Secondary schools across Britain are to be sent copies of the controversial television film The Great Global Warming Swindle, as the polemical battle over climate change heats up in the wake of last week's Nobel Peace Prize award to former US vice president Al Gore and the UN's climate change panel.
The much-criticised film is to be distributed by the small but vociferous climate change denial lobby, as a direct riposte to the Government's own distribution to schools of Mr Gore's film on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth.
The main figure behind the move is Viscount Monckton, the journalist and former policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher, who is likely to couple the Swindle film, made by radical television producer Martin Durkin and aired on Channel 4 in March, in a package with an anti-climate change film of his own entitled Apocalypse No!.
Shot last week before at audience of 400 students at the Cambridge Union, it features Lord Monckton, the brother-in-law of another well-known climate change sceptic, The Independent columnist Dominic Lawson, giving a long presentation intended as a mirror-image of that given by Mr Gore in An Inconvenient Truth – but from a completely sceptical point of view.
Lord Monckton, who as Christopher Monckton was an adviser to Mrs Thatcher when she was prime minister in the late 1980s and was one of the first people to draw attention to global warming, now thinks the dangers are being grossly exaggerated by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other scientists. He accepts that the world is warming, and that some of the warming is being caused by human actions, but denies that this could lead to catastrophe – in contrast to the views of the vast majority of the climate science community.
The filming and editing of the Monckton film is being financed by a right-wing American think-tank, the Washington-based Science and Public Policy Institute, to which Lord Monckton is an adviser. The peer said yesterday his film would feature 300 slides proving that fears about climate change were grossly exaggerated, each one accompanied by a reference to a scientific paper – so people could make up their own minds.
It would be sent out for peer review by independent scientists so it did not contain inaccuracies, he said, although the scientists were unlikely to be British, and he hoped this process would be finished by Christmas. The completed film will be offered to film companies in the US for distribution as a feature film to rival Mr Gore's, and if it needed reshooting, a 5,000-seat auditorium was available for the purpose in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
But first it would be sent to all secondary schools in Britain, "so people everywhere can get a first chance to have both sides of the story and see that there is much greater division in the scientific community about climate change than we are led to believe by politicians."
Asked if he thought people would object to schools being sent material funded by a right-wing US think tank, he said: "What about propaganda being sent into schools by a left-wing British government?"
Lord Monckton declined to reveal who was funding the schools distribution exercise, but he said that accompanying Apocalypse No! on the same CD sent to schools would be The Great Global Warming Swindle, which has been the subject of fierce criticism for alleged inaccuracy and distortion since its broadcast.
Two of the scientists who took part, Eigil Friis-Christensen, the director of the Danish National Space Centre and Carl Wunsch, professor of physical oceanography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have publicly said that their contributions were distorted, and it has been the subject of many other complaints by scientists.
Lord Monckton accepted yesterday that the original Martin Durkin film "contained a few errors" but said that what would be sent out was "a corrected version".
His move is part of a continuing offensive by Britain's climate change denial lobby, which scored a widely publicised success last week when a High Court judge ruled that there were a series of errors in the An Inconvenient Truth, and forced the Government to alter guidelines sent out with it, making it clear it was a polemic and not a documentary. (However, Mr Justice Burton said that in its presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change, it was "broadly accurate".)
Leading figures in campaign to deny climate change
* Viscount Monckton
As Christopher Monckton, before he inherited his father's title in 2006, he was well-known as a senior journalist for many years (he was chief leader writer of London's Evening Standard), and was an adviser in Margaret Thatcher's Downing Street Policy Unit from 1982-1986. Produced two widely-read articles in the Sunday Telegraph a year ago attacking the science of climate change in detail. Read classics at Cambridge, but says he has "a mathematical background." The brother of Rosa Monckton, who is married to Dominic Lawson, former editor of The Sunday Telegraph and columnist for The Independent
* Robert Durward
A Scot who is chairman of The New Party, a hitherto little-known grouping which backed the successful High Court case against An Inconvenient Truth. Based in Lanark, in professional life he runs a quarrying business and is Director of the British Aggregates Association, set up to defend the interests of the quarrying industry. He has long been a critic of environmentalists, once describing himself as "a businessman who is totally fed up with all this environmental stuff." He helped found The Scientific Alliance, a pressure group set up to provide counter-arguments to the green lobby, which now publicises the global warming denial agenda.
* Stewart Dimmock
The man who brought the High Court case against the Government-sponsored showing of An Inconvenient Truth in Britain's schools. A lorry driver from Dover, with children aged 14 and 11, he was initially presented as a lone David taking on the Goliath of a government, but it later emerged that he had very powerful backers for his very expensive court case, including The New Party – of which he is a member – and Viscount Monckton, who gave a statement supporting his case. Has unsuccessfully stood as an independent in local elections in Dover.