Context, context, context (AIT in general and Tuvalu in particular)

October 15, 2007 at 2:13 pm | Posted in AIT, Climate change, Education, Legal, teachernet, Tuvalu | Leave a comment

teachernet Sustainable Schools Update on judicial review proceedings is the place to go to see the updated Climate Change pack – Guidance for teaching staff.

If you read the Guidance notes, even for just one scene, you will see that there is much more advice given to teachers than many people outside the teaching profession realise. Bearing in mind that the AIT DVD is only one part of this teaching pack, it does not make sense to critique AIT for students without reading through the accompanying notes and considering how the pieces fit together.

For example, there is plenty more to say about Scene 20 Antarctica than this excerpt from the High Court Judgment indicates:

In scene 20, Mr Gore states “that’s why the citizens of these Pacific nations have all had to evacuate to New Zealand“. There is no evidence of any such evacuation having yet happened.

The teachers’ Guidance for this point only seeks to clarify which nations are being talked about, and does not say “There is no evidence of evacuations in the Pacific due to human-induced climate change.” It is just not clear that there is any evidence of evacuations in the Pacific due to human-induced climate change. Subtle difference. Teachers can then discuss the importance of references as explained:

20. Antarctica (3min)

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.

For KS3 pupils the topics discussed include:


Satellite technology
States of matter
Food webs
What is happening to the ice that is floating?
What is happening to the ice that is on land?
Why is this important (inc loss of permafrost and rising sea-levels)


Scenes 7, 11, 12, 14, 16, 19, 20 and 21 can be played sequentially (total duration: 24-minutes) to provide pupils with an overview of the main observed and predicted impacts of climate change.
This scene also directly supports teaching of KS3 Unit 23 (Section 4): Why is Antarctica a fragile environment?

For KS4 pupils the topics discussed include:


Interdependence and adaptation


Some GCSE courses (e.g. Edexcel A) give a small amount of coverage to glacial systems and A Level guidance notes for this scene can be adapted by teaching staff as appropriate.

Although I have only taught elementary school children in and postgraduate engineers, I would certainly say that if Mr. Gore had made a slip of the tongue in the movie when he said that “that’s why the citizens of these Pacific nations have all had to evacuate to New Zealand” he could easily be forgiven for that statement, because United Nations documents do state that governments have planned complete evacuations, and I have read that Tuvalu requested assistance from New Zealand and Australia. The latter turned them down, but New Zealand does allow 75 Tuvaluans into the country every year for reasons relating to an existing agreement with several small island nation states. I do not think it is fair to dismiss Al Gore’s statement out of hand. In any case, his use of “all” may be emphatic, just as a colleague of mine would refer to me as y’all when he wanted something done urgently. “Y’all” in American English usually means “you lot” in the British language (as my son calls it) as far as I can tell, but sometimes it seemed he could use it to mean “you alone”, but insistently!

From UNESCAP (Environment and Sustainable Development Division)

State of the Environment in Asia and the Pacific 2005

Chapter 8: Pacific

Climate change and sea level rise threatens the existence of Pacific island countries; the atoll islands of the Pacific subregion including Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands are barely one metre above sea level, and at the current rate of sea level rise will be completely inundated by the latter half of this century. Coastal erosion and salinization of shallow aquifers and agricultural lands are already increasing. Since 2001, both the Governments of Tuvalu and of Papua New Guinea have announced plans to evacuate citizens due to the impacts of climate change. The people of the Carteret Islands of Papua New Guinea have seen their agricultural productivity decline drastically as a result of soil salinization linked to rising sea levels.


His Excellency Right Honourable Sir Tomasi Puapua PC, KBE
Governor General of Tuvalu

New York, 14 September 2002

… Finally, Mr. President, efforts to ensure sustainable development, peace, security and long­term livelihood for the world will have no meaning to us in Tuvalu in the absence of serious actions to address the adverse and devastating effects of global warming. At no more than three meters above sea level, Tuvalu is particularly exposed to these effects. Indeed our people are already migrating to escape, and are already suffering from the consequences of what world authorities on climate change have consistently been warning us. Only two weeks ago, a period when the weather was normal and calm and at low tide, unusually big waves suddenly crashed ashore and flooded most part of the capital island.

In the event that the situation is not reversed, where does the international community think the Tuvalu people are to hide from the onslaught of sea level rise? Taking us as environmental refugees, is not what Tuvalu is after in the long run. We want the islands of Tuvalu and our nation to remain permanently and not be submerged as a result of greed and uncontrolled consumption of industrialized countries. We want our children to grow up the way my wife and I did in our own islands and in our own culture.

We once again appeal to the industrialized countries, particularly those who have not done so, to urgently ratify and fully implement the Kyoto Protocol, and to provide concrete support in all our adaptation efforts to cope with the effects of climate change and sea level rise. Tuvalu, having little or nothing to do with the causes, cannot be left on its own to pay the price. We must work together. May God Bless you all. May God Bless the United Nations.

Last, but not least, page 57 of the Technical Summary available on the IPCC WGII website reinforces the point that Small Islands are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

A continued loss of land-based ice will add to global sea-level rise.

Small Islands
Small islands have characteristics which make them especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, sea-level rise and extreme events (very high confidence).

These include their limited size and proneness to natural hazards and external shocks. They have low adaptive capacity, and adaptation costs are high relative to GDP [16.5].

Sea-level rise is likely to exacerbate inundation, storm surge, erosion and other coastal hazards, thus threatening the vital infrastructure that supports the socio-economic well-being of island communities (very high confidence).

Some studies suggest that sea-level rise could cause coastal land loss and inundation, while others show that some islands are morphologically resilient and are expected to persist [16.4.2]. In the Caribbean and Pacific Islands, more than 50% of the population live within 1.5 km of the shore. Almost without exception, the air and sea ports, major road arteries, communication networks, utilities and other critical infrastructure in the small islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the Caribbean tend to be restricted to coastal locations (Table TS.2). The threat from sea-level rise is likely to be amplified by changes in tropical cyclones [16.4.5, 16.4.7].
There is strong evidence that under most climate-change scenarios, water resources in small islands are likely to be seriously compromised (very high confidence).

Most small islands have a limited water supply. Many small islands in the Caribbean and Pacific are likely to experience increased water stress as a result of climate change [16.4.1].

Predictions under all SRES scenarios for this region show reduced rainfall in summer, so that it is unlikely that demand will be met during low rainfall periods. Increased rainfall in winter will be unlikely to compensate, due to a lack of storage and high runoff during storms [16.4.1].

After all that, I continue to applaud Mr. Gore for bringing all this to our attention, and I shall always try to give people the benefit of the doubt 😉


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