Response to British High Court decision on An Inconvenient Truth

Written by  //  October 15, 2007  //  Climate Change, Public Policy, Science & Technology  //  Comments Off on Response to British High Court decision on An Inconvenient Truth

From: “Shelley L. Kath”
TO: Anyone interested in what the British High Court decision REALLY says….

RealClimate response
From BBC news: “UK Scientists Defend Gore Film
The Guardian “Revealed: the man behind the attack on the Gore film

On Oct. 10, 2007 by Mr. Justice Burton, ruling for the British High Court, rendered a decision on whether or not the film, An Inconvenient Truth, could be shown by British teachers in the public schools. The Defendant is the British Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families. The plaintiff is a disgruntled parent who vehemently opposed the showing of the film in the public schools.
It is important to know that this court decision is being grossly distorted by the naysayer set (big surprise), who are trying to draw attention toward the “nine errors” the Judge claims are made in the film and away from the principal finding of the court: that the film may be shown in the public schools, so long as certain qualifications on several details are made in the “Guidance Notes” that are provided to teachers showing the film.

Here is the key conclusion of the Court, in Justice Burton’s own words:
“The Defendant will not be promoting partisan political views by enabling the showing of AIT in the context of the discussions facilitated by the Guidance Note, and is not under a duty to forbid the presentation of it in that context.” (from paragraph 44 of the judgment)
The key conclusion and result of the judgment is simply that the Guidance Note provided to the teachers must be revised to be provide a more restrained picture of the details on certain points. “Revise the guidance note”….hmmm…not exactly a wholesale rejection of either the film or global warming.
In fact, elsewhere in the judgment (para. 17), the Judge accepts that the following propositions, put forth by the defendant about film’s content, are — in the Court’s words — “supported by a vast quantity of research published in peer-reviewed journals worldwide and by the great majority of the world’s climate scientists.”
(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.”

Unfortunately, in the text leading up to that conclusion, the Judge lays out what he considers to be nine errors in the film, and it is these “errors” that form the basis for his conclusion that the Guidance Note must be revised. With all due respect to the High Court, Judge Burton is not correct at all in his own characterization of certain facts:
Here is one blatant example about “Error #2”, which is fast and simple:
THE JUDGE: In para. 26, Justice Burton states: “In scene 20, Mr. Gore states ‘that’s why the citizens of these Pacific nations have all had to evacuate to New Zealand.” There is no evidence of any such evacuation having yet happened.”
THE FACTS: Well, maybe they didn’t go to New Zealand, but the fact is that MANY residents HAVE evacuted some of these atolls, and while alternative explanations can sometimes be advanced for these migrations (e.g. economic reasons), the fact that remains that in places such as Tuvalu, there is already evidence of sea-level rise.
Here’s the IPCC: “……there has been internal migration from the Cartaret Islands in Papua New Guinea to Bougainville, and from the outer islands of Tuvalu to the capital Funafuti (Connell, 1999), the former as a consequence of inundation from high water levels and storms, the latter primarily in search of wage employment. In the case of Tuvalu, this internal migration has brought almost half of the national population to Funafuti atoll, with negative environmental consequences, and the Government has indicated that there is also visual evidence of sea-level rise through increased erosion, flooding and salinisation (Connell, 2003).
(Source: Fourth Assessment Report, 2007, Report of Working Group II, p. 708).


1) New Scientist responds to the Judge’s claim about 9 errors in the film. This is good because it quotes Judge Burton and responds to each point:
2) Wired Magazine also has a 3-part article responding to the Judge’s complaints about the film:
The text of the decision:
Start at paragraph 18 of the judgment, which discusses the film and the nine “errors”.

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