Tim Ball sues for $325,000

The Globe and Mail reports

CALGARY — The skeptic at the centre of the heated debate about climate change that has been taking place in Canadian newspapers is moving the dispute to the courts, where Tim Ball is seeking $325,000 in damages for a letter to the editor that he says amounted to a “malicious attack” on his reputation.

Mr. Ball, who is the country’s most well-known critic of global-warming theory, is suing the Calgary Herald and its editors, the University of Lethbridge and one if its professors, Dan Johnson, for defamation, according to documents filed this month with the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench.

The dispute stems from an opinion piece on global warming that Mr. Ball wrote for the Herald last April and a published letter written by Prof. Johnson, an environmental scientist at the southern Alberta institution, who subsequently questioned the credentials attributed to Mr. Ball at the end of his article.

Here is Johnson’s letter

Whatever one may feel about Tim Ball’s denial of climate change science, newspapers ought to report factual summaries of authors’ credentials. You note he “was the first Climatology PhD in Canada and worked as a Professor of Climatology at the University of Winnipeg for 28 years”. Ball received a PhD in Geography in the UK in 1982, on a topic in historical climatology. Canada already had PhD’s in climatology, and it is important to recognize them and their research. Examples include Kenneth Hare, who received his PhD in 1950, also in the UK. Climatologist Andre Robert (PhD from McGill, 1965) conducted research that laid the groundwork in atmospheric models and climate. Timothy Oke, a leader in the study of urban climate, received his PhD from McMaster in 1967. According to Ball’s website, he was not a climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg for 28 years. How could he have? He did not even have an entry-level PhD until 1983, which would allow even Assistant Professor status. During much of the 28 years cited, he was a junior Lecturer who rarely published, and then spent 8 years as a geography professor. His work does not show any evidence of research regarding climate and atmosphere and the few papers he has published concern other matters. There are great gains to be made in science from conjectures and refutations, but sometimes denial is nothing more than denial.

The Globe and Mail continues:

Although Mr. Ball acknowledges that he only became a professor at the university in 1988, in his court documents he accuses the Herald of being negligent for not checking the accuracy of other contents of Prof. Johnson’s letter.

The letter suggests Mr. Ball “falsified his professional and academic credentials” and that he does not have the qualifications to make “serious comments” about global warming, according to the lawsuit.

So Ball admits he falsified his credentials but is suing anyway? The Calgary Herald is being sued despite publishing this “clarification”:

“Clarification On Sunday, April 23, 2006, The Herald published a letter from Dan Johnson, a professor in environmental science at the University of Lethbridge. Johnson was responding to an article of April 19, 2006, written by Dr. Timothy Ball. 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.”

However, hardly any of those 51 publications are in scientific journals but include things like gardening magazines. I looked in Web of Science and could only find four papers by Ball, all on historical climatology, none on climate and atmosphere. I don’t see how Ball can possibly win his case, but I guess that’s not the point.


  1. #1 Dano
    September 18, 2006

    Muddle fluff:

    I wonder if Paul Martin can sue Ball for butchering and malrepresenting scientific knowledge?

    Climatology professor my *ss. Friend of ContraScience, aye.



  2. #2 Eli Rabett
    September 18, 2006

    Marlowe Johnson asks if there is an entry level Ph.D. There is only one Ph.D. to bind us all, but it is the entry level for a position as Assistant Professor. This certainly was the case just everywhere since the seventies. When I was in grad school in the late sixties, there were a couple of folk in their forties and fifties who had been sent by their college to earn a Ph.D. More commonly today one also needs a minimum good post-doctoral position (~2 years) to snag an appointment.

    Our policy is to only hire Ph.D.s for Instructor/Lecturer positions also, but that is chemistry, I have no clue as to the culture in Geography. UWinnipeg appears to have a couple of instructors and an Asst. Prof who do not have Ph.D.s, but they are of an age

  3. #3 Robert
    September 19, 2006

    Eli wrote:

    Marlowe Johnson asks if there is an entry level Ph.D. There is only one Ph.D. to bind us all, but it is the entry level for a position as Assistant Professor. This certainly was the case just everywhere since the seventies.

    This is true for the US, but in the UK before perhaps 20 or so years ago there was a “doctor of science”, i.e., DSc, which was typically a mid-career kind of doctorate that was more prestigious than a professorship. One had to present a body of work to be awarded a DSc and that was rarely done without a decade or more of work _after_ the PhD. I’m not sure if (m)any British universities still award this degree. Ball claims that his PhD is a “doctor of science”, but that would be kinda unusual. It’s sort of odd that Ball would make the “entry-level PhD” charge against Johnson when it appears more likely that he was trying to pass his PhD off as a DSc. In the US today, there is a DSc degree, but it is most commonly handed out by schools of public health and is in all respects equivalent to the “usual” PhD.

  4. #4 Anonymous
    September 19, 2006

    Here’s one where Ball writes that he has been “studying” climate change for 40 years. While I guess that may be technically true, it is still misleading. So which is it 28, 32 or 40??? http://www.leightonsmith.co.nz/Default.asp?s=topics&id=5191

  5. #5 z
    December 2, 2006

    Alberta election coming up:

    “The two front-runners are Jim Dinning, a pro-business former finance minister credited with introducing fiscal reforms that launched a string of 13 successive budget surpluses, and Ted Morton, a former academic with a neoconservative bent but scant political experience.” http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20061201/wl_canada_nm/canada_alberta_col_1

    Oh joy.

  6. #6 z
    December 4, 2006

    “Alberta election coming up”

    And, ironically, said two front runners knocked each other out of the ring, leaving the victory to:

    “Running third is Ed Stelmach, a farmer and long-time politician, who has garnered support in rural areas.”

    Well, if he governs by flipping a coin, that will still leave him with a 50% advantage in correct decisionmaking over the neoconservatives.

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