An Inconvenient Verdict for Al Gore

Win some, lose some? U.K. court cites errors in "An Inconvenient Truth."

ByABC News
February 12, 2009, 2:46 PM

Oct. 12, 2007 — -- The verdict couldn't have come at a less convenient time for Al Gore.

One day before Friday's announcement that he was a co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, a British High Court judge ruled that Gore's global warming film, "An Inconvenient Truth," while "broadly accurate," contained nine significant errors.

The ruling came on a challenge from a UK school official who did not want to show the film to students. High Court Judge Michael Burton said that the film is "substantially founded upon scientific research and fact" but that the errors were made in "the context of alarmism and exaggeration."

Burton found that screening the film in British secondary schools violated laws barring the promotion of partisan political views in the classroom. But he allowed the film to be shown on the condition that it is accompanied by guidance notes to balance Gore's "one-sided" views, saying that the film's "apocalyptic vision" was not an impartial analysis of climate change.

The claim was originally filed by truck driver Stewart Dimmock, whose two children have not yet seen the film.

"I got finished watching the documentary and felt I had watched a science fiction film," he told ABC News' Joseph J. Simonetti. "The court ruled nine inaccuracies. How many more exist?"

Dimmock criticized the British government's use of the film in schools, saying, "It was about time someone got off their backside and say, 'Oh, you're wrong.'" Yet he admitted, "I'm not an expert on global warming, then or now. I'm just a lorry driver."

The ruling resurrected the heated debate over the film's arguments between Gore's supporters and climate change skeptics.

His spokeswoman Kalee Kreider said that Gore was "deeply gratified that the court upheld the fundamental thesis of the film" and "affirmed it as a valid educational tool."

As for the errors, Kreider said, "Of the thousands of facts, the judge seemingly only took issue with a handful. We've got peer review studies that back up those facts. There were a couple of cases where we feel the film wasn't quoted accurately."

Climate change skeptics felt vindicated by the ruling.

"A lot of people have been criticizing the science in 'An Inconvenient Truth' but they've been dismissed as not credible or put forward by fronts for the oil industry," said Joseph Bast, the president of the Heartland Institute, which has spent more than $700,000 in recent months to place ads challenging Gore to a debate on climate change. "Now we have the British High Court identifying 11 specific errors. Some of the media articles squeezed three of those errors into one."

The British claim was not the first time that the film's use in schools has been criticized. Earlier this year, parents in Federal Way, Wash., complained to the local school board about plans to show the film in schools and eventually pressured it to impose a ban on screenings for two weeks.

Frosty E. Hardison, a computer consultant and evangelical Christian, was outraged when he learned that the film would be shown in his daughter's seventh-grade science class. He sent an e-mail to the school board, declaring, "No, you will not teach or show that propagandist Al Gore video to my child, blaming our nation -- the greatest nation ever to exist on this planet -- for global warming."

Other parents in the community were just as outraged -- that the school board would even consider banning the film.

"The general consensus was that most people were upset for even questioning the issue of climate change as a serious scientific issue," said Chris Carrel, whose daughter's seventh-grade class was planning to see the film. "The superintendent did his review and reported back to the school board that most of the film was scientifically well-supported, but in areas of controversy, in terms of the proper policy response, the teachers needed to present different viewpoints."

Climate change skeptics wish that such a debate would take place. In addition to challenging Gore to a debate with Chris Horner, the author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism" and a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, some critics have offered $125,000 to anyone who can prove global warming.

"We've received lots of inquiries but no serious entries so far," said Steven J. Milloy, who runs the Web site and started a mutual fund that seeks to counterbalance the work of so-called ethical investment funds.