The self-styled Canadian climate change expert, Dr. Tim Ball, has abandoned his libel suit against University of Lethbridge Professor of Environmental Science Dan Johnson. Ball dropped the suit without conditions, but also without acknowledging that Johnson’s original comments were accurate and were reported in good faith.
“This is great news,” Dr. Johnson said today, “but it still leaves a cloud over my name that I would like removed. Even though I can now demand that Ball pay what the court calls ‘taxed costs,’ that won’t begin to cover the actual legal bills, to make up for lost time or to repair the damage that Ball has done to my reputation.”
Ball, a spokesperson for two industry front groups fighting against climate change regulation, sued Johnson and the Calgary Herald over a letter the paper ran on April 23, 2006. In an earlier Opinion Page article in which Ball attacked the qualifications of renowned climate change author Tim Flannery, the Herald described Ball as “the first climatology PhD in Canada and … a professor of climatology at the University of Winnipeg for 28 years.”
Johnson wrote a Letter to the Editor challenging those details. He noted that when Ball received his PhD (in Geography) in 1983, “Canada already had PhDs in climatology and it is important to recognize them and their research.” Johnson also pointed out that Ball had been a professor for a much shorter time (Ball later admitted eight years), during which Ball did “not show any evidence of research regarding climate and atmosphere.”
Ball filed suit, asking for damages of $325,000 plus costs.
But Calgary Herald satisfied itself as to the accuracy of Dan Johnson’s letter, and rose in defence. In a Statement of Defence filed with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, the Herald dismissed Ball’s “credibility and credentials as an expert on the issue of global warming,” saying: “The Plantiff (Dr. Ball) is viewed as a paid promoter of the agenda of the oil and gas industry rather than as a practicing scientist.”
In the face of this rebuff, and of the earlier Statement of Defence filed by Dan Johnson, Ball discontinued his lawsuit.
Since his retirement from the University of Winnipeg in 1995, Tim Ball has worked as an industry-supported climate-change campaigner, sowing doubt about the science of global warming. He first associated himself with a Calgary-based group called the Friends of Science, which the Globe and Mail reported in August of 2006 was funded primarily by the oil and gas industry. Ball then moved to the chairmanship of a new group called the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, which the Toronto Star reported in January 2007, is a creation of the Toronto-based energy-industry lobby firm the High Park Group.
“I never intended any specific damage to Tim Ball’s reputation,” Dan Johnson said today. “But climate change is a critical global issue and I thought it was important to set the record straight. If people want to argue the science, I’m all for that, but Tim Ball was claiming expertise and specific credentials that he does not have. That needed to be corrected.”
Johnson said he is now considering whether to accept basic costs or to seek special costs, adding, “I also deserve an apology. I think the nation deserves an apology.”
Johnson said he would like to thank and acknowledge James Hoggan and the team of DeSmogBlog.com for offering considerable assistance in putting together his defence.