Former US vice president Al Gore delivers a speech before a screening of the film he helped make of his best-selling global warming book An Inconvenient Truth in Cannes, southern France.
While Al Gore supporters everywhere were thrilled with his win of the Nobel Peace Prize last week, a British judge stole some of Gore's thunder with his finding that Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, is laced with inaccuracies.
Justice Michael Burton had been asked by school governor and father of two, Stuart Dimmock, to rule on whether showing Gore's Oscar-winning movie about global warming in British schools constituted education or indoctrination.
Burton said that while the points raised in the documentary are broadly accurate, they are made in "the context of alarmism and exaggeration," and the science in the film is used "in the hands of a talented politician and communicator, to make a political statement and to support a political program."
While Burton stopped short of banning the movie from classrooms, he said that written guidance to teachers must accompany screenings to ensure that Gore's views are not being promoted uncritically.
Meanwhile, the movie continues to be shown in many Canadian high schools, prompting complaints from some parents and school officials who are concerned that students are getting only one side of the "global warming is man-made" debate.
This is why Mike Chernoff, a Vancouver businessman, offered free copies of The Great Global Warming Swindle to B.C. schools following an announcement last April by the Tides Charitable Foundation that it was giving free copies of Gore's movie to every B.C. high school.
The Great Global Warming Swindle is a controversial British documentary that argues against and attempts to disprove the widely-held theory that global warming is due to carbon emissions caused by human activity.
Last June, the Surrey, B.C., school board passed a motion that a documentary with an opposing viewpoint, such as the The Great Global Warming Swindle, be screened for students along with An Inconvenient Truth.
Surrey school trustee Heather Stilwell says that when she proposed the motion she was met with a strong reaction and "very ugly" vitriol.
"I was called a right-wing fundamentalist [George] Bush lover. All I wanted was to bring balance to the classroom."
Victoria climatologist Dr. Tim Ball, who has been arguing against man-made global warming for 30 years, found that he too was on the receiving end of much derision when he began publicly airing his view that the climate changes all the time and global warming isn't man-made.
He says he has received death threats, in fact, and that he and other scientists with the same view have been labeled "deniers" by environmentalists.
"Initially we were called skeptics, and I can live with that because all scientists should be skeptics, but what's nasty about being called a 'denier' is the holocaust connotation," says Ball, who argues that Gore's movie "would fail as a Grade 10 students' project."
He says focusing on CO2 as the great culprit is wrong because human-produced carbon dioxide is only a very small fraction of the whole climate mechanism and doesn't drive climate change. In addition, the climate has always fluctuated between warm and cool periods.
"In the first part of the 19th century, from 1920 to 1940, the temperature rose more than it did from 1980 to now, yet human CO2 was virtually non-existent prior to the war. Then post-war, when we started to produce huge amounts of CO2, the temperature actually went down."
Judge Burton found nine scientific errors in Gore's movie, including the "distinctly alarmist" claim that sea level rises of seven metres could occur in the near future.
He also said there was insufficient evidence to back Gore's assertions that such events as Hurricane Katrina, species losses, and melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro are a result of global warming.
But Dale Marshall, policy analyst with the Suzuki Foundation, is of the opinion that the judge is wrong on all counts except the one concerning rising sea levels, and that the movie itself "does largely reflect the science."
He also points out that the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), co-winner of the Nobel with Gore, as well as numerous national academies of science, has concluded that climate change is happening because of human activity.
"You have to look at the weight of evidence," says Marshall. "The scientists who say that climate change is not driven by carbon dioxide are in the tiniest of minorities compared to the scientific community as a whole."
While the nature of science is all about continually questioning, searching and discovering, the so-called skeptics complain the anti-climate-change movement has become a powerful, well-funded lobby which insists that the man-made global warming question is settled and isn't up for debate.
But debate is what Calgary-based Friends of Science is pushing for. As far as FOS is concerned—and scientists in The Great Global Warming Swindle take the same position—the Sun is the main direct and indirect driver of climate change.
Composed of group of climate scientists from around the world, FOS says it sees an "abuse of science" in the Kyoto Protocol. According to FOS, the seemingly exclusive focus on global warming has distracted attention from reducing air and water pollution.
In a bulletin Tuesday, FOS said awarding the Nobel to Gore and the IPCC has done "inconceivable damage" to the scientific discourse around the subject of climate change.
Director John Leeson says FOS has ongoing concerns with what he calls the manipulation of scientific data in the IPCC process.
"I'm not talking about the large number of scientists who contribute their research. What we object to, and what has been demonstrated, is the process with which the bureaucrats at the summit of the process selectively use information to bolster up or support what they've already decided," says Leeson.
The Great Global Warming Swindle tells of a letter published in the Wall Street Journal in which former president of the U.S. Academy of Sciences, Professor Frederick Seitz, states that IPCC officials censored the comments of scientists and deleted 15 key sections of chapter eight, the science chapter.
One of the deleted comments read: "No study to date has positively attributed all or part [of the climate change observed to date] to anthropogenic [man-made] causes."
In reply, the IPCC said the changes had been made in response to comments from governments, individual scientists, and NGOs.
Bell says the "climate change hysteria" gripping the world is a result of "the political exploitation of science and the hidden motives of environmental extremists." Environmentalism, he says, has become a religion, and is based more on belief than on hard science.
"Darwin was an atheist, and he got rid of God. I'm not here to argue for or against God, but once you've got rid of God you've got a vacuum. Environmentalism as a religion pre-dates Christianity and goes back to the primitive ideas of animism—worshiping nature, living in fear of nature."
In November 2006, 60 renowned scientists from around the world wrote an open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper requesting a rational examination of the science of global warming. There was no response.
Leeson says there's a strong move afoot by economists and scientists in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand to involve a separate agency so that the IPCC doesn't have the monopoly on the information the public receives regarding climate change.
He wants the same thing for Canada. With the billions being pumped into lowering CO2 emissions, he believes there should be more than one body investigating and providing information.
"The debate on climate change is not over. We will continue to push to make sure it comes in front of the public as much as we can."
Meanwhile, a website called Junkscience.com is offering $125,000 to anyone who can prove that climate change is being caused by human activity. So far there have been no takers.
Gore's movie: Sea levels could rise by up to seven metres, caused by the melting of either West Antarctica or Greenland in the near future.
Finding: This could only happen over millennia and is not in line with the scientific consensus.
Gore's movie: Rising sea levels because of man-made global warming have caused the evacuation of some Pacific islanders to New Zealand.
Finding: There is no evidence of any such evacuation having happened.
Gore's movie: Global warming could stop the Gulf Stream, triggering an ice age in Europe.
Finding: This is a scientific impossibility.
Gore's movie: The disappearance of snow on Mount Kilimanjaro is evidence of global warming.
Finding: The government's expert witness conceded this was not correct.
Gore's movie: Global warming was the cause of Hurricane Katrina.
Finding: There is insufficient evidence to show this.
Gore's movie: Global warming is causing Africa's Lake Chad to dry up.
Finding: The Government's expert conceded that this is not the case.
Gore's movie: Polar bears have drowned because of disappearing Arctic ice.
Finding: Only four polar bears drowned, and it was due to a storm.
Gore's movie: Species losses, including coral reef bleaching, are the result of global warming.
Finding: There is insufficient evidence to support this claim.
Gore's movie: Ice core samples prove that rising levels of CO2 have caused temperature increases over a period of 650,000 years.
Finding: The two graphs Gore uses to prove this do not establish what he claims.