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England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales High Court (Administrative Court) Decisions >> Dimmock v Secretary of State for Education & Skills  EWHC 2288 (Admin) (10 October 2007)
Cite as:  EWHC 2288 (Admin),  1 All ER 367
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QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
| Stuart Dimmock
|- and -
|Secretary of State for Education and Skills
(now Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families)
Mr Martin Chamberlain (instructed by Treasury Solicitors) for the Defendant
Hearing dates: 27, 28 September, 1, 2 October 2007
Crown Copyright ©
Mr Justice Burton:
"406. The local education authority, governing body and head teachers shall forbid …
the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school.
407. The local education authority, governing body and head teacher shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure that where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils while they are
(a) in attendance at a maintained school, or
(b) taking part in extra-curricular activities which are provided or organised for registered pupils at the school by or on behalf of the school
they are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views."
"(i) Fiscal policy and the way that a whole variety of activities are taxed, including fuel consumption, travel and manufacturing …
(ii) Investment policy and the way that governments encourage directly and indirectly various forms of activity.
(iii) Energy policy and the fuels (in particular nuclear) employed for the future.
(iv) Foreign policy and the relationship held with nations that consume and/or produce carbon-based fuels."
"Climate change film distributed to all secondary schools.
The powerful Al Gore film "An Inconvenient Truth" will form part of a pack on climate change sent to every secondary school in England, Environment Secretary David Milliband and Education Secretary Alan Johnson announced today. The film documents former US Vice President Al Gore's personal mission to highlight the issues surrounding global warming and inspire actions to prevent it.
Mr Milliband said:
'The debate over the science of climate change is well and truly over, as demonstrated by the publication of today's report by the IPCC' [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]. 'Our energies should now be channelled into how we respond in an innovative and positive way in moving to a low carbon future. I was struck by the visual evidence the film provides, making clear that the changing climate is already having an impact on our world today, from Mount Kilimanjaro to the Himalayan mountains. As the film shows, there is no reason to feel helpless in the face of this challenge. Everyone can play a part along with government and business in making a positive contribution and helping to prevent climate change.'
Mr Johnson added:
'With rising sea temperatures, melting icecaps and frequent reminders about our own 'carbon footprints', we should all be thinking about what we can do to preserve the planet for future generations. Children are the key to changing society's long term attitude to the environment. Not only are they passionate about saving the planet but children also have a big influence over their own family's lifestyles and behaviour. Al Gore's film is a powerful message about the fragility of our planet and I am delighted that we are able to make sure that every secondary school in the country has a copy to stimulate children into discussing climate change and global warming in school classes.'"
"Mr Johnson said that influencing the opinions of children was crucial to developing a long term view on the environment among the public."
"English Secondary Schools Climate Change Pack.
A resource pack to help teachers and pupils explore and understand the issues surrounding climate change was sent to every secondary school in England today. The pack, which includes the Al Gore film An Inconvenient Truth and a number of other resources, was developed by DEFRA and the Department for Education and Skills. It is accompanied by online teaching guides showing how to use the resources in the pack in science, geography and citizenship lessons.
Schools Minister Jim Knight said:
'Climate change is one of the most important challenges facing our planet today. This pack will help to give young people information and inspiration to understand and debate the issues around climate change, and how they as individuals and members of the community should respond to it.'"
"8. …I should say at once that it was recognised from the start that parts of the Film contained views about public policy and how we should respond to climate change. The aim of distributing the film was not to promote those views, but rather to present the science of climate change in an engaging way and to promote and encourage debate on the political issues raised by that science."
"(i) A superficial treatment of the subject matter typified by portraying factual or philosophical premises as being self-evident or trite with insufficient explanation or justification and without any indication that they may be the subject of legitimate controversy; the misleading use of scientific data; misrepresentations and half-truths; and one-sidedness.
(ii) The deployment of material in such a way as to prevent pupils meaningfully testing the veracity of the material and forming an independent understanding as to how reliable it is.
(iii) The exaltation of protagonists and their motives coupled with the demonisation of opponents and their motives.
(iv) The derivation of a moral expedient from assumed consequences requiring the viewer to adopt a particular view and course of action in order to do "right" as opposed to "wrong."
This is clearly a useful analysis.
Local educational authority to forbid the promotion of partisan views in the teaching of any subject in the school
i) in this case it is the DES itself which is putting teachers all over the country into this position by, unusually, supplying a film to every state secondary school and, as indeed the Defendant itself has recognised by supplying the very Guidance Note, it becomes the more important to give assistance to those teachers.
ii) all the more so where even the science and geography teachers are unlikely to be wholly familiar with the detailed questions which underlie the film, or indeed with the full analysis of the present scientific approach to climate change which is in detail set out in the IPCC reports; not to speak of the teachers of citizenship, who are bound to take the scientific and geographical aspects of the film on trust.
i) It is substantially founded upon scientific research and fact, albeit that the science is used, in the hands of a talented politician and communicator, to make a political statement and to support a political programme.
ii) As Mr Chamberlain persuasively sets out at paragraph 11 of his skeleton:"The Film advances four main scientific hypotheses, each of which is very well supported by research published in respected, peer-reviewed journals and accords with the latest conclusions of the IPCC:(1) global average temperatures have been rising significantly over the past half century and are likely to continue to rise ("climate change");(2) climate change is mainly attributable to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide ("greenhouse gases");(3) climate change will, if unchecked, have significant adverse effects on the world and its populations; and(4) there are measures which individuals and governments can take which will help to reduce climate change or mitigate its effects."
These propositions, Mr Chamberlain submits (and I accept), are supported by a vast quantity of research published in peer-reviewed journals worldwide and by the great majority of the world's climate scientists. Ms Bramman explains, at paragraph 14 of her witness statement, that:"The position is that the central scientific theme of Al Gore's Film is now accepted by the overwhelming majority of the world's scientific community. That consensus is reflected in the recent report of the IPCC. The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options and adaptation and mitigation. Hundreds of experts from all over the world contribute to the preparation of IPCC reports, including the Working Group I report on Climate Change 2007: The physical Science basis of climate change, published on 2 February 2007 and the most recent Mitigation of Climate Change, the Summary for Policy-makers published by Working Group III on 4 May 2007. A copy of both documents are annexed to the Witness Statement of Dr Peter Stott. The weight of scientific evidence set out by the IPCC confirms that most of the global average warming over the last 50 years is now regarded as "very likely" to be attributable to man-made greenhouse gas emissions."
For the purposes of this hearing Mr Downes was prepared to accept that the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report represented the present scientific consensus.
iii) There are errors and omissions in the film, to which I shall refer, and respects in which the film, while purporting to set out the mainstream view (and to belittle opposing views), does in fact itself depart from that mainstream, in the sense of the "consensus" expressed in the IPCC reports.
"Scientific hypotheses (such as the hypothesis that climate change is mainly attributable to man-made emissions of greenhouse gases) do not themselves constitute "political views" within the meaning of s407, even if they are doubted by particular political groups. But, in any event, nothing in the 1996 Act (or elsewhere) obliged teachers to adopt a position of studied neutrality between, on the one hand, scientific views which reflect the great majority of world scientific opinion and, on the other, a minority view held by a few dissentient scientists."
i) some or all of those matters are not supported/promoted by the Defendant [s406].
ii) there is a view to the contrary, i.e. (at least) the mainstream view [s407].
"The Film is intended to be used by qualified teachers, not as a substitute for, but as a supplement to, other teaching methods and materials. The original Guidance, prepared by a panel of experienced educationalists, identified those parts of the Film's scientific presentation where further context or qualification was required and provided it, with suitable references and links to other reputable sources of information. It encouraged teachers to use the Film as a vehicle for the development of analytic and critical skills. It did not attempt to hide the fact that some scientists do not agree with the mainstream view of climate change and even made reference to The Great Global Warming Swindle (together with a website containing a critique of it)."
"Al Gore's presentation of the causes and likely effects of climate change in the film was broadly accurate."
Mr Downes does not agree with this, but to some extent this is because the views of the Claimant's expert, Professor Carter, do not accord with those of Dr Stott, and indeed are said by Dr Stott in certain respects not to accord with the IPCC report. But Mr Downes sensibly limited his submissions to concentrate on those areas where, as he submitted, even on Dr Stott's case there are errors or deviations from the mainstream by Mr Gore. Mr Downes produced a long schedule of such alleged errors or exaggerations and waxed lyrical in that regard. It was obviously helpful for me to look at the film with his critique in hand.
1. 'Error' 11: Sea level rise of up to 20 feet (7 metres) will be caused by melting of either West Antarctica or Greenland in the near future.
"If Greenland broke up and melted, or if half of Greenland and half of West Antarctica broke up and melted, this is what would happen to the sea level in Florida. This is what would happen in the San Francisco Bay. A lot of people live in these areas. The Netherlands, the Low Countries: absolutely devastation. The area around Beijing is home to tens of millions of people. Even worse, in the area around Shanghai, there are 40 million people. Worse still, Calcutta, and to the east Bangladesh, the area covered includes 50 million people. Think of the impact of a couple of hundred thousand refugees when they are displaced by an environmental event and then imagine the impact of a 100 million or more. Here is Manhattan. This is the World Trade Center memorial site. After the horrible events of 9/11 we said never again. This is what would happen to Manhattan. They can measure this precisely, just as scientists could predict precisely how much water would breach the levee in New Orleans."
2. 'Error' 12: Low lying inhabited Pacific atolls are being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming.
3. 'Error' 18: Shutting down of the "Ocean Conveyor".
4. 'Error' 3: Direct coincidence between rise in CO2 in the atmosphere and in temperature, by reference to two graphs.
5. 'Error' 14: The snows of Kilimanjaro.
6. 'Error' 16: Lake Chad etc
7. 'Error' 8: Hurricane Katrina.
8. 'Error' 15: Death of polar bears.
9. 'Error' 13: Coral reefs.
"Areas where there is undisputed scientific consensus …
Areas where there is a strong scientific consensus but where a small minority of scientists do not agree …
Areas where there is political debate."
i) In a discussion of the relationship between carbon dioxide and rising temperature, a question was raised for "possible teaching activities" namely: "Is CO2 the cause of rising temperatures or is rising CO2 caused by rising temperatures? Sceptics say we don't know – what is the explanation in AIT?" Plainly this is unsatisfactory, since it is common ground that the explanation in AIT is at best materially incomplete (see the fourth 'error' above).
ii) In the part of the Guidance Note which relates to discussion in citizenship classes, teachers are encouraged to raise the questions:"Consider the reason why politicians may have wanted to ignore climate change? …What pressures can be put on politicians to respond to climate change?"
iii) In the suggested planning of a whole day event on climate change for citizenship classes, there is no suggestion at all of the discussion of opposing views to that of Mr Gore, and the list of "Suggested Organisations for the Climate Change Fair and as Guest Speakers" is limited to organisations which support his views.
"Note: Pupils might get the impression that sea-level rises of up to 7m (caused by the complete melting of Greenland or half of Greenland and half of the West Antarctic shelf) could happen in the next decades. The IPCC predicts that it would take millennia for rises of that magnitude to occur. However, pupils should be aware that even small rises in sea level are predicted to have very serious effects. The IPCC says that "many millions more people are projected to be flooded every year due to sea-level rise by the 2080s" (i.e. within pupils' own lifetimes)."
References are helpfully now given to the IPCC report.
"Note: It is not clear what "Pacific nations" Gore is referring to in the section dealing with evacuations to New Zealand. It is not clear that there is any evidence of evacuations in the Pacific due to human-induced climate change. Teaching staff may wish to use this as an example of the need in scientific presentation to give proper references for evidence used. However, the IPCC does predict that for small islands sea level rises will exacerbate storm surges and other coastal hazards and that, by the middle of this century, climate change will reduce water resources to the point where they become insufficient to meet demands in low-rainfall periods."
i) With regard to the first example, the last question "What is the explanation in AIT?" is now to be replaced by "What does the IPCC say?"
ii) The discussion topics so far as concerns citizenship are altered. The first question has now become:"Consider the reasons why politicians may have chosen not to act on climate change?"Significantly the reference to 'putting pressures on politicians' is removed.
iii) The reference to the suggested organisations is to be changed and balanced.
One particular change in the section on "Citizenship: Planning a whole day event on climate change" is of some significance:"Invite in a guest speaker to go over the issues raised across the day and discuss solutions … But please remember that teaching staff must not promote any particular political response to climate change and, when such potential responses are brought to the attention of pupils, must try to ensure that pupils are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views."
"[Schools] must bear in mind the following points
- AIT promotes partisan political views (that is to say, one sided views about political issues)
- teaching staff must be careful to ensure that they do not themselves promote those views;
- in order to make sure of that, they should take care to help pupils examine the scientific evidence critically (rather than simply accepting what is said at face value) and to point out where Gore's view may be inaccurate or departs from that of mainstream scientific opinion;
- where the film suggests that views should take particular action at the political level (e.g. to lobby their democratic representatives to vote for measures to cut carbon emissions), teaching staff must be careful to offer pupils a balanced presentation of opposing views and not to promote either the view expressed in the film or any other particular view.
The sceptical view
Teaching staff will be aware that a minority of scientists disagree with the central thesis that climate change over the past half-century is mainly attributable to man-made greenhouse gases. However, the High Court has made clear the law does not require teaching staff to adopt a position of neutrality between views which accord with the great majority of scientific opinion and those which do not [this was anticipatory of my decision].
The notes set out in this guidance have been drafted in accordance with the Fourth Assessment Reports of the [IPCC], published in 2007 under the auspices of the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organisation. AIT was made before these latest reports had been published, but it is important that pupils should have access to the latest and most authoritative scientific information. The IPCC derives its credibility from the fact that its conclusions are drawn from a "meta-review" of a massive number of independently peer-reviewed journal articles, and from the expertise and diversity of those on the reviewing panels."
This is in my judgment necessary and judicious guidance.
i) Whether, by dispatching the film, with the cross-reference in the pack to the Guidance Note, as it then stood on the website, the Defendant was not taking steps to forbid but rather itself promoting partisan political views.
ii) Whether, by distributing/not withdrawing the film but accompanying it by a hard copy of the Guidance Note, amended in accordance with what has been fully discussed during the hearing and referred to in my judgment, the Defendant is now complying with ss406 and 407.