Johnn Hari: Gore tells the truth. His enemies smear him

What is portrayed as a plucky school governor taking on the former vice-president is in fact very different
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The Independent Online

Is anyone else going to watch Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech live, just to check? The last time I celebrated a Gore victory it ended with a Bush hangover that thumped for eight years. So I am expecting the ceremony in Stockholm next month to end with George Bush striding to the podium to announce that the Supreme Court has declared him the world's greatest peacemaker after all, with Gore watching pale-faced in the wings.

Yet there has already been a sour little coda. As news of the Nobel came, it was inevitably paired with a second story: that a British High Court Judge, Mr Justice Burton, had announced that there were nine "errors" in Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth that school-kids had to be warned about when it was shown to them. This verdict was celebrated by global warming deniers across the world as their Scopes Trial, a moment when the judicial system smacked-down science in favour of their dogmas.

This is part of a squalid process that has been going on for more than a decade now – the smearing of Al Gore, simply for telling the truth. I looked back over the American reports of the 2000 election this week, as George Bush was vetoing the extension of healthcare to poor children. "He's gone from being Richard Nixon to Monty Burns," John Stewart noted. Yet Bush was presented then as a "compassionate conservative" who you'd wanna have a beer with. Gore was presented as a prissy, effeminate asshole, and he was relentlessly mocked for, like, knowing stuff about science and the Middle East and other nerd-speak.

And – worse – Gore was presented as a Pinocchio prone to lying about his political achievements. They said Gore lied about inventing the internet. They said Gore lied about being the inspiration for Love Story. They said Gore lied about discovering toxic sites. The only catch is: it's the journalists who were lying.

Here's what really happened. In the 1980s, the internet was just a few computers wired up in the Pentagon for research. As a senator, Gore sponsored the very first bill to turn it into a much wider "information superhighway." Vincent Cerf, who is widely regarded as the technological founder of the internet, has publicly said that it is thanks to Gore that the internet is used by all of us today. So when Gore said in a 1997 interview that he "took the initiative" in making the internet possible, it was true. The other Gore "lies" have equally impressive truths behind them.

Now a British court has been sucked into the smear machine. This case has been reported as a David vs Goliath battle: a plucky school governor and dad-of-two taking the former Vice-President to the High Court so his kids could be given a "balanced" education rather than having An Inconvenient Truth forced on them. The reality is rather different.

The man who brought this case, Stewart Dimmock, is a member of an organisation called the New Party, which is so far to the right that even the Scottish Tories call it "fascist". His legal challenge to Gore has been largely funded by business interests with close links to the fuel and mining lobbies. (They call themselves "centre-right", and claim the funding doesn't sway them.) Dimmock isn't Galileo bravely standing against the conventional wisdom; he's part of the fossil-fuel Vatican.

And, crucially, the judge rejected his denialist arguments entirely. In his verdict, Justice Barton said: "Al Gore's presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film were broadly accurate." The thesis that man is disastrously changing the climate by increasing greenhouse gas emissions is, he says, "supported by a vast quantity of research published in peer-reviewed journals worldwide and by the great majority of the world's climate scientists."

But the denialists are now so discredited that they have been reduced to cherry-picking a verdict that humiliatingly rejects their arguments. They fixate on the judge's claim that Gore makes "errors" – when, in all but one instance, it is actually Justice Burton who is mistaken.

"Error" One. Burton says "there is no evidence" that the citizens of low-lying islands like Tuvalu are being evacuated because of rising sea levels. In fact, the programme to evacuate them began in 2002, as a simple phone call to the island's government – or to the New Zealand embassy, which is taking them in – would have told him. Journalists like Mark Lynas and Andrew Simms have been reporting on this for years.

"Error" Two. Burton says Gore argues that there is "an exact fit" between rises in CO2 and rises in global temperature. This would indeed be wrong – but Gore doesn't say it. His exact words are: "The relationship is very complicated. But there is one relationship that is more powerful than all the others and it is this. When there is more carbon dioxide, the temperature gets warmer, because it traps more heat from the sun inside." If you think that's wrong, you'd fail a Geography GCSE.

"Error" Three: Burton says Gore is wrong to attribute the current slow, protracted death of the world's coral reefs to global warming. This is bizarre. As Professor Tim Flannery explains, summarising the scientific consensus: "In all, 42 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef bleached in 1998, with 18 per cent suffering permanent damage... It is not fishing or tourists that are killing the reef, it is being done by spiralling CO2 emissions."

I could go on. True, Gore did make one error. Although they once thought the Gulf Stream was likely to shut down, leaving Europe to freeze, most climatologists don't think so any more. Instead, they think we will cook. Forgive me if I fail to celebrate.

Yet many news outlets thought it appropriate to wheel out in response someone who the broadcasting regulator found had made a misleading and totally disingenuous film about global warming – Martin Durkin, who "directed" The Great Global Warming Swindle. This is a man who says "legitimate scientists – people with qualifications – are the bad guys." This is a man whose film was full of elementary howlers, like the claim that volcanoes produce more CO2 than all man's activities combined. This is a man who has been accused by the scientists tricked into appearing on his films of "pure propaganda", "disinformation" and being "close to fraud." This is a man who responded by telling the scientists to "go fuck yourself". Yet there he was, savaging Gore for producing "a sham."

I wish Durkin was right. I wish global warming was "a lie." I like planes and concrete and patio-heaters. But the evidence is overwhelming that Gore is right. It would be nice if we could ignore Durkin and the deniers – but people who live in greenhouse-effects can't afford to throw stones at the science-huggin' smart people for long.

The last time Gore was smeared, the result was President George Bush. This time, if Gore's global campaign to stop runaway global warming is smeared into submission, the results will be even worse.