Update: Gore tells graduates climate change is "unfinished business"

9:49 PM, May 14, 2010   |    comments
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Former Vice President Al Gore received an honorary degree from the University of Tennessee during the College of Arts and Sciences graduation ceremony Friday morning.

Gore told students in a 20-minute speech that addressing climate change is the "biggest item of unfinished business" on the American agenda. 

Members of the Knoxville Tea Party, Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow and even an Irish film director and journalist planned to protest the event.

Slightly more than a dozen protesters gathered outside the ceremony Friday morning, a smaller crowd than rallied on Thursday night.

"We'll be handing out fake diplomas and mock graduation programs to people in attendance that shows facts about what Al Gore promotes, said Evan Flores with Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow.

The three groups feel Gore's work in climate change is inaccurate.

"Global warming is a fraud.  He knows it's a fraud," Knoxville Tea Party member Antonio Hinton said.

"I think it's odd that the University of Tennessee is giving a degree to someone who produced a documentary that the British High Court says has nine significant errors," film director Phelim McAleer added.

The dean of UT's College of Arts and Sciences said Gore definitely qualifies as an accomplished Tennessean.

"Mr. Gore is a native son, a senator, a vice president and a nobel laureate," said Dr. Bruce Bursten with the College of Arts and Sciences.

Bursten also believes Gore sparked a national and international discussion about the world's climate.

"The scientific process is one that scientist argue all the time about the validity and the interpretation of the data.  I don't think there is any fraud involved.  There are different interpretations of what the data is telling us," the dean added.

Gore will be the third person to receive such an honor from the University of Tennessee.

The school's previous honorary doctorates were given to former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker and singer Dolly Parton.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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