In the weeks preceding Earth Day on April 22, schools nationwide showed Al Gore’s 2006 global warming film An Inconvenient Truth–some as a club activity, as at Newtown Middle School in Council Rock, Pennsylvania; others as background for classroom debates on the topic, as at Russellville High School in Russellville, Arkansas.
But not in Federal Way, Washington. School administrators there took a stand against the film, saying it could not be shown unless “credible, legitimate” opposing views were also presented, the district’s school board decided on January 9.
The school board emphasized that a preexisting policy requires teachers to provide balance when presenting controversial issues.
Students Given Both Sides
Diane Turner, chief of communications for Federal Way Public Schools, said the policy has been in place for three years and pertains both to controversial subjects and the use of films and videos in the classroom.
“It’s the teacher’s responsibility to present all points of view, and allow students to form their own opinions on controversial topics. Students can choose not to participate in those discussions. A teacher may not present his or her own personal position as the only acceptable one,” Turner explained. “The ability to have your children think critically about the broad spectrum of ideas presented is the emphasis–making sure they get the whole picture.
“In terms of our electronic video use in the classroom, they wanted to make sure the material being presented was indeed part of the curriculum and it did indeed have a connection with curriculum and instruction, so it would be a useful tool for kids–in other words, use as much time as you can for teaching,” Turner said.
Film Criticized As Biased
Gore’s movie, while vigorously applauded by global warming alarmists, has been criticized for a selective and often inaccurate presentation of the science regarding global warming.
“Gore’s film is a colorfully illustrated lawyer’s brief–one-sided advocacy for climate alarmism and energy rationing,” said Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “The only facts and arguments Gore presents are those that support his ‘scare-’em-green’ agenda, and he often distorts even the evidence he cites.
“Gore’s film is not balanced, and Federal Way has ample reason to insist that teachers fairly present the other side or not show the film at all,” Lewis added.
Laurie David, a co-producer of the film, expressed outrage that teachers are required to bring balance to the discussion if they choose to show the Gore film.
“I am shocked that a school district would come to this decision,” David said in a news release. “There is no opposing view to science, which is fact, and the facts are clear that global warming is here, now.”
Loaded with Inaccuracies
Science, however, calls into question numerous misleading and inaccurate assertions presented in the film.
Asserting that global warming is clearly affecting his hometown of Carthage, Tennessee, Gore claims, “Here on this farm, the patterns are changing. In the course as defined by this river, it’s happening very, very quickly.” Yet temperature stations at the nearby communities of Clarksburg, Murfreesboro, and McMinnville all show cooling temperatures during recent decades.
Gore asserts global warming is causing alpine glaciers in Glacier National Park to recede. However, temperature readings in the nearby community of Kalispell, Montana show temperatures fell 5ºFahrenheit from 1933 to 2000.
Gore claims glaciers in the Himalayan Mountains are rapidly melting, threatening the water supplies of hundreds of millions of people. However, just months before Gore’s movie was released, Insurance Digest reported Himalayan Mountain glaciers are as big as ever.
Rife with False Claims
Also false is Gore’s claim that declining rainfall (allegedly caused by global warming) is leading to a dramatic southern expansion of the Sahara Desert. The New Scientist reported as recently as 2002, “Africa’s deserts are in ‘spectacular’ retreat,” with vegetation reclaiming large expanses of barren land across the entire southern edge of the Sahara.
While showing an animated map of the planet purporting to depict ocean currents responding to a 5º F rise in temperatures, Gore claimed such an increase is “on the low end of the projections.” In fact, a 5º rise in temperatures would be on the high end of projections offered by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Gore claims the Antarctic polar ice cap is melting and that this is a “canary in the coalmine” demonstrating dramatic global warming. Actually, Antarctica has been cooling for many decades, and its ice cap is expanding, not shrinking.
Lewis noted, “Gore warns that half the Greenland Ice Sheet could break up and slide into the sea, raising sea levels by 10 feet. Yet the current rate of ice mass loss on Greenland translates into about one inch of sea level rise per century.”
James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. School Reform News Managing Editor Karla Dial ([email protected]) contributed to this report.