Learning to live with 'disputable facts'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 November, 2007, 12:00am
 

The Climate Change Game is described on Big Picture Small World's website as 'a complimentary education event' to Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

A day before the Nobel Prize Committee awarded Mr Gore the Peace Prize last month, a British high court judge ruled that schools in Britain should not show the film without making it clear that the facts were disputable. Although Mr Justice Michael Burton described the film as 'broadly accurate', he found nine areas of 'alarmism and exaggeration' in it.

The film warned that sea levels would rise by six metres, caused by melting ice caps, but Mr Justice Burton said the claim was 'distinctly alarmist', adding it would take thousands of years for melting on that scale to take place.

Global warming was also said to be a cause of the disastrous consequences of Hurricane Katrina, but the judge said: 'It is common ground that there is insufficient evidence to show that.'

The film also blamed climate change for bleached coral reefs, but Mr Justice Burton said it was not the only cause - overfishing and pollution were also at play.

He also said there was no evidence that inhabitants of low-lying Pacific atolls had fled to New Zealand because of global warming. Neither had the scientific community found evidence to directly link the drying of Lake Chad, the loss of snow on Mount Kilimanjaro and Hurricane Katrina to global warming.

Environmental education consultant Medard Gabel defended the film. 'If the concrete causal linkage between global warming and the melting of glaciers and Mount Kilimanjaro isn't there in a solid enough way for everybody, alright, that's fine. But Al Gore got the big picture correct and he got 99 per cent of the details correct. If 1 per cent is proven to be, in some people's minds, not strong enough, well, OK. But it doesn't invalidate the fact that the climate is changing and the glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica are melting, and we've lost the Larsen ice shelf. All of these things are real.

'If Al Gore is a total crackpot and all of the stuff he's talking about was in error, the Nobel committee wouldn't have ever given him the prize.'

The principal of Chinese International School, Theodore Faunce, said he was aware there were 'disputable facts' about climate change, and he did not want to hide them from students, preferring instead to provoke critical debate. 'We are challenging students to think deeply,' he said. Critical inquiry was at the heart of the International Baccalaureate, the school's curriculum, he said.

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