Published October 11, 2007
LONDON – A High Court judge in London has turned film critic, highlighting "nine scientific errors" in Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. The judge said some of the errors had arisen in "the context of alarmism and exaggeration" to support the former US vice-president's thesis on global warming.
The Government's decision to show the film in secondary schools had come under attack from father-of-two Stewart Dimmock, a Kent school governor and a member of political group The New Party, who accused the Government of "brainwashing" children with propaganda.
Justice Burton ruled at London's High Court that the film, much acclaimed by environmentalists, could be shown in schools as part of a climate change resource pack, but only if it was accompanied by new guidance notes to balance Gore's "one-sided" views.
The judge set out nine alleged errors in the film in which statements were made that were not supported by the current mainstream scientific consensus.
ERROR: Gore asserted that a sea-level rise of up to 20 feet would be caused by melting of either West Antarctica or Greenland "in the near future". The judge said: "This is distinctly alarmist and part of Gore's "wake-up call". It was common ground that if Greenland melted it would release this amount of water - "but only after, and over, millennia." The judge added 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."
ERROR: The film had also asserted that low-lying inhabited Pacific atolls "are being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming" - but there was no evidence of any evacuation having yet happened.
ERROR: The documentary had also spoken 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 (IPCC), it was "very unlikely" that the Ocean Conveyor, also known as the Meridional Overturning Circulation, would shut down in the future, though it might slow down.
ERROR: Gore had also asserted - 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 that, although there was general scientific agreement that there was a connection, "the two graphs do not establish what Mr Gore asserts".
ERROR: Gore had asserted that the disappearance of snow on Mt Kilimanjaro was expressly attributable to global warming. The judge said this had "specifically impressed" the Environment Secretary David Miliband. But the scientific consensus was that it cannot be established that the recession of snows on Mt Kilimanjaro is mainly attributable to human-induced climate change.
ERROR: The drying up of Lake Chad was used in the film as a prime example of a catastrophic result of global warming, said the judge. "However, it is generally accepted that the evidence remains insufficient to establish such an attribution. "It is apparently considered to be far more likely to result from other factors, such as population increase and over-grazing, and regional climate variability."
ERROR: Gore ascribes Hurricane Katrina and the consequent devastation in New Orleans to global warming, but there was "insufficient evidence to show that."
ERROR: Gore had also referred to a new scientific study showing that, for the first time, polar bears were being found that had actually drowned "swimming long distances - up to 60 miles - 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."
That was not to say there might not in future be drowning-related deaths of bears if the trend of regression of pack ice continued - "but it plainly does not support Mr Gore's description."
ERROR: Gore said in the film that coral reefs all over the world were bleaching because of global warming and other factors. Separating the impacts of stresses due to climate change from other stresses, such as over-fishing, and pollution was difficult.
The UK Press Association contributed to this story.