming.

8. Polar bears drowned swimming up to 60 miles to find ice. The only evidence the Court had was of four bears drowning because of a storm.

9. Coral reefs. Separating the impacts of climate change-related stresses from other stresses, such as over-fishing and polluting, is difficult.

The Court noted that while the case had been proceeding the defendant had produced a Guidance note to be inserted into the educational package and by doing so the requirements of the Education Act would be met. The Guidance note addressed the errors the Court had found in the film and therefore there was no need for the Court to decide the question of whether there had been a previous breach of the Act.

A copy of the decision can be downloaded from http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2007/2288.html

-review by admin for climatechangepredictions.org,
4 Jan 2015.

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