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In Memoriam: Timothy Ball, Ph.D., Fierce Defender of Science

October 7, 2022

Climate Change Weekly #449

Timothy Ball, Ph.D. passed away on September 24. I’m truly sorry to have to write this. I had few personal encounters with Dr. Ball, unfortunately: a couple of phone interviews, some email exchanges, and brief hellos exchanged in passing at meetings we both attended.

Although I didn’t know him well, I followed and admired his work for years. Dr. Ball was a fighter for the use of the scientific method to explore the world and discover truth in all areas of science. In his last few decades he was perhaps best-known for doggedly using the scientific method in academia, in the popular media, and in court to expose the pseudo-science used to promote climate alarm. For his efforts, Ball received praise in the form of multiple awards, and he was sued by noted climate alarmist Michael Mann, Ph.D., of hockey stick infamy. (More on this later.)

Among the awards Dr. Ball received were the Clarence Atchison Award for Excellence in Community Service, the Clifford J. Robson Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence; and the Lifetime Achievement in Climate Science award by The Heartland Institute at the 13th International Conference on Climate Change in 2019. In a follow-up to his receipt of the latter award, I interviewed Dr. Ball for an article published in Environment & Climate News.

Below are a short bio of Dr. Ball; a brief remembrance by Joe Bast, former long-time president of The Heartland Institute; and excerpts of a post from the Manhattan Contrarian blog discussing the court case for which Ball is perhaps most famous.

Brief biography, Timothy Ball, Ph.D.

Dr. Timothy 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 Ph.D. in geography with a focus on historical climatology from Queen Mary University of London, England in 1983. His dissertation was titled, “Climatic Change in Central Canada : A Preliminary Analysis of Weather Information from the Hudson's Bay Company Forts at York Factory and Churchill Factory, 1714-1850.”

Dr. Ball joined the University of Winnipeg faculty in 1971, retiring as a full professor in 1996. Ball then served as chief science advisor to the International Climate Science Coalition and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.

Dr. Ball was a researcher and author of scientific papers on a range of environmental issues, including a coauthored paper in the scientific journal Ecological Complexity titled "Polar bears of western Hudson Bay and climate change: Are warming spring air temperatures the 'ultimate' survival control factor?"

Ball was one of several authors of Slaying the Sky Dragon: Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory, published in 2011. In 2014 Ball wrote the book The Deliberate Corruption of Climate Science. Ball’s most recent solo effort discussing climate change is Human Caused Global Warming, with the attention-grabbing subtitle “The Biggest Deception in Human History.”

As one can see from the titles of Dr. Ball’s books, he was not one to hide his true thoughts or shy away from controversy or an academic or, as it turns out, a legal fight.

From Joe Bast:

Tim Ball, Ph.D., was part of the first generation of modern climatologists trained to understand and study Earth’s climate “in the round” rather than just one or a few aspects of it. He had the misfortune of watching his discipline succumb to the temptations of government funding, media attention, and specialization that have caused so much damage climate science and to other scientific disciplines.

Dr. Ball bravely and loudly called out the politicization of science, the substitution of climate models for genuine climatology, and the terrible real-world consequences of the policies advocated by climate alarmists. He taught thousands of students to see past the headlines and declarations of political entities such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and to focus instead on the real science of weather patterns.

Dr. Ball liked to say climate change “is a puzzle of thousands of pieces; climate science is [only] one piece of the puzzle.” Computer modelers, physicists, botanists, geologists, and economists, to name just a few of the academic disciplines that claim to have insights into the causes and consequences of climate change, typically lack the training to understand the dynamics of the climate system. At best they can shed light one small pieces of the climate puzzle. Dr. Ball frequently said they should never be trusted to declare “the science is settled,” much less pontificate on what public policies ought to be pursued.

Despite fierce and often highly personal criticism from all corners of the climate alarmist industry, Dr. Ball never lost his composure or tailored his speech or writing. He was the IPCC’s strongest and one of its most credible critics. He was generous with his insights and advice to me and to two or even three generations of other policy analysts who sought him out. He will be sorely missed.

For all his stellar work, Ball is perhaps best-known for his trenchant critique of Michael Mann’s widely disputed “hockey stick” reconstruction of the Earth’s recent temperature history and the hiding of the data Mann and his colleagues used to develop the widely cited graphic. Ball’s critique resulted in him being sued for libel by Mann. Frances Menton of the Manhattan Contrarian described the lawsuit well, including Ball’s ultimate vindication. I excerpt his comments here:

Ball was that rarity of a climate scientist in the world of academia with the temerity and courage to say and repeat that CO2 is a beneficial gas. He would not back down, in a world that rapidly went insane and became increasingly intolerant and hostile to his position. Notably, Ball did not shy away from calling out the biggest scamsters of the climate hustle, most particularly one Michael Mann. Mann is the professor at Penn State who was the lead creator of the IPCC’s iconic “hockey stick” graph that has been used to sell global warming hysteria to the world for the last 20+ years.

This post will draw substantially on a previous post I wrote back in 2019 titled “Michael Mann Hockey Stick Update: Now Definitively Established To Be Fraud.” That post goes into extensive detail on a lawsuit between Mann and Ball that ultimately ended in total victory for Ball. Here is an abbreviated version of the story of the Mann/Ball litigation, excerpted from that post:

[In 2011 a] prominent skeptical climate scientist in Canada named Tim Ball accused Mann of fraud in generating the Hockey Stick graph. The famous quote, from a February 2011 interview of Ball, was “Michael Mann should be in the State Pen, not Penn State.” In March 2011, Mann sued Ball for libel, focusing on that quote, in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver. Here is a copy of the Complaint. … The case then essentially disappeared into limbo for eight-plus years. But on [August 23, 2019] the British Columbia court dismissed Mann’s claim with prejudice, and also awarded court costs to Ball.

Ball’s accusation against Mann was solidly based on the work of Canadian mathematician Steve McIntyre in attempting to reconstruct the Hockey Stick graph, and also on the so-called ClimateGate emails, released from the University of East Anglia (collaborators of Mann) in 2009. McIntyre conclusively demonstrated, based on disclosures in the ClimateGate emails, that Mann had truncated data in generating the Hockey Stick in order to achieve the presentation that he wanted. But throughout the process of McIntyre trying to reconstruct his work, Mann flatly refused to share the data and methods that he had used to generate the graph.

And then, even after suing Ball in British Columbia, Mann continued his refusal to produce his underlying data. That’s not something that a litigant can get away with. … From the 2019 post:

Mann absolutely refused to provide the underlying information in the Ball litigation. … The court repeatedly tried to get an agreement that something would be produced that would satisfy Ball, and repeatedly gave Mann more time to comply. Could this really go on for eight years? In the U.S., that would be extraordinary, but not impossible. . . . [I]n 2017 Mann actually agreed (under court pressure) to produce to Ball within 21 days the key technical information about construction of the Hockey Stick graph that Ball was requesting. But the information was not produced. … [F]inally seeking the dismissal of Mann’s claims as the ultimate sanction. On Friday [August 23, 2019], the court granted that relief.

Thus Ball was fully vindicated in the end by the court. …

In Canada, a loser in court is required to pay the fees and costs of the winner. Ball was awarded the fees and costs in an oral ruling by the court. …

Mann’s lawyer (McConchie) did not even oppose the application for costs, since that is the norm in Canadian litigation. But, in an event that will probably surprise no one, it turns out that in the intervening three years the execrable Mann has never paid anything to Ball. Ball was essentially wiped out financially by the costs of the litigation, to the extent that a GoFundMe has now been started by Anthony Watts to help his family pay for funeral expenses. Follow this link if you would like to contribute.

Tim Ball’s death is a loss to the community of climate realists: people who still believe that data and evidence should trump a good story, an elegant but unsupported theory, and complex but flawed computer model outputs when it comes to describing the state of the climate and whether a changing climate poses a dire threat to humanity and to nature. His passing is also a loss to the public, leaving us with one less champion for the pursuit of truth through faithful adherence to the scientific method, and one less defender of the benefits society receives from the use of fossil fuels.

SOURCES: Wikipedia; Manhattan Contrarian; ICCC 13; The Heartland Institute




Two peer-reviewed papers from 2022 confirm what previous research has shown and IPCC modelers admit: climate model projections of temperatures run too hot. Because the findings are not alarming, these studies have received little media attention.

In a study published in Climate Dynamics, Nicholas Lewis uses a Bayesian method of statistical analysis to estimate “climate sensitivity” to a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from preindustrial levels, and its effect on temperatures. Bayesian analysis combines prior information about a phenomenon and established parameters to assign probabilities to a future range of events. The result of this analysis, as described by the author:

The resulting estimates of long-term climate sensitivity are much lower and better constrained (median 2.16°C, 17–83% range 1.75–2.7°C, 5–95% range 1.55–3.2°C) than in Sherwood et al. and in AR6 (central value 3°C, very likely range 2.0–5.0°C). This sensitivity to the assumptions employed implies that climate sensitivity remains difficult to ascertain, and that values between 1.5°C and 2°C are quite plausible. [Emphasis added.]

A study published in Geophysical Research Letters compares the simulated outputs of 38 widely used climate models under low, medium, and high climate sensitivity estimates, with the ERA5 dataset for 1980 through 2021 produced by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. The ERA5 dataset provides hourly estimates of numerous atmospheric, land, and oceanic climate variables.

The author found climate models that assume high or medium climate sensitivity produce results inconsistent with global temperature and climate data. The models’ temperature projections are far too high. As a result, the author concludes the models “should not be used for implementing policies based on their scenario forecasts.”

Although climate models with built-in low climate sensitivity perform better, producing results that more closely correspond with the measured data, they too are unsatisfactory because the results run too hot. If policymakers use the low-sensitivity models even though they are “not optimal,” they should not be stampeded into making bad energy policy decisions: the models’ simulated outputs are for a modest, quite “unalarming” warming for the next few decades.

One wonders how many studies must show climate models are seriously flawed, or how many times modelers must grudgingly admit their models don’t accurately simulate the climate, before the IPCC and the media admit governments should not use their projections of future climate conditions in setting energy and environmental policies.

SOURCES: Geophysical Research Letters; Climate Dynamics

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H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., is the Director of the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

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