Climate common sense lost a good friend this week with the passing of Timothy Francis “Tim” Ball, a climate scientist in both senses of the word, with a keen sense of real-world history as opposed to computer modeling and the courage of his convictions. As Mark Steyn put it in a moving “Ave atque vale,” his friend “Tim was a Canadian scientist who dissented from the global warm-mongering that has deranged our politics, and put out the lights at the Eiffel Tower, and is on course this winter to freeze and starve Europe’s elderly.” What better epitaph could a person want for their public life? Ball challenged alarmist orthodoxy and stood firm to the end in the face of a barrage of criticism that frequently descended so far into the personal level as to target his family, and of lawfare from Michael Mann of which Steyn has also been a target. Let us all honour his legacy by maintaining the highest possible standards of clarity, accuracy, courage and decency.
Ball passed away full of years and surrounded by his loving family at age 83. His was a life lived in full, not least because he found things worth believing in and stood by them. It is not a life or a death to regret. But there were things to regret in it, particularly the price he paid for standing up in pursuit of truth in open debate.
For a sense of the kind of innuendos that were aimed at him, look no further than the first paragraph of his Wikipedia entry, with its underhanded “Ball then became very active in promoting climate change denial, giving public talks and writing opinion pieces and letters to the editor for Canadian newspapers. He has been a member of energy industry funded lobbying groups, and wrote for the climate change denial website Tech Central Station.” But even Wikipedia is obliged to concede that “Ball received a bachelor's degree with honors in geography from the University of Winnipeg in 1970, followed by an M.A. from the University of Manitoba in 1971 and a PhD in geography with a specific focus on historical climatology from Queen Mary University of London in England in 1983” and that he then enjoyed a successful academic career culminating in full professorship at the University of Winnipeg.
DeSmog sneers that “Ball was a former professor of geography at the University of Winnipeg from 1988 to 1996. The University of Winnipeg never had an office of Climatology. His degree was in historical geography and not climatology.” And something called “Rational wiki” simply states that “Timothy Francis ‘Tim’ Ball is a credential-fudging denialist crank.” And it’s easy to say that such things come with the territory. But not everyone can stand them (even Judith Curry was driven from academia by the personal hostility of her colleagues) and it is far from clear why anyone should have to. Tim Ball did so, including having a grandchild stigmatized at school for Ball’s beliefs, which is especially outrageous. But a vital consequence of one person with courage is the inspiration it gives to others who see that they are not alone and that it is possible to face the storm and endure it.
We want to draw particular attention to Ball’s founding of the Rupert’s Land Research Centre as part of his interest in using actual historical data to determine whether current climate conditions are unprecedented. It’s part of the reason we called him “a climate scientist in both senses of the word”, that is, fully credentialled and also devoted to genuine scientific inquiry based on facts not speculation, especially not speculation disguised as rigorously certain computer modeling.
Despite nihil nisi bonum (“of the dead say nothing but good”) and Dr. Johnson’s maxim that “In lapidary prose, a man is not upon his oath” we will take issue here with Ball’s habit of describing climate alarmism as a hoax. He was a man who valued vigorous debate and do not think he would want us to shy away from points of disagreement. And we will also note that he could be curmudgeonly, though on that point we at least are in no position to cast stones. But the same strength of character that sometimes made him irascible also helped him stick by his beliefs in the face of adversity.
Of that there was plenty. Not just the usual rhetorical abuse, but a protracted lawsuit by Michael Mann over a pointed turn of phrase in which, as Steyn notes, “the plaintiff had refused, for years, to do the elementary things necessary to settle a legal matter, such as providing evidence of damage.” The drawn-out ordeal cost Ball his retirement savings. In the end Mann lost his suit against Ball who was awarded costs, which Mann did not pay. And anyone who has been through legal proceedings knows what sort of physical and financial strain they entail. It was dirty pool, and it took its toll. But as Steyn says, “Tim bore all this with great fortitude.” Anthony Watts is organizing a fundraiser to help the family cover funeral and other expenses.
In their last meeting Steyn reports that “Tim was on grand form that night, full of life and full of laughs. He had all the qualities of a true warrior: courage, integrity, indomitable resilience, and, in his quiet dignified bearing, a rueful acceptance of the costs they impose.”
May he rest in peace. And may we all hold up the torch he carried so long.