Tim Ball in Concert: Battered by the Facts

Canadian denier-in-chief, the retired geographer Dr. Tim Ball, got seriously (though not physically) roughed up last week in a presentation to the University of Victoria Young Conservatives Club.

Apparently expecting a room full of docile Stephen Harper fans, Ball found himself instead in front of a group of burgeoning climate scientists - young people who were quick to challenge him when he said things that were pointedly untrue.

For example, after describing the effect of Milankovitch cycles on climate, Ball told the students (at 56:24) that these predictable changes in Earth’s orbit and tilt are not included in modern climate models.

“None of this is included in the computer models that are used to tell you that the climate is changing. It’s not even included. The models they’re doing here on campus. They’re not in there. Sorry.”

But at 1:01:25, a student responds: “We do include it, though. I am with the UVic climate lab and we do include it in our models. It’s a standard parameter.”

The conversation, and the attached recording, went on for two-and-a-half painful hours, with Ball dismissing all climate science as a fiction promulgated by a small group of ideologues and the students - laptops in hand - challenging and dismissing his arguments on the basis of ready information.

At times, though, it ground down to the typical denier debate, with Ball saying things that aren’t true, being corrected, but refusing to acknowledge his inaccuracy.

For example, beginning at 1:21:20, he launches into a whole disquisition about how real scientists have been hamstrung by the IPCC because the politicians involved drew terms of reference that were ruinously restrictive:

“When it appears that the politicians are doing the honorable thing and having an arms length not political investigation, well they’re not doing that at all,” Ball began.

“Here’s what Maurice Strong did with the IPCC: he defined a changing climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity. Don’t look at what nature’s doing, only at what the human causes are.”

Student: (unintelligible)

Ball: “Yes, but they don’t look at the natural climate variability.”

Student sotto voce “not true, we look at natural variation”

Ball, offering a new slide: “This is the definition produced by the United Nations Environment Program which was then adopted by the IPCC. This is the definition of what they’re directed to look at. They’re directed to only look at climate change that is due to human activity.”

Student: “What about that whole second half (of the definition printed on the slide): ‘in addition to natural climate variability.’”

Ball: “Yeah, but they don’t do that.”

Student: “But it just says to do it.”

Ball: “You look at the list of forcings they have; it’s only those forcings caused by human activity.”

Student: “You’re saying that volcanoes are caused by humans?”

Ball: “Well exactly. The volcanoes is one and look at the thing I showed you with Milankovich.”

Student: “Yeah, but the IPCC accounts for volcanic activity AND Milankovich cycles.”

Ball: “They identify them, but they do not consider them in their models ….”

Student: “They certainly do ….”

Ball: “No then don’t ….”

Student: “Yes they do: I run models … ((interrupted)”

It’s worth noting that Dr. Andrew Weaver, who is the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis and whose models is one of the best in the world, works and teaches at UVic and employs some of his students to help run his models. If Tim Ball wanted to make up information about what is considered in computer models, he was doing it in the wrong venue.

Ball said many other silly things during the course of the “lecture.” And many things that have previously been proved untrue. For instance, he said that it is “simply not true” that he has been paid by oil companies, regardless that time and again, people have tracked the source of his income to oil and gas companies or energy industry lobby groups.

But the most offensive moments come when Ball accuses OTHER people of irresponsibility.

“Don’t get me wrong, if you want to play with your models in the lab, that’s fine. But you have a scientific responsibility which I happen to think you’re not fulfilling. But when you go public with your models and say your model works and you have to base your whole policy for the world on this, that’s a whole different responsibility.”

So, Tim Ball thinks it’s okay to make public policy on the basis of uninformed criticism of models he has never studied. He argues that 17th century paintings are all the evidence he needs to demonstrate that current warming is natural and not a problem. He says things that are not true and then refuses to acknowledge his error when corrected. And he yet he feels confident to criticize the ethics of the best scientists currently working in the field.

It’s appalling. But don’t take my word for it. The audio link is now online.


“He argues that 17th century paintings are all the evidence he needs to demonstrate that current warming is natural and not a problem.” Priceless!!

Is there anywhere online where I can view this marathon-o-fun? It’s like porn for me to see these deniers’ arguments go up in flames.

Good stuff. Unfortunately, in the USA we’d never get an exchange as described above:

Student: They certainly do
Ball: No they don’t
Student: Yes they do: I run models

We have no panto tradition here. In the US, the tradition would be for Ball to accuse the student of being an Unamerican socialist long before this point.