Inconventient Truth court case forces teachers to highlight film’s inaccuracies and biases

Lawrence Solomon
National Post
October 11, 2007

Should children become tools of propagandists, their schools able to serve as indoctrination centres that teach students to parrot the views of the powers-that-be rather than think for themselves?

In the UK, where school standards are arguably more stringent than in North America and such abuses proscribed by law, one determined parent took the education system to task over Al Gore’s climate change film, An Inconvenient Truth, which was widely distributed through the schools. Last week, the verdict came in. In an interim decision, the British High Court ruled that such partisan works cannot be presented in schools without identifying them for what they are. Teachers who mislead their pupils into thinking that Gore’s film accurately represents the science of global warming are in violation of the “Political indoctrination” section of the country’s Education Act of 1996, which explicitly requires that “The local education authority, governing body and head teacher shall forbid … the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school.”

The UK school system is not alone in distributing An Inconvenient Truth widely. In Canada, Australia, Spain and many parts of the U.S., this film has been formally and informally incorporated into school curricula by teachers and school administrators intent on fostering the conventional wisdom on global warming. In the U.K., the Labour government’s push to promote a political global warming agenda came from two government ministries, the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs, which distributed Gore’s film to all 3,385 secondary schools in England.

As the government’s education secretary stated in a February press release announcing the distribution, “influencing the opinions of children is crucial to developing a long-term view on the environment among the public. Children are the key to changing society’s long-term attitudes to the environment. Not only are they passionate about saving the planet but children also have a big influence over their own families’ lifestyles and behaviour.” The environment minister, meanwhile, discouraged any questioning by young minds: “The debate over the science of climate change is well and truly over, as demonstrated by the publication of the report by the IPCC [the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change],” he stated.

Such explicit government admissions of an intent to indoctrinate children with material that they were encouraged to unquestioningly accept, and to exploit children to in turn sway their families, doubtless influenced the High Court judge in making his determination. To limit further damage to children during the time required to formally write his decision, he instructed the government to mend its ways at once.

For the film to be lawfully shown in school, the court ruled, government must issue Guidance Notes to Teachers that describe the film as a political work that promotes only one side of the argument. The court further ruled that the government must advise teachers who present the film without making its political nature plain that they may be in breach of section 406 of the Education Act and guilty of political indoctrination. Eleven inaccuracies needed to be specifically drawn to the attention of school children.

The 11 inaccuracies that the court found are not quibbles. They represent the film’s most spectacular claims about the dangers of global warming, and form the very basis of the film. Were the film to be edited to have these inaccuracies removed, in fact, vanishingly little would be left.

  1. The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro demonstrate global warming. The government’s expert was forced to concede that this is not correct.
  2. The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 caused temperature increases over 650,000 years. The court found that the film was misleading: Over that period, the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature rises by 800-2000 years.
  3. The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina, which it suggests was caused by global warming. The government’s expert had to accept that it was “not possible” to attribute one-off events to global warming.
  4. The film attributes the drying up of Lake Chad to global warming. The government’s expert had to accept that this was not the case.
  5. The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing Arctic ice. It turned out that Gore had misread the study: In fact, four polar bears drowned because of a particularly violent storm.
  6. 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.
  7. The film blames global warming for species losses, including coral reef bleaching. The government could not find any evidence to support this claim.
  8. 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.
  9. The film suggests that the Antarctic ice covering is melting. The evidence was that it is in fact increasing.
  10. 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 40cm over the next hundred years, and that there is no such threat of massive migration.
  11. The film claims that rising sea levels have caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand. The government was unable to substantiate this claim and the court observed that this appears to be a false claim.

The judge’s final decision is expected within the week. It promises to change how and what students are taught, and to empower teachers and students alike who choose to think for themselves. In classrooms in Canada and elsewhere around the world, meantime, our children are not empowered to question the conventional wisdom on climate change, and teachers continue to show An Inconvenient Truth without any guidance to the children in their charge.


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