The combative, thin-skinned and dishonest Dr. Tim Ball has launched a very personal attack on a Williams Lake, B.C. academic who has had the temerity to question Ball's grasp of climate science.
In what has become a typical presentation, “global warming skeptic” Tim Ball spoke in December to the Cariboo Regional District, proclaiming that humans have nothing whatever to do with global warming and that anyone who says differently is some kind of religious zealot.
In response, Marten Lettinga, a physics and chemistry instructor at the williams Lake campus of Thompson Rivers University, wrote to the local paper, the Williams Lake Tribune, saying that while Dr. Ball appeared “sincere and passionate (someone I could possibly have a beer with)” that Ball's “presentation gave the false impression that there is still much confusion over the causes or the existence of global warming.” Lettinga picked a couple of specific examples (his entire letter is attached below) and concluded, “The CRD would have been better served with a randomly selected panel of climatologists (via interactive TV).”
In his response (also attached below), Ball ripped into Lettinga, saying “he either didn’t listen or didn’t want to listen or both.” Ball also accused Lettinga of intellectual dishonesty for ending his own letter by saying “the opinions expressed are wholly my own and not necessarily those of my employer.”
This simple act of integrity obviously caught Ball off guard. After all, he has repeatedly used his (long-defunct) association with the University of Winnipeg to bolster the apparent authority of his industry-funded opinions. In fact, the university had to ask Ball to stop presenting himself as a professor emeritus - an honor he neither earned nor deserves.
The backing and forth between Lettinga and Ball continued through another set of letters to the Tribune (also attached), again marked by a respectful (if skeptical) tone from Lettinga and a snarling and personal response from Ball. Again, typical.
Two issues arise as mysterious, or at least disappointing.
First, Williams Lake is in the heart of the greatest single example of environmental devastation in the world that is almost certainly attributable to global warming. The mountain pine beetle infestation has killed forest stands covering such a large tract of central British Columbia that the effect is visible from space. Local officials in this, of all neighborhoods, should be taking greater care as to the quality of their scientific input. But rather than insist upon hearing from experts with relevant and current credentials, the CRD accepts the professional contrarian, Dr. Ball, saying, in the words of District Chair Jon Wolbers, “It’s always good for politicians to hear the other side of the story.” The “other side”? That would be the best science in the world on one side and energy-industry-funded fiction on the other. In what way is it necessary for responsible politicians to avail themselves of this perverted “balance”?
The second disappointment is the continuing failure by media to do even the most minimal backchecking on people's credentials and history. Here we have Tim Ball, whose record of deceit is a Google-stroke away, as is his history of hurling unfounded insults at reputable academics. Yet the Tribune fails to mention this in its original coverage or in any of the letters.
Garbage in; Garbage out
We live in a democracy in which self-interested scoundrels have a perfect right to distort the truth and delude the public. And in such a democracy, a free and independent media is critical to maintaining a healthy public debate - i.e., one that is not dominated by those who can afford to recruit amenable experts and to lobby ill-informed, “balance”-seeking politicians. Such being the case, you can only assign so much blame to Tim Ball, a not-very-honest, second-string university professor who is earning more fame in retirement than he ever could have achieved on the strength of his academic work. The really big blame has to fall at the feet of the reporters and editors who don't bother to do any research before reporting on his presentations and printing his letters. How can the public be expected to make intelligent judgments when this is the quality of their information source?