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Making Tim Ball

Written by Sherwin, published on December 17, 2009

This is a story about one of my moments of glory. Some of you know that some  years ago I was fundraising for Greenpeace. One particularly cold winter day, I engaged a passerby in a conversation about global warming. The man who stopped to talk was quite charming but he clearly had no sympathy for the claims I was making. Wow was I startled when he said that he was Canada’s first climatologist!

Of course, that wasn’t enough to convince me of his points of view and eventually he said, “Meteorologists can’t predict the weather next week, how can scientists claim to predict global warming?” Now when he said this, some kind of alarm bell starting to ring deep down in my brain stem. Maybe he was just a little too slick. Or maybe, since I was so often speaking from a script, I was in a heightened state of script awareness. So at that point, I fell out of my own script and stuck out my hand and introduced myself. And he introduced himself. His name was Tim Ball.

We had an animated conversation about peer reviewed publishing, the dimensions of relative objectivity in science, global cooling, and socialism. Actually he accused me of being a socialist. And that was when my moment of glory came to pass in the form of a question I would ask in return. See, when he accused me of being a socialist I was provoked first to a moment of confusion – it just struck me as a non sequitur. But after the confusion, came clarity. And I asked him, “Do you work for the Fraser Institute?”

I still remember that moment and I remember exactly where we were standing – corner of Government and Yates in front of Eddi Bauer.

His eyes widened a little and he stepped back. Pointedly, he said no. I told him that equating concern for global warming with socialism sounded like something the Fraser Institute or the Heritage Foundation might do. He mumbled something and walked away. I quickly made some notes about the exchange, including writing down his name and went on with my day.

But that night I did a name search online for ‘Tim Ball’. Then I did a name search for ‘Tim Ball’ on the Fraser Institute website. And maybe he wasn’t an employee but I did find his name on heaps of their communications. I was so excited! I met an important person who was clearly a hired gun for climate change denial and made his cover on one try! It was easy.

But unfortunately, many reporters and journalists have found him convincing over the years. Unfortunately, many so-called journalists continue to find him interesting. As of today, he’s still listed on the Fraser Institute website:

This is how his bio reads on the Fraser Institute website:

Dr. Tim Ball, one of the first Canadians to hold a Ph.D. in climatology, wrote his doctoral thesis at the University of London (England) using the remarkable records of the Hudson’s Bay Company to reconstruct climate change from 1714 – 1952. He has published numerous articles on climate change and its impact on the human condition. Dr. Ball has served on numerous committees at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels on climate, water resources, and environmental issues. He was a professor in the geography department at the University of Winnipeg before retiring. He has written a regular column on weather in the agricultural magazine. Country Guide, for 14 years. He is currently working as an environmental consultant and public speaker based in Victoria and has written, with Dr. Stuart Houston, 18th Century Naturalists on Hudson Bay, a book on the science and climate of the fur trade (McGill-Queens University Press, 2003).

But this is how he’s described in James Hoggan’s recent book, Climate Cover Up, The Crusade to Deny Global Warming:

There are few “skeptical scientists” with as little actual expertise and as much ambition as the Canadian geography professor Dr. Timothy Ball. Never a climate scientist per se, Dr. Ball quit his position as an associate professor at the University of Winnipeg in 1995, apparently ending an academic career that featured a lifetime output of just four peer-reviewed journal articles, none of which addressed atmospheric science. Yet ten years later, Ball-the-climate-expert seemed to be everywhere – on the radio, in the newspapers, on the lecture circuit, even testifying before a committee in the Canadian parliament.

Turns out that Tim Ball is paid by the Friends of Science that is funded through the University of Calgary Science Education Fund, set up by Barry Cooper who is friends with Stephen Harper, which is funded by the Oil patch. He’s also connected to the National Resources Stewardship Program, Tom Harris with APCO Public Relations, High Park Advocacy Group, Canadian Gas Association and the Canadian Electricity Association. He’s effectively a paid mouthpiece with fewer credentials than he and the Fraser Institute claims he has. But I met him and he’s quasi famous and so I guess I met an almost famous guy! And I made him. That was my moment of glory.

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  4. Grandpa Jim says:

    Hey, you made Tim ball….perhaps you could make Niall Ferguson ball tooo! Just read parts of his book
    the ascent of money…. oooofdah! Thank God for people like Naomi Klein.

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  6. lisa says:

    FYI, you had another moment of glory tonight in East Van as I laughed in delight and proudly read portions out loud to the other 3 humans in my living room. You rock, Sherwin, and it doesn’t get said nearly enough.