Inconvenient Nonsense Infiltrates the Classroom
In 2006, former US vice-president Al Gore made a movie and companion book about global warming called An Inconvenient Truth. Gore undertook many speaking tours to publicise his film, and his PowerPoint slide show has been shown by thousands of his acolytes spreading a relentless message of warming alarmism across the globe.
But while audiences reacted positively and emotionally to the film's message - which was that human carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming - some independent scientists pointed out that An Inconvenient Truth represented well-made propaganda for the warming cause and presented an unreliable, biased account of climate science.
For nowhere in his film does Gore say that the phenomena he describes falls within the natural range of environmental change on our planet. Nor does he present any evidence that climate during the 20th century departed discernibly from its historical pattern of constant change.
In early February 2007, the Department for Education and Skills in Britain, apparently ignorant that the film was scientifically defective, announced that all secondary schools were to be provided with a climate change information pack that contained a copy of Gore's by then notorious film. Many parents were scandalised at this attempt to propagandise their children on such an important environmental issue.
One parent, school governor Stuart Dimmock who had two sons at a state school in southern England, took legal action against the secretary for education in the High Court, and sought the film's withdrawal from schools.
In a famous judgment in October 2007, Justice Burton, discerning that Gore was on a "crusade", commented that "the claimant substantially won this case", and ruled that the science in the film had been used "to make a political statement and to support a political program" and that the film contained nine fundamental errors of fact out of the 35 listed by Dimmock's scientific advisers. Justice Burton required that these errors be summarised in new guidance notes for screenings.
In effect, the High Court judgment typed Gore and his supporters as evangelistic proselytisers for an environmental cause.
Fast forward to this month and many Australian parents have been surprised to learn Gore's film "will be incorporated in the [new] national [English] curriculum ), as part of a bid to teach students on environmental sustainability across all subjects".
It is, I suppose, some relief the film has not been recommended for inclusion in the science syllabus. Instead, Banquo's ghost has risen to haunt English teachers, doubtless in class time that might otherwise have been devoted to learning grammar.
Some Australian English teachers may feel competent to advise pupils on the science content of An Inconvenient Truth, but I wouldn't bank on it. Of course, the same teachers have to feel competent also to shepherd their flock on to the green pastures of sustainability, that other pseudo-scientific concept so beloved by the keepers of our society's virtue.
Australian schools are being transformed from institutions that impart a rigorous education into social reform factories that manufacture right-thinking (which is to say, left-thinking) young clones ready to be admitted into the chattering classes. This process is manifest in other aspects of the new syllabuses.
Two other biases in the public debate about global warming have occurred recently. The first was the launching of the website Power Shift 2009, which describes itself as "Australia's first national youth climate summit. It's the moment where [sic] our fast-growing youth movement for a safe climate future [whatever that might be] comes together".
In reality, this is simply another website aimed at indoctrinating children regarding global warming, and while it's not surprising to see Greenpeace and GetUp are involved, it is disappointing to see the involvement of persons with the mana of Ian Thorpe.
The second recent bias has been the broadcast on ABC Radio National of the George Munster Award Forum from the Sydney University of Technology. Here, a panel of "Australia's top journalists" examined the proposition: "Telling both sides of the story is a basic rule of journalism, but should it apply to reporting climate change?"
Stellar contributions made by the journalists involved included the notions that carbon dioxide is a pollutant, that 97 per cent of all climate scientists agree that dangerous human-caused global warming is happening, and that there is no real debate about climate change. Independent scientists who question these specious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change orthodoxies - for the good reason that they are untrue - were referred to as denialists, fruitcakes, clowns and fools who had "invaded the ABC". Giving them airtime was said to "attack the essence of journalism".
The reporting of email leaks from the University of East Anglia last year was "a terrible and wrong disturbance'' in the run-up to the Copenhagen climate conference, and the astonishing claim was even made that Fairfax and the ABC ``have delivered the objective, factual scientific stories on climate change".
This farrago of nonsense was described by one US scientist who listened as "probably the most horrifying and disturbing Big Ideas-Small Minds discussion by journalists I have ever heard". Book-burning parties for Ian Plimer's Heaven and Earth or my own Climate: the Counter Consensus can't be far away, and if the persons involved in the forum were Australia's top environmental journalists, then God help us all.
Australia is rightly vigilant about preventing child abuse and guarding the freedom of the press. Why, then, are we so willing to tolerate the abuse of educational indoctrination of our children and the deliberate limitation on the scope of the media discussions they will be exposed to as adults?
Gore's movie and book are an embarrassment to US science and its many fine practitioners, a lot of whom know (but are often unable to state publicly) his crusade is mostly based on junk science.
If allowed in Australian schools at all, An Inconvenient Truth belongs not alongside Jane Austen and Tim Winton, nor with Charles Darwin and Richard Feynman, but with the works of authors such as Jules Verne and H. G. Wells in the science-fiction section of the library.