UK Judge rules Gore’s Inconvenient Truth is accurate except for minor details

UPDATE: The original headline of “Judge rules Gore’s Inconvenient Truth requires guidance notes to be shown in UK schools” has been updated to more accurately reflect the outcome of this case.

A High Court judge who ruled on whether climate change film, An Inconvenient Truth, could be shown in schools said it contains “nine scientific errors”.

Mr Justice Burton said the government could still send the film to schools – if accompanied by guidance giving the other side of the argument.

There are plenty of distortions of facts that are taught in schools. Most science topics are sufficiently dumbed down so that students can comprehend them; many intricacies get lost in the process, and some facts become oversimplified to the point of no longer being accurate. An Inconvenient Truth is no exception.

That being the case, there is an overwhelming agreement in the scientific community that the general point being made in the film is accurate. Humans are causing climate change, by emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. All attempts to publish legitimate papers debunking global warming fail to make it through the peer-review process, because of this.

The fact that it has been held up to such scrutiny, and the fact that every inaccuracy (no matter how insignificant) has been clamoured over and claimed as proof that climate change is not happening (or it’s not our fault) shows how pointlessly politicized and irrational this debate has become.

The point is, that there are some factual inaccuracies here and there in the movie, but no more than there are in many other materials deemed appropriate for schools.

This is all a political scheme by the few remaining climate change deniers, it has nothing to do with the true validity of all claims made in the movie.

The real question that remains in my mind is what the schools will show as the ‘other side of the argument’? Will they show the wildly inaccurate Great Global Warming Swindle? Or will they take the rational approach and stick to simply pointing out that, while An Inconvenient Truth has some errors, climate change is still a scientific consensus and the main points in the movie were correct.

UPDATE: Al Gore has just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his “efforts to build up and disseminate knowledge about man-made climate change”. So it seems the Nobel Prize committee thought the errors in Gore’s movie were insignificant, and that he got the message basically right. Congratulations!

UPDATE 2: I may have been a little harsh on the judge in this case. It turns out that the judge correctly realized that the main messages in An Incontinent Truth are mostly correct, and that the errors found in the film are not significant.

The Film advances four main scientific hypotheses, each of which is very well supported by research published in respected, peer-reviewed journals and accords with the latest conclusions of the IPCC:

  1. global average temperatures have been rising significantly over the past half century and are likely to continue to rise (“climate change”);
  2. climate change is mainly attributable to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide (“greenhouse gases”);
  3. climate change will, if unchecked, have significant adverse effects on the world and its populations; and
  4. there are measures which individuals and governments can take which will help to reduce climate change or mitigate its effects.”

These propositions… are supported by a vast quantity of research published in peer-reviewed journals worldwide and by the great majority of the world’s Climate scientists.

-Page 8 of the judge’s ruling

Hardly the damnation of the movie that some are claiming. The post headline has been updated, to properly reflect the the outcome of this case.

UPDATE 3: Tim Lambert has a good write up on what the judge meant when he said ‘error’

There were nine points where Burton decided that AIT differed from the IPCC and that this should be addressed in the Guidance Notes for teachers to be sent out with the movie…

So what is Burton assessing in his judgement? Well, s407 says that where political issues are involved there should be “a balanced presentation of opposing views” so Burton states that the government should make it clear when “there is a view to the contrary, i.e. (at least) the mainstream view”. Burton calls these “errors or departures from the mainstream”.

So contrary to all the reporters’ claims Burton did not find that there were 9 scientific errors in AIT, but that there were nine points that might be errors or where differing views should be presented for balance.

So whenever gore overstated something as compared with the the extremely conservative IPCC, the judge called it an “error”. Of course you wouldn’t know that by reading the press this has generated. Tim also gives a nice over view of the 9 ‘errors’.

UPDATE 4: Real Climate, and New Scientist both have detailed analysis of each of the 9 ‘errors’.

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