The decline of Tim Ball: Denier champion reduced to railing at real scientists

Read time: 4 mins

Pity poor Tim Ball.

Despite having a short (eight years as a professor) and undistinguished (five peer-reviewed publications in his lifetime) career as a geography professor at the University of Winnipeg, Dr. Ball was able in the last 10 years to elevate himself to the level of self-appointed climate change expert. By working with energy industry lobby firms, he was able to insinuate himself as a would-be advisor to committees of the Canadian House of Commons and the the U.S. Senate. At one point, he presumed to send a letter directly to Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, introducing himself as “one of the first climatology PhDs in the world,” - a claim so far from accurate as to be laughable.

By his activism, his constant and so-often ill-informed criticism of scientists who were actually working in the field of climate change, Ball had, by 2006, established himself as Canada’s pre-eminent global warming denier. The Globe and Mail called him “Mr. Cool,” although the accompanying feature was anything but complimentary.

Still, at least he was getting attention.

When someone (University of Lethbridge Professor Dan Johnson) finally called Ball on his trumped up resume, the uber-denier launched a suit of defamation. Big mistake. The statements of defence included more devastating slander than Ball had ever previously endured. Lawyers for the Calgary Herald, for example, dismissed him as someone “viewed as a paid promoter of the agenda of the oil and gas industry, rather than as a practicing scientist.”

Ball abandoned his suit and went back to spreading disinformation in small prairie town service clubs. This blow to his credibility was such that he is no longer even a candidate for inclusion in the periodic lists that the climate denial industry creates to try to give the impression that there is still a legitimate scientific debate about climate change. For example, in a full page that the Cato Institute placed in five major American newspapers last week, Ball’s name was left off the list, in favour of “climate experts” like Dr. Susan Crockford, an archeoanthropologist who’s actual expertise in the evolutionary theory of the domestic dog. The folks at Cato might even be applauded for trransparency. Instead of using Ball, who has tried on many occasions to deny that his income derives directly or indirectly from oil and gas revenues, Cato included on his petition A Neil Hutton, the past president of the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists. There is clearly no question who’s interests the American Petroleum Industry-sponsored Cato is trying to defend - and without the help of a damaged ally like Tim Ball.

So now Dr. Ball is left with a dwindling audience, writing his weekly column in the little-known libertarian website Canada Free Press. There, recently, he set upon doctors James Hansen and Andrew Weaver, two of the most respected climate scientists on the continent. Both of these men have published more peer-reviewed research  in a single season than Ball wrote in his entire career. Both have gained the respect and admiration of their professional colleagues and both are prominent contributors to the Nobel quality work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Both are also seriously (and justifiably) concerned about government inaction in the face of a slimate change threat that grows more daunting by the day. Ball is fond of dismissing concern as “alarmism” - as if alerting your neighbors to danger is somehow a bad thing.

It’s true that pulling the fire alarm in a theatre is an act of mischief - WHEN THERE IS NO FIRE. But when providing an early warning could save lives, it is an act of heroism. That may be especially the case when standing up to raise the alarm can subject you to the kind of ill-informed character assassination that Ball directs at Hansen and Weaver.

The question, for Dr. Ball - an expert with no credentials and, increasingly, an advocate with no audience - is this: If he would have us criticize Hansen and Weaver for alarmism - for “frightening people” in a theatre that is about to be engulfed in flames - what accusation would he hurl at the usher who blocks the door and recommends people return to their seats and ignore the smoke already curling around their head.

I’d suggest “criminal negligence” at the least, especially if that “usher” truly had above-average scientific understanding and was particularly able to assess the risk.

As the bodies start piling up, others may prescribe more dramatic charge - perhaps some variation of “deadly irresponsibility.” In the first degree.

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Just lately I have been wondering what happened to Timmy & his cohorts.  Hadn’t heard a peep out of him for ages.  It must be a crushing blow for him to realize that his 15 minutes are over. 

In case the sequence is not clear, here are the news items and public records:

April 19, 2006
Tim Ball, Friends of Science rep at the time:
Aussies’ Suzuki heavier on rhetoric than on science Tim Ball For The Calgary Herald Wednesday,

April 23, 2006
Dan Johnson, Professor, University of Lethbridge: Letter to the Editor of the Calgary Herald
“Whatever one may feel about Tim Ball’s denial of climate change science, newspapers ought to report factual summaries of authors’ credentials. ” etc.

August 12, 2006
Charles Montgomery, Journalist
“Mr. Cool”,

Aug 20, 2006
Calgary Herald publishes a “Clarification”:
“… In his letter, Johnson criticized Ball’s lack of research regarding climate and said he rarely published while teaching at the University of Winnipeg. According to Ball’s curriculum vitae, he has conducted research on climate and has published 51 papers – 32 directly related to climate and atmosphere. The Herald wishes to clarify that information.”

Sept 1, 2006
Tim Ball, Victoria, BC
Statement of Claim against Defendents: The Calgary Herald, The Governors of the University of Lethbridge, and Dr. Dan Johnson
Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta
Fraser Milner Casgrain, Calgary, AB
Items 1-19.
“8, 9. … Ball has never had a website.”
“19. General damages… $250,000… future loss of income… Punitive $75,000…”

Sept 3, 2006, between midnight and  5 am.
Ball website goes off-line:
Archives of Ball website May 2003 to June 2006:*/

Sept 14, 2006
“Climate-change critic sues paper, school, professor”, by Dawn Walton, Globe and Mail

October 13, 2006
Statement of Defence of Dr. Daniel Johnson
Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta
McConchie Law Corporation, Vancouver, BC

December 1, 2006
Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta
Partial Discontinuance of Action against the Governors of the University of Lethbridge
Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP, Calgary, AB

December 7, 2006
Statement of Defence of the Calgary Herald

Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, Parlee McLaws LLP, Calgary, AB

Quote: “…The Defendants [Calgary Herald] state that the Plaintiff [Tim Ball] never held a reputation in the scientific community as a noted climatologist and authority on global warming. The particulars of the Plaintiff’s reputation are as follows:” etc.

March 13, 2007
Affidavit of Records sworn by Dr. Daniel Johnson, sworn on March 8, 2007. Items 1 - 183.
Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Calgary, AB, Alberta Agent for McConchie Law Corporation, Vancouver, BC

May, 2007
Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta
Partial Discontinuance of Action against the Calgary Herald
Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP, Calgary, AB

June 8, 2007
Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta
Partial Discontinuance of Action against the Defendent, Dr. Dan Johnson
Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP, Calgary, AB

June 14, 2007. Johnson was interviewed via phone, by Globe and Mail, Edmonton Journal, and other news agencies. 
None ran stories or notice of the results of the Ball case.

News releases from Desmogblog.


I’ll add that without the efforts of Desmogblog, shenanigans that hurt the nation and the world would often not be exposed. I meant what I said on the donation page:

Desmogblog stands up for reason and honesty, for the good of the environment…

for pullling the plug on this character.  From my point of view, you stuck a pin in his balloon & sent him flying backwards around the room until the air ran out.  Well done.


Although i also believe that Mr. Ball at best is grossly misinformed and at worst prolifierating an agenda of disinformation i think its a little bit misleading to call this man a criminal.  What we should be doing is looking for viable energy solutions instead of wasting our time gloating over the eminent dimise of Mr. Balls downfall.