Media ignore British judge's conclusion that An Inconvenient Truth is "substantially founded upon scientific research and fact"

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

Reporting on a recent ruling by a British judge about the documentary An Inconvenient Truth (Paramount Classics, May 2006), featuring former Vice President Al Gore, numerous media outlets -- including the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Boston Globe, CNN, and Fox News -- routinely reported that the judge found that the film contained nine "errors" without mentioning that he also stated in the ruling that the film is "substantially founded upon scientific research and fact." The judge also said he had "no doubt" that the defendant's expert was "right when he says that: 'Al Gore's presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate.' "

On the October 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed there was a "British study that said [there were] nine major flaws in Al Gore's theory." In fact, the High Court ruling was not a "study," and the ruling did not find any "major flaws in Al Gore's theory" that humans have significantly contributed to global warming. In addition to Kilmeade's claim, numerous media outlets reported that the judge found nine errors in the film but ignored the judge's finding that An Inconvenient Truth is "broadly accurate" and "substantially founded upon scientific research and fact."

For example:

  • An October 13 Boston Globe article reporting that Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize stated that "a British judge this week ruled that some assertions in the movie were untrue and alarmist," although it added that "the overwhelming majority of the scientific community has endorsed Gore's findings and urged changes to halt climate change."
  • An October 13 Los Angeles Times article reported: "In one measure of the sensitivity of the issue, a British judge this week ruled that public schools could continue to show 'An Inconvenient Truth' as long as students were alerted to nine scientific 'errors.' "
  • An October 13 Washington Times article reported that High Court Judge Michael Burton's ruling stated that An Inconvenient Truth "included nine assertions not supported by scientific consensus."
  • Three separate Washington Post articles dated October 12 and 13 asserted that Burton found nine errors that are not supported by "scientific consensus" or "scientific fact."

From an October 13 Post article headlined "Gore and U.N. Panel Share Peace Prize":

The award came two days after a British judge ruled that, while Gore's documentary makes a strong case that human activity has contributed to global warming and that there is a sense of urgency to deal with it, the movie contained nine factual errors not supported by scientific consensus.

From and October 12 Post article headlined "U.K. Judge Rules Gore's Climate Film Has 9 Errors"

High Court Judge Michael Burton, deciding a lawsuit that questioned the film's suitability for showing in British classrooms, said Wednesday that the movie builds a "powerful" case that global warming is caused by humans and that urgent means are needed to counter it.

But he also said Gore makes nine statements in the film that are not supported by current mainstream scientific consensus. Teachers, Burton concluded, could show the film but must alert students to what the judge called errors.

From an October 12 Post article headlined "Gore's Nobel Win Greeted With Cheers by Europeans":

Gore has critics as well in Europe, including a man who filed a lawsuit in Britain objecting to the film, which is being sent to 3,500 schools in England and Wales. The judge in that case ruled this week that while the basic premise of the film was correct, Gore had made nine errors of scientific fact.

  • During the 12 p.m. ET October 12 edition of Your World Today, CNN correspondent Jonathan Mann reported that "[i]ronically just before the [Nobel] prize was announced, a British judge ruled that it should come with a warning, that it promotes partisan political views, and is wrong about some of its facts."
  • On the October 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, guest host Bret Baier stated: "Earlier this week, a British judge ruled that the movie had at least nine major errors and could not be shown to students without balancing information." Later, referring to Burton's ruling, Baier uncritically reported that the New Zealand Center for Political Research "has written to the president of the group that produces the Academy Awards contending that the alleged scientific errors in the movie disqualify it for the Best Documentary Award."
  • Finally, an October 10 post by Mike Nizza on The New York Times' blog "The Lede" reported that Burton "refused" to ban An Inconvenient Truth from British secondary schools "as long as 'serious scientific inaccuracies, political propaganda and sentimental mush' were explained at screenings, Agence France-Presse reported." In fact, Burton did not say the film contained "serious scientific inaccuracies, political propaganda and sentimental mush." The AFP article to which Nizza linked attributed that quote to Stuart Dimmock, the father of two who originally brought the case to have the film banned from British secondary schools that resulted in Burton's ruling.

From the October 10 United Kingdom High Court of Justice Queen's Bench Division (Administrative Court) judgment:

The Film

17. I turn to AIT [An Inconvenient Truth], the film. The following is clear:

i) It is substantially founded upon scientific research and fact, albeit that the science is used, in the hands of a talented politician and communicator, to make a political statement and to support a political programme.

ii)

iii) As Mr [Martin] Chamberlain [counsel for the defendant] persuasively sets out at paragraph 11 of his skeleton:

iv)

"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."

[...]

iii) There are errors and omissions in the film, to which I shall refer, and respects in which the film, while purporting to set out the mainstream view (and to belittle opposing views), does in fact itself depart from that mainstream, in the sense of the "consensus" expressed in the IPCC reports

[...]

22. I have no doubt that Dr [Peter] Stott, the Defendant's expert, is right when he says that:

"Al Gore's presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate."

Mr [Paul] Downes [counsel for the claimant] does not agree with this, but to some extent this is because the views of the Claimant's expert, Professor Carter, do not accord with those of Dr Stott, and indeed are said by Dr Stott in certain respects not to accord with the IPCC report. But Mr Downes sensibly limited his submissions to concentrate on those areas where, as he submitted, even on Dr Stott's case there are errors or deviations from the mainstream by Mr Gore. Mr Downes produced a long schedule of such alleged errors or exaggerations and waxed lyrical in that regard. It was obviously helpful for me to look at the film with his critique in hand.

In the event I was persuaded that only some of them were sufficiently persuasive to be relevant for the purposes of his argument, and it was those matters -- 9 in all -- upon which I invited Mr Chamberlain to concentrate. It was essential to appreciate that the hearing before me did not relate to an analysis of the scientific questions, but to an assessment of whether the 'errors' in question, set out in the context of a political film, informed the argument on ss406 and 407. All these 9 'errors' that I now address are not put in the context of the evidence of Professor Carter and the Claimant's case, but by reference to the IPCC report and the evidence of Dr Stott.

From the October 15 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

KILMEADE: And you know the British study that said nine major flaws in Al Gore's theory. He teamed with the U.N. to get this award and one of them which the polar bears are drowning because there is no ice to grab on to. It was just a few polar bears that got caught in a storm. They are not all drowning.

From the 11 a.m. ET October 12 edition of CNN's Your World Today:

MANN: Gore traveled the United States lecturing about global warming, lectures that became the Academy Award-winning film, "An Inconvenient Truth," and spread Gore's message around the world. The British government even distributed it to every high school in the country.

Ironically just before the prize was announced, a British judge ruled that it should come with a warning, that it promotes partisan political views, and is wrong about some of its facts.

From the October 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

BAIER: And now some fresh pickings from the political grapevine. Here's a shocker. Not everyone is celebrating Al Gore' s Nobel Peace Prize for his global warming efforts. Retired climatologists Timothy Ball tells CyberCast News service that Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, is a wonderful piece of propaganda that relies on visual imagery and gimmickry. Earlier this week, a British judge ruled that the movie had at least nine major errors and could not be shown to students without balancing information. Thursday, the BBC alleged that Gore knew his movie presented false facts but was afraid any uncertainty would fuel global warming skeptics.

JunkScience.com publisher Steve Milloy says if that's true, quote, "Gore should win the Nobel Prize for propaganda." And Czech president Vaclav Klaus says he is surprised Gore would get a peace prize, noting, quote, "The relationship between his activities and world peace is unclear and indistinct." Meanwhile a conservative think tank in New Zealand wants Hollywood to strip Gore's movie of its Oscar. The West Australian newspaper reports the New Zealand Center for Political Research has written to the president of the group that produces the Academy Awards contending that the alleged scientific errors in the movie disqualify it for the Best Documentary award. The president of the group says the situation is similar to when championship athletes are found to be on steroids or other drugs and their victories and medals are nullified.

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