Al Gore’s inconvenient errors
Published: 31 October 2007 (GMT+10)
A British High Court Judge, on October 10, 2007, ruled that former US Vice-President Al Gore’s documentary film An Inconvenient Truth on the alleged dangers of climate change/global warming was littered with no less than eleven inconvenient scientific errors.1 The controversial film is based on an illustrated public lecture that Al Gore has given many times in the US and elsewhere. So far the film has earned $49 million at the box office worldwide, and been the fourth-highest-grossing documentary, to date, in the USA.2
Mr Justice Burton was ruling on a lawsuit brought by Kent school governor Stewart Dimmock, a father of two children, to ban the film from secondary schools on the grounds that it contained ‘serious scientific inaccuracies, political propaganda and sentimental mush’3 and was brainwashing children.4 This followed the announcement of the plans of the British Government, Welsh Assembly Government and Scottish Assembly, earlier this year, to have the film shown in every secondary school in England, Wales and Scotland.
The learned judge said that it was ‘a political film’ and that some of the claims had arisen in ‘the context of alarmism and exaggeration.’4 Although he agreed with much of the film, he also noted that there was ‘a view to the contrary’, and he found that screening the film in British secondary schools violated laws which barred the promotion of partisan political views in the classroom.
The judge awarded Mr Dimmock two-thirds of his estimated legal costs of more than £200,000 against the Government.5
BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin said that the controversy could encourage the public to think there was scientific doubt about the facts of climate change.5 Other reaction has been mixed. ‘Frosty Haardison, a computer consultant and evangelical Christian, was outraged when he learned that the film would be shown in his daughter’s seventh-grade science class.’ However, ‘Other parents in the community were just as outraged—that the school board would even consider banning the film.’1
Academy Award and Nobel Peace Prize
Despite the many scientific errors, the film was awarded the 2006 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature (as well as an Oscar for Best Original Song!). A ‘think tank’ wrote to the President of the Academy Awards, asking that the Award be taken back in response to the British High Court findings. Muriel Newman, director of the New Zealand Centre for Political Research, said, ‘Good documentaries should be factually correct. Clearly this documentary is not’, and that ‘the situation is not unlike that confronting sports bodies when their sports stars are found to be drug cheats’.3
Al Gore was announced as co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his global warming campaign, a decision that has been criticised by sceptics of mankind’s contribution to global warming. Controversy is nothing new to the Nobel Foundation and its various Prize committees. (See Denied the Prize and Super scientist slams society’s spiritual sickness.)
Ruling of the Court
The judge ruled that An Inconvenient Truth could be shown, on condition that it was accompanied by guidance notes to balance Gore’s ‘one-sided’ views, saying that the film was not an impartial analysis of climate change. In particular, the Guidance Notes to Teachers must make clear that:3
The film is a political work and promotes only one side of the argument.
If teachers present the film without making this plain they may be in breach of section 406 of the Education Act 1996 and guilty of political indoctrination.
Eleven inaccuracies have to be specifically drawn to the attention of school children.
The scientific errors
The scientific errors, according to the court, are:3
- The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro are evidence of global warming. The Government’s expert defending the film was forced to concede that this is not correct.
- The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 causes temperature increases over a period of 650,000 years.6 The court found that the film was misleading and that the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature increases by 800–2,000 years.
- The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina (above) and suggests that this has been caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that it was ‘not possible’ to attribute one-off events to global warming.
- The film shows the drying up of Lake Chad (right) and claims that this was caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that this was not the case.
- The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing arctic ice. It turned out that Mr Gore had misread the study: In fact four polar bears drowned, and this was because of a particularly violent storm.
- The film threatens that global warming could stop the Gulf Stream, throwing Europe into an ice age. The Claimant’s evidence was that this was a scientific impossibility.
- The film blames global warming for species losses including coral-reef bleaching. The Government could not produce any evidence to support this claim.
- The film suggests that the Greenland ice covering could melt, causing sea levels to rise dangerously. The evidence is that Greenland will not melt for millennia.
- The film suggests that the Antarctic ice covering is melting. The evidence is that it is in fact increasing.
- The film suggests that sea levels could rise by seven metres, causing the displacement of millions of people. In fact, the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40 centimetres over the next hundred years and that there is no threat of massive migration.
- The film claims that rising sea levels have caused the evacuation of residents of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand. The Government was unable to substantiate this and the Court observed that this appears to be a false claim.
Relevance to creation/evolution
The purpose of this web article is not to take sides or promote any position in the global warming debate, as we do not regard this as part of our mandate (see our articles Global warming: what is the creationist view? and The ‘Great Global Warming Swindle’ Debate. On the progressive drying out of the continents since the Flood, see Life and Location.) What we would like to do is to point out some similarities and dissimilarities between this situation and that of the mandatory teaching of evolution in schools (not only in the UK, but in most Western countries).
For example, in most countries, the school science syllabuses assume that evolution is true and require that it be taught. This, despite the fact that there is a huge body of evidence that shows that much of the ‘science’ taught in support of evolution theory is misleading and incorrect—some even fraudulent!
There is most certainly ‘a view to the contrary’ about the theory of evolution, but this is not normally taken into account by those in authority. Why not? Perhaps (to paraphrase BBC analyst Roger Harrabin’s comments about climate change), this could encourage the public to think there were scientific doubts about the facts of evolution!
If ‘partisan political views’ are banned from the classroom, why not the partisan atheistic view at the basis of all evolutionary dogma?
No doubt there would be some parents (and others) who would be outraged if facts contrary to evolution were taught, but what about those parents who are outraged because the facts contrary to evolution are not taught? (See Storm over successful school and Doing something right.)
What about some guidance notes for teachers—to balance the present one-sided teaching about origins—to say that evolution as taught is not an impartial analysis of the evidence, and that it promotes only one side of the argument?
Unlike what happened with Al Gore’s film, when attempts are made by Christians to be allowed to even mention the errors in evolution theory, this right of fairness is generally denied. Nevertheless, I’m aware that some parts of science syllabuses in some Western countries are actually slightly ‘creation friendly’. Although they require the teaching of evolution as fact they do allow for the presentation of contrary material should the teacher wish to do so. (See Evaluating an evolutionary science curriculum.) So why not universally?
- Some news sources have mentioned nine errors, but according to the ABC News, ‘Some of the media articles squeezed three of these errors into one.’ See Baram, M., ABC News, 12 October 2007, http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=3719791&page=1, 23 October 2007. Return to Text.
- An Inconvenient Truth, from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Inconvenient_Truth, 23 October 2007. Return to Text.
- Think Tank: Withdraw Gore film’s Oscar, WorldNetDaily, 12 October 2007, http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=58111, 22 October 2007. Return to Text.
- Smith, L. Al Gore’s inconvenient judgment, TimesOnLine,
Oct. 11, 2007. http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol
/business/law/corporate_law/article2633838.ece, 22 October 2007. Return to Text.
- Gore climate film’s nine ‘errors’, BBC News, 11 October 2007, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7037671.stm, 23 October 2007. Return to Text.
- Creationists do not accept dates of 650,000 years. See: Do Greenland ice cores show over one hundred thousand years of annual layers? Return to Text.