SENSibility 4: Gore’s Film has Nine Errors (But Students can Still Watch It)

A British High Court judge has ruled that Al Gore’s climate film, An Inconvenient Truth, contains nine “scientific errors.” According to Justice Burton, the nine “errors” were statements made in the film that are not supported by mainstream scientific consensus. Among the errors are the assertions about the extent of sea-level rise, the disappearance of snow on Mount Kilimanjaro, and drowning polar bears, among others.

If you have not been following this story, here’s a little background. The decision was the result of a court case brought to the British legal system when a Kent school governor tried to ban the film from secondary schools in Kent. An Inconvenient Truth was sent by the Department for Children, Schools and Families to all secondary schools in England as a teaching tool (the film has been distributed for the same purpose in Wales and Scotland as well). The school governor in Kent, one Stewart Dimmock, argued that the film was a “shockumentary” that attempted to “indoctrinate” students. Justice Burton has ruled that the film, despite its errors, can be shown in schools but must be accompanied by information for teachers and students identifying which parts of the film are based on mainstream scientific consensus and which parts are, well, not.

The inconvenient truth about An Inconvenient Truth is that the film is political, and does contain debatable or contested content. That is not especially controversial. The film is a response to years of efforts by some industries and their allies to cast doubt on the climate change thesis. In essence, the film uses some of the same tactics employed by the naysayers. What is convenient is that Justice Burton’s decision is being used to cast doubt on the whole idea of human-induced climate change, something that is a matter of mainstream scientific consensus. Watch how this decision becomes part of the anti-Gore campaign that is already in full swing, even though the basic theme of the film – human induced climate change is real and happening – has not been challenged by the decision. Also watch for how the judge’s decision is challenged as well: some of the assertions made by Justice Burton have already been criticized for being based on outdated science.  And so, this episode will become yet another skirmish in the “debate” about the fundamentals of climate change, when in fact there is no debate on the fundamentals at all.

Oh, and Stewart Dimmock? He is a member of something called the “New Party” which according to the BBC is funded by an anonymous businessman with a dislike for environmentalists and drunk driving laws.

Related Topics