Tim Ball: Wilful Disregard for the Truth

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CLICK HERE FOR AN UPDATED BIO OF TIM BALL (FEB.05, 2007)

The events of the last few weeks have inspired us to go back to the podcast of Dr. Tim Ball’s meeting with the Ottawa Citizen editorial board.

Dr. Ball began by complaining about ad hominem attacks on him and his fellow climate change deniers, even to the extent of suggesting that the very word “denial” was intended to invoke images of the Holocaust.

(For the record – for the DeSmogBlog – you can be “skeptical” of something that is seriously in debate…We agree with Dr. Ball’s contention that “if you are not a skeptic, you are not a scientist.” But when you start taking money from oil companies to “deny” a host of things that are logically and scientifically proven, you set yourself into a group that does not properly deserve the description “skeptic.”)

Dr. Ball then took issue with the very notion that he is an energy industry pawn, saying, “to my knowledge, I’ve never received a nickle from the oil and gas companies” (my emphasis). Prodded about who was financing his cross-Canada speaking tour – picking up his expenses and paying him for his appearances – he said: “I made a point of not trying to find out who pays me.”

Isn’t that a tiny bit odd? Is there some explanation for this determined lack of interest, other than that it allows Dr. Ball to maintain “plausible deniability” of his energy industry connections?

As the leading “scientific advisor” on the Calgary-based Friends of Science, you would think that, at some point, Dr. Ball might have posited a link between that organization and the industry that entirely dominates the Calgary economy. (The alternative, we presume, is that FOS is receiving all their funding from rich ranchers and rodeo clowns.) Or, if Dr. Ball felt that curiosity was not at odds with his scientific mien, he might have asked someone about the origin of the funding. He might have asked, say, political scientist Dr. Barry Cooper, who helped to launder oil industry funds for FOS through the University of Calgary. When faced with the same question from the Globe and Mail, Dr. Cooper answered that the money was “not exclusively from the oil and gas industry.”

Far from being a demonstration of high integrity, Dr. Ball’s ability to ignore the obvious – his stubborn insistence on remaining uninformed on so basic a question as “who’s buying dinner, again, tonight” – is, at the very least, curious in its own right.

Still, Dr. Ball continued to object. He said that it is “dangerous to attribute motives” to those on the other side of an argument. Then he dismissed as worldwide conspiracy theorists those scientists who agree that climate change is caused by human activity and is an increasingly pressing problem. Those scientists, Dr. Ball said, are guilty of “anti-humanism,” ascribing to a view that if you only “get rid of the people on the planet, it will be a great place to live.”

Dr. Ball ventured further that the thousands of scientist who have endorsed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports are “anti-industry” or (here’s  good one to hurl against scientists) “anti-technology.”

Or, finally, Dr. Ball said the worldwide community of climate scientists are so craven that they have invented – and are propagating – a phony environmental scare in order to fool governments into continue paying for research into, well, into a phony environmental scare.

If there is a latin conjugation of “ad hominem that would apply to “everyone in the world who doesn’t share my opinion,” that, apparently, would serve to describe the nature of Dr. Ball’s attack.

But the most concerning references in the Ottawa Citizen tapes were those that Ball made in the guise of “expert” – of “educated scientist” – indeed of the first climatology Ph.D. in Canada. In fact, his has a doctor of philosophy from a geography faculty, obtained long after many other Canadians had been accorded doctorates in climatology. He hasn’t published a peer-reviewed paper since 1994; and even when he did publish, none of his four [4] papers specifically addressed the effect of CO2 on climate.) For example, Dr. Ball told the Citizen that climate models do not account for water vapour (the most common greenhouse gas).

Dr. Andrew Weaver, the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis at the University of Victoria, responded in the above-mentioned  Globe and Mail article, “That’s absurd. They all do.” And several scientists from the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis confirmed Weaver’s statement this week.

So, we have a situation in which the self-described “first climatology PhD in Canada” makes a definitive comment about a scientific issue (that climate models “assume that water vapour is a constant and ingore it”) – a comment that is, objectively, at odds with the truth.

There is a word for those who traffic in untruths. It’s a rude word with a specific legal meaning, and to use the word, you must be able to prove both that what the speaker said was incorrect and that he knew it was incorrect when he said it. We have no such evidence. And Dr. Ball’s determination to remain uninformed on key issues is already well established.

But this is a man who was travelling the country, briefing media, politicians and anyone else who would listen. This is a man who was advertising himself, at every turn, as an expert whose views are, if anything, more reliable than the vast majority of climate scientists in the world. To be out of step on an issue so fundamental, his could only be a wilfull disregard for the truth – a disregard that must reflect on his credibility across the board.

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