Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rightist Contrarian Lands Weak Punch On Hollywood Environmentalism

A High Court Judge has criticised 9 “errors” in Al Gore’s glossy climate change film, An Inconvenient Truth. The case was brought by a parent and school governor.

Stewart Dimmock is a rightist contrarian member of the political vanity project party of “Scottish Multi millionaire businessman Robert Durward” (Wikipedia), The New Party, (which unfortunately shares its’ name with the Party formed in the 1930s by war-time British fascist leader Oswald Mosley). As Dimmock is described as a lorry driver, one wonders who paid his legal costs, especially as the party he belongs to has allegedly (Wikipedia) been notorious for offering free membership and sloshing the largesse of its’ founder around.



Wikipedia on The New Party here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_Party_%28UK%29



Unfortunately for Dimmock (who comes across in the media as an archetypal nerdy-small-rightist-party-member) he did not get the film banned either in schools or elsewhere – and the Judge merely stated that balancing material explaining Gore’s errors accompany any showings in Secondary Schools. Furthermore, Mr Justice Barton said that the four main arguments of the film regarding man-made global warming and the necessity of doing something about it were correct and matched the best available scientific analysis.

More coverage on the case here - http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/oct/11/climatechange

And here - http://education.guardian.co.uk/schools/story/0,,2188015,00.html

Mr Justice Barton did say that the film was “broadly accurate” insofar as it reflected current scientific understanding of the real nature of anthropogenic global warming, but pointed out what he saw as 9 errors or misleading arguments :



· The film claimed that low-lying inhabited Pacific atolls "are being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming" - but there was no evidence of any evacuation occurring

· It spoke of global warming "shutting down the ocean conveyor" - the process by which the gulf stream is carried over the north Atlantic to western Europe. The judge said that, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it was "very unlikely" that the conveyor would shut down in the future, though it might slow down

· Mr Gore had also claimed - by ridiculing the opposite view - 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 although scientists agreed there was a connection, "the two graphs do not establish what Mr Gore asserts"

· Mr Gore said the disappearance of snow on Mt Kilimanjaro was expressly attributable to human-induced climate change. The judge said the consensus was that that could not be established

· The drying up of Lake Chad was used as an example of global warming. The judge said: "It is apparently considered to be more likely to result from ... population increase, over-grazing and regional climate variability"

· Mr Gore ascribed Hurricane Katrina to global warming, but there was "insufficient evidence to show that"

· Mr Gore also referred to a study showing that polar bears were being found that had drowned "swimming long distances 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"

· The film said that coral reefs all over the world were bleaching because of global warming and other factors. The judge said separating the impacts of stresses due to climate change from other stresses, such as over-fishing, and pollution, was difficult


Of these, the first is a surprise to me, the second point is widely acknowledged, though it is not clear from my memory of the film that the film presents this as something that will happen rather than something that might. The third is a technical point, and presumably Gore would excuse himself on the basis of making his point forcefully. The fourth point is again interestingly phrased - the Judge does not say the disappearance of snow on Kilimanjaro is not due to AGW, only that it cannot be proven. The fifth point, if correct, is fair enough and Gore should have done his research better if that is the case. The Hurricane Katrina case is again a fair enough criticism and was one point that made me uneasy about the film, especially as the hurricane image has been used in all the promotional material for it. The swimming polar bears thing is interesting - so where did this story come from then? Is it an urban myth? It is far more widespread a belief than one held by Gore. I remain to be convinced either way on that one. Again the final error appears to be somewhat hair splitting "global warming may cause some damage to coral reefs but we can't say how much". However, I am no expert on these issues and leave further commentary to those who are!

Nevertheless, one wonders whether environmental organisations like Friends of The Earth were wise to use the film quite so widely as a campaigning tool, without doing their own commentary - Roger Higman was left looking very uncomfortable under a barrage from Paxman on Newsnight.

The lesson is perhaps not to rely too much on liberal capitalist benefactors and glossy Hollywood marketing. A real movement to combat Climate Change (and indeed all the other environmental threats and social injustices) will be a mass movement with power at the base, not a celeb crusade. It will be a movement that threatens the privileges of the likes of Al Gore and co as much as it does the position of Robert Durward. We can leave political vanity projects and corporate slush to the likes of The New Party.

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1 Comments:

At 6:38 pm, Anonymous WorldbyStom said...

I hadn't realised that this "New Party" was behind the case, and the media were quite quiet about it. Very strange. That's great background information on the case.

For my money it was a strange judgement and unfortunate timing (heh-heh) considering it was the week of the Nobel Prize...

 

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