Sunday, October 14, 2007

Al Gore's "Errors"

You have all seen the news stories about the ruling by a British judge about the "errors" in An Incovenient Truth.

Well, the stories are wrong. Consider this one in the Toronto Star:

A British judge has ruled that Al Gore's Oscar-winning environmental documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, contains nine scientific errors or omissions.

High Court Judge Michael Burton was asked to rule on a challenge from a school official who did not want the film shown to students.

In his ruling Wednesday, Burton said Gore's film "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 program."

However, it just ain't so. The judge, named Burton, was quoted by this blog:

Let's look at what Burton really wrote (my emphasis):

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.

If you noticed the quotation marks around 'error' then you are more observant than all of the journalists I listed above. Burton is not saying that there are errors, he is just referring to the things that Downes alleged were errors. Burton puts quote marks around 'error' 17 more times in his judgement. Notice also the emphasised part -- Burton is not even trying to decide whether they are errors or not. This too seems to have escaped the journalists' attention.

Al Gore deserves the Nobel, not the nonsense he has to put up with from the media.

UPDATE: There is a posting about this controversy now available on RealClimate. An excerpt:

A number of discussions of the 9 points have already been posted (particularly at New Scientist and Michael Tobis's wiki), and it is clear that the purported 'errors' are nothing of the sort. The (unofficial) transcript of the movie should be referred to if you have any doubts about this. It is however unsurprising that the usual climate change contrarians and critics would want to exploit this confusion for perhaps non-scientific reasons.

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