Saturday, October 13, 2007

U.K. Judge rules Gore film 'exaggerated'

U.K. judge rules Gore film 'exaggerated'
Parent challenged the showing of documentary in classrooms

"A British High Court judge this week exposed nine inaccuracies in former U.S. vicepresident Al Gore's award-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, labelling it "a political film" and calling many of its claims about climate change "alarmist" and "exaggerated."

Justice Michael Burton had been asked to rule on whether the showing of the Oscar-winning film in British classrooms amounted to education or indoctrination.

The ruling, just two days before Mr. Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday for his environmental activism, did not undermine the overall premise of the work and stopped short of preventing screenings. But it has dramatically altered the uncritical way in which it was being presented to British high school students as debate simmers in Canada and elsewhere over whether what some consider propaganda is being passed off as incontrovertible fact.

The British judgment resulted from a court challenge brought by Stuart Dimmock, the truck driver parent of two teenage sons, who argued that the British government's decision to distribute An Inconvenient Truth to all public high schools violated a provision of the education act forbidding "the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school."

After viewing it himself, Judge Burton lauded Mr. Gore's film as "powerful, dramatically presented and highly professionally produced."

But he found the film blurs the line between science, politics and environmental advocacy.

"It is built round the charismatic presence of the ex-vicepresident, Al Gore, whose crusade it now is to persuade the world of the dangers of climate change cause by global warming," Judge Burton wrote. "Is is now common ground that this 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.

"Its theme is ... that urgent, and if necessary, expensive and inconvenient steps must be taken to counter it."

Kalee Kreider, a spokesperson for Mr. Gore, said: "Of the thousands of facts, the judge seemingly only took issue with a handful."

Since the documentary began winning awards, it has become a popular educational tool worldwide.

In Canada, charitable foundations have funded the purchase and distribution of thousands of copies for schools.

But some have questioned whether its contents have been served up not as fodder for discussion and debate, but as scientific fact.

In Surrey, B.C., the school board passed a motion requiring that a documentary espousing a contrary viewpoint -- such as the British film The Great Global Warming Swindle -- be screened for students alongside Mr. Gore's.

Heather Stilwell said proposing the motion earned her the scorn of detractors.

"As soon as you dared to question, then it was in to attack mode. I was called a [George W.] Bush-lover -- I just asked if it was good science," she said. "Who can vote against being balanced in the classroom?"

She applauded the British court decision as common sense.

Victoria Serda, Ontario's deputy Green party leader, has been trained to deliver the slide show presentation on climate change that Mr. Gore gives in the documentary and has done so 67 times in Ontario, before 17,000 people, including school children.

She dismissed the court decision as "minor."

"How can a judge in England make a determination on whether something is scientific fact when he has no background in it?" Ms. Serda said. "This is a judge that doesn't even know what he's talking about, he doesn't work in the field, he's not a climate scientist, he's not a peer-reviewed scientific journalist. He has no basis in order to even go forward with this decision he's making. It's just kind of silly."

The court case brought by Mr. Dimmock resulted in the production of guidelines for teachers on how to bring a more critical viewpoint to classroom discussions of the film.

A first draft by the Education Ministry was produced during the court case, but Judge Burton found it didn't go far enough in addressing nine factual inaccuracies he uncovered in the film by comparing Mr. Gore's claims with a report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

New guidelines were produced that draw "specific attention to where Mr. Gore may be in error and/or in any event where he deviates from the consensus view as set out in the IPCC report, and by, where appropriate, raising specific questions for discussions."

Hundreds of copies of An Inconvenient Truth have been donated to Ontario schools by the Tides Canada Foundation.

Ontario Education Minister Kathleen Wynne said last summer it is not required viewing and that the government is not endorsing Mr. Gore's position.

Frank Bruseker, president of the Alberta Teachers Association, said he hasn't heard of the film being widely disseminated in his province.

As a former science teacher who has seen the film, Mr. Bruseker said if he showed it in his classroom, he would provide a disclaimer.

"You have to present the whole picture. Part of our job in educating students in my opinion is not to indoctrinate them with our views, but to educate them so they can make their own decisions."



Untruth 1

Gore says: A sea-level rise of up to seven metres will be caused by melting of either West Antarctic or Greenland ice cap in the near future. Cities such as Beijing, Calcutta and Manhattan would be devastated.

Judge says: "This is distinctly alarmist, and part of Mr. Gore's 'wake-up call.' It is common ground that if indeed Greenland melted, it would release this amount of water, but only after, and over, millennia, so that the Armageddon scenario he predicts, insofar as it suggests that sea-level rises of seven metres might occur in the immediate future, is not in line with the scientific consensus."

Untruth 2

Gore says: Low lying inhabited Pacific atolls are being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming. "That's why the citizens of these Pacific nations have all had to evacuate to New Zealand."

Judge says: "There is no evidence of any such evacuation having yet happened."

Untruth 3

Gore says: The shutting down of the "Ocean Conveyor" would lead to another ice age.

Judge says: "According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it is very unlikely that the Ocean Conveyor (an ocean current known technically as the Meridional Overturning Circulation or thermohaline circulation) will shut down in the future, though it is considered likely that thermohaline circulation may slow down."

Untruth 4

Gore says: Two graphs relating to a period of 650,000 years, one showing rise in CO2 and one showing rise in temperature, show an exact fit.

Judge says: "Although there is general scientific agreement that there is a connection, the two graphs do not establish what Mr. Gore asserts."

Untruth 5

Gore says: The disappearance of snow on Mt. Kilimanjaro is expressly attributable to global warming.

Judge says: "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."

Untruth 6

Gore says: The drying up of Lake Chad is a prime example of a catastrophic result of global warming.

Judge says: "It is generally accepted that the evidence remains insufficient to establish such an attribution."

Untruth 7

Gore says: Hurricane Katrina and the consequent devastation in New Orleans is due to global warming.

Judge says: "It is common ground that there is insufficient evidence to show that."

Untruth 8

Gore says: Polar bears have drowned swimming long distances to find ice.

Judge says: "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."

Untruth 9

Gore says: Coral reefs are bleaching because of global warming.

Judge says: "The actual scientific view, as recorded in the IPCC report, is that, if the temperature were to rise by 1-3 degrees centigrade, there would be increased coral bleaching and widespread coral mortality, unless corals could adapt or acclimatize."

Write to Allison Hanes at her public email address below.

Terence Corcoran in the National Post Writes Gore's Prize "A Coup For Junk Science"

The Nobel prize used to be awarded to outstanding people. But when it was awarded to the likes of Yassir Arafat, I knew that it was suffering dementia ..... - Editor

Terence Corcoran wrote in the National Post ....

"A Coup For Junk Science"

"Gore's 'truth' Nets Nobel Prize

Global warming theory has been in political and scientific trouble for some time, but who knew it had sunk so low it needed a boost from the Nobel Peace Prize committee?

Rescuing and rewarding the obscure and the absurd has been a Nobel sideline for some years. The award has gone to half a dozen fringe movements and futile causes (the Gameen bank, Mother Teresa, nuclear disarmament, land mine activists, peace negotiators), ineffectual United Nations agencies and personalities (including KofiAnnan and the UN itself ), occasional warmongers (Yasser Arafat), plus an international assortment of minor and woolly-headed players on the world stage (Wangari Masthai, Jimmy Carter).

Onto this heap of forgotten causes and marginalia the Nobel has just tossed Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN's official climate science group. What a blow the award must be to the IPCC, self-proclaimed home of scientific rigour, to now be lumped in with Reverend Al and his Travelling Snake Oil Road Show and Climate Terror Machine.

If history is any guide here, the IPCC is now doomed to slide into obscurity, joining the list of similarly feted UN agencies that beaver away in relative obscurity and ineffectiveness, their Nobels rotting on shelves: The International Atomic Energy Agency (2005), United Nations peacekeeping forces (1988), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (1981), the International Labour Organization (1969) and the UN Children's Fund (1965).

The first task of the IPCC now, one would think, is to craft a statement disavowing any link with Gore, whose film and book, both titled An Inconvenient Truth, deserved a Nobel for science fiction rather than peace. Not that the IPCC is squeaky clean on the science of climate accuracy. Even the Nobel committee's statement on the IPCC captured the agency's primary role as political shaper of opinion and builder of consensus. IPCC scientific reports have "created an ever-broader informed consensus" about man-made global warming. The Nobel committee said it wanted to "contribute to a sharper focus" on climate change around the world.

Due to the timing of the award, that sharper focus may end up highlighting the gross scientific inaccuracies in Gore's work, thereby making millions of people wonder about the validity of climate science -- and the Nobel -- rather than rush to join its crusading proponents.

Just hours before the Nobel announcement, Gore was busy spinning his way out of a devastating United Kingdom court case that found nine substantial science errors in the film version of An Inconvenient Truth.

The nine errors, listed on Page A19 of this newspaper, are truly major. But Gore's office, in true political form, tried to turn the science disaster into victory, claiming he was "gratified" that the U.K. court had not totally banned distribution of his film in British schools. Instead, it would have to circulate like a package of cigarettes, with a warning label: Children watch this movie at peril of being politically manipulated by Al Gore into thinking what they are watching is true.

This is fine with Gore, apparently, because the mistakes were only a "handful" amid "thousands of other facts in the film."

First of all, there are not thousands of facts in the film, except in the metaphysical sense. It is a fact that the world is presented as a globe floating in space, and a fact that Al Gore's wife looks pretty good in a sweater in the book version. But these are not the facts in dispute. The nine errors are core buttresses that support the whole hysterical narrative in the film and the book.

I don't have the film here to review, but the book is at hand, and it would have to be ripped to pieces to remove the science mistakes found by the court, whole sections removed and key narratives and innuendos thrown out as invalid. There would be nothing left.

The first theme of An Inconvenient Truth is that climate change is already devastating and that "very dramatic changes are taking place." On that page in the book, and the next three, are pictures purporting to show that the snows of Mount Kilimanjaro are disappearing. Not true, said the court.

Twenty pages later, a foldout graphic claimed to show 650,000 years of proof that carbon levels in the atmosphere cause temperatures to rise. Not true, said the court. The chart actually shows temperatures increased first, then carbon levels rose. In the film, this sequence alone consumes maybe five minutes, a clever turning point in which Gore mounts a ladder to demonstrate soaring carbon levels and make other false claims.

Pages of photos are built around Katrina and other hurricanes, which the court said cannot scientifically be pinned on global warming.

And so it goes through the book, each of the nine errors a pillar supporting hundreds of subsidiary claims that are now suspect, if not downright wrong. The untrue claim that Chad Lake, in Africa, had disappeared is used to mount an argument that global warming is leading to civil war and genocide in Africa.

The wildly exaggerated sea-level rise in the film and the book is not a small error of fact. It's the basis for a 10-page spread on how "THE MAPS OF THE WORLD WILL HAVE TO BE REDRAWN," showing Florida, Manhattan and San Francisco under water. Pages are devoted to species losses that are not happening.

The question on everybody's mind yesterday was whether the Nobel will spring Gore into the U.S. presidential race. Not a chance, I'd say. The young Al Gore pictured on in reality looks more like the John Travolta character from Hairspray. He is no JFK, as the Gore backers like to think. For more than a year he has refused to engage in any public debate over climate issues, or any issue for that matter. He's hardly ready for public exposure and scrutiny, and would get eaten alive by real opposition and challenge.

Given his science gaffes, and his political liabilities, the Nobel may be more of a liability, not just to Gore but to the entire global warming community. The prize has elevated junk science, gross exaggeration and outright misrepresentation to high international stature, the most prestigious award in the world, discrediting all who work honestly to find the facts and do the right thing."