Extracts from the UK Telegraph article: Lorry driver in challenge to Gore school film
A lorry driver is taking the Government to court over a film that he believes is biased and shouldn’t be shown to children in schools
Since ministers regarded the debate as well and truly over, they were “delighted” to send school children a polemic that took as its central thesis the argument that climate change – the increase in global temperatures over the past 50 years – was mainly the result of man-made carbon dioxide emissions.
This is indeed the view of the IPCC, and most of the world’s climate scientists. But other people disagree.
One of them is Stewart Dimmock, 45, a lorry driver and school governor from Kent. His sons, aged 11 and 14, attend a secondary school in Dover which has presumably received a copy of Mr Gore’s film.
“I care about the environment as much as the next man,” says Mr Dimmock. “However, I am determined to prevent my children from being subjected to political spin in the classroom.”
You might think there ought to be a law against this – and there is. Section 406(1)(b) of the Education Act 1996 says that local education authorities, school governing bodies and head teachers “shall forbid… the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school”.
Mr Dimmock’s lawyers are trying to prevent the film being shown in schools. At this stage, they are asking for permission to challenge the Schools Secretary’s decision to distribute it. This was refused in July after a written application. But if permission is granted at an oral hearing next Thursday, the judge is expected to consider the merits of Mr Dimmock’s application for judicial review straight away.
“Gore has gone on record as saying he believes it is appropriate to over-represent the facts to get his message across,” says Mr Day. “One of the very clear inferences from the Gore film is that areas such as Bangladesh will be under water by the end of the century. He is talking about sea levels rising by 20 feet.”
But this is not backed up by the IPCC, the solicitor says. Their view is that sea levels will rise by 1.3 feet over the next 100 years. A rise of 20ft would require rising temperatures to continue for millennia.
Michael Sparkes, also from the law firm Malletts, adds that Mr Gore’s central premise – that carbon dioxide emissions are causing the recently observed global warming – is taken by the film as proved.
“There is no discussion of the fact that the climate is changing naturally all the time, whether warming or cooling,” he said.
Mr Dimmock’s lawyers will therefore argue that distributing this film to schools is either unlawful under section 406 of the 1996 Act or unlawful because it does not offer the balance required by section 407.
There is a 48-page guidance note.
The current version of this note acknowledges that “teachers have a duty to give a balanced presentation of political issues and to avoid political indoctrination”.
It advises teachers to divide the film into three strands:
Areas where there is undisputed scientific consensus, such as the clear evidence that global temperatures are rising;
Areas where there is a “strong scientific consensus but where a small minority of scientists do not agree”, for example that gas emissions from human activity are the main cause of climate change. “When dealing with such issues teachers may wish to refer to alternative views but make it clear that they do not accord with the weight of scientific opinion,” the Government says; and
Areas where there is political debate, such as how we should respond to climate change. “When addressing these areas, teachers must take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that pupils are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views.”
The Schools Department says: “The law does not prevent teachers or schools from showing material which includes expressions of political opinion. But it does require that, when such material is shown, the opinion is presented in a balanced way.”
Mr Day says his client is not satisfied with this. “You have a fundamentally flawed film, scientifically and politically, where the onus is being placed on teachers to draw the thorns and to remedy the defects,” he says. “Is that fair on teachers?”
Whether the written guidance is enough to balance the impact of Mr Gore’s undoubtedly political views will no doubt be at the heart of next week’s hearing. But is the debate over the science of climate change “well and truly over”? Not a chance.