By Sally Peck 12:01AM BST 11 Oct 2007
Al Gore's environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth contains nine key scientific errors, a High Court judge ruled yesterday.
The judge declined to ban the Academy Award-winning film from British schools, but ruled that it can only be shown with guidance notes to prevent political indoctrination.
In the documentary, directed by Davis Guggenheim, the former US vice president and environmental activist calls on people to fight global warming because "humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb".
But Judge Michael Burton ruled yesterday that errors had arisen "in the context of alarmism and exaggeration" in order to support Mr Gore's thesis on global warming.
His criticism followed an unsuccessful attempt by Stewart Dimmock, a Kent school governor, to block the Government's plan to screen the documentary in more than 3,500 secondary schools in England and Wales.
- Al Gore: Climate deal 'soon' 14 Mar 2009 The father of two claimed An Inconvenient Truth included "serious scientific inaccuracies, political propaganda and sentimental mush".
The film's distributor, Paramount, warns in its synopsis of the film: "If the vast majority of the world's scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced."
But the judge ruled that the "apocalyptic vision" presented in the film was politically partisan and thus not an impartial scientific analysis of climate change.
It is, he ruled, a "political film".
The nine alleged errors in the film
- Mr Gore claims 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 Mr Gore's "wake-up call". He agreed that if Greenland melted it would release this amount of water - "but only after, and over, millennia"."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."
- The film claims that low-lying inhabited Pacific atolls "are being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming" but the judge ruled there was no evidence of any evacuation having yet happened.
- The documentary speaks of global warming "shutting down the Ocean Conveyor" - the process by which the Gulf Stream is carried over the North Atlantic to western Europe. Citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the judge said that 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.
- Mr Gore claims 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".
- Mr Gore says the disappearance of snow on Mt Kilimanjaro was directly attributable to global warming, but the judge ruled that it scientists have not established that the recession of snow on Mt Kilimanjaro is primarily attributable to human-induced climate change.
- The film contends that the drying up of Lake Chad is a prime example of a catastrophic result of global warming but the judge said there was insufficient evidence, and that "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."
- Mr Gore blames Hurricane Katrina and the consequent devastation in New Orleans on global warming, but the judge ruled there was "insufficient evidence to show that".
- Mr Gore cites a scientific study that shows, for the first time, that polar bears were being found after drowning from "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".
- Mr Gore said that coral reefs all over the world were being bleached because of global warming and other factors. Again citing the IPCC, the judge agreed that, if temperatures were to rise by 1-3 degrees centigrade, there would be increased coral bleaching and mortality, unless the coral could adapt. However, he ruled that separating the impacts of stresses due to climate change from other stresses, such as over-fishing, and pollution was difficult.