Ad Hominem

by Dr. Tim Ball on February 7, 2011

in Biography,Data,Politics

An acquaintance said I must feel vindicated now that the extent of the corruption in climate science is exposed. The answer is no, because I knew all along there would be no pleasure in “I told you so”. The damage done to climate science, science, and environmentalism is serious. Worse is the deliberate misuse of science to achieve unnecessary, unworkable and enormously damaging energy and economic policies. I knew what the people at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were doing and understood the severe limitations and control they had of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) but didn’t have the smoking gun until the emails were leaked. There are many events and actions that illustrate the purely political nature of what they were doing. High on the list were the personal attacks on anyone who dared to raise questions about the science in general or worse question their work and activities. These ranged from Michael Mann’s email to the former New York Times reporter Andrew Revkin of 29 September 2009 which starts,

Yep, what was written below is all me, but it was purely on background, please don’t quote anything I said or attribute to me w/out checking specifically—thanks…

…and ends

…those such as McIntyre who operate entirely outside of this system are not to be trusted.

To 27 October 2009 Phil Jones email to Graham Haughton at the University of Birmingham trying to shut down the independent voice Sonja Boehmer Christiansen who was providing publication for skeptics’ papers.

Many people have read the material available about me on certain websites and repeated ad nauseam on others, including Wikipedia. They comprise personal attacks questioning my credentials and career. The manipulation of wikipedia on climate issues and about climate ‘skeptics’ is explained here.

Despite the manipulation people read this material as fact and so it requires a response to all the points, even though some are so trivial they really don’t warrant response. The sheer volume of minutia indicates how small-minded the originators of this material are, and how desperate they are to silence people.

Before I address the points, please ask yourself: why all the attacks if I am not credible or qualified as they claim? Why the personal attacks when, as a climate scientist (see Ph.D attached), all I have ever done is ask questions about the science of global warming and climate change when issues arise?

Almost all the information provided about my career, qualifications, group activities and funding are from the web site Desmogblog (they now claim to be a climate website). This organization has Kevin Grandia identified as “Operations Manager.” (In his previous job he was employed by an assistant to a Liberal Cabinet Minister in Parliament who lost his job in the last election). It is run under the auspices of James Hoggan, owner of a public relations company. He is also Chair of the David Suzuki Foundation, a powerful environmental group, and has served on the board for several years. He also has the Foundation as a client in an apparent conflict of interest. There is also apparent conflict in that several of his other clients promote alternate energies, so they benefit from Hoggan’s attack on carbon-based energies. This was discussed in this article by Terence Corcoran.

They include or have included the National Hydrogen Association, Fuel Cells Canada, hydrogen producer QuestAir, Naikun Wind Energy and Ballard Fuel Cells. Mr. Hoggan apparently benefits from regulatory policy against CO2.

In addition, the Suzuki Foundation receives money from at least two oil companies. Somehow, in a bizarre twist of logic, this money (and for that matter, all government money) does not engender agendas or cause people to slant their research. Apparently only those who have dissenting views are guilty of being bought.

I reject totally the insult of presupposing I would sell my intellectual and research integrity. In fact, if I did receive money from any energy companies, I would not be driving a 1992 car, living in a leaky apartment block, or living on pension supplemented with money from speaking engagements.

Many of the claims against me were given national airing in a two-page article by Charles Montgomery in the Toronto Globe and Mail. I spent several hours with Montgomery explaining the science of my position on climate. He chose to make the article a personal attack. There was a complete rebuttal of Montgomery’s article two weeks later in a two-page spread in the National Post by Terence Corcoran.

Here is Corcoran’s response, and for fairness I have included Corcoran’s correction. Notice the correction doesn’t alter the comments Montgomery made about me.

I am accused of being a geographer as if that is a sin and somehow belittles my qualifications. When I got my degree in climatology in 1982 from Queen Mary College at the University of London, there were very few climate research centers in the world. Two of the top ones were Hubert Lamb’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia and Reid Bryson’s Climate Centre in Wisconsin. Logically, the only department at the University of Winnipeg in which to place a climatologist was geography, since climatology was then a half of what was called physical geography. There was a climate lab and office complex separate from the geography department (two floors higher). Professor Bill Bell, who became State Climatologist in Georgia, occupied it first; and when he left I moved into the complex and ran the climate program. So there was, in fact, a separate entity and facility related to climate.

The claim that I have published only four peer-reviewed articles is completely false. The claim I haven’t published peer-reviewed literature since 1994 is also false. This information originated from the website Desmogblog. My full publication record is attached. There are 22 peer-reviewed papers in the significant climate journals of the time. For most of my career, there were few climate journals and science journals like Nature and Science were simply not interested in the topic. Since retirement, the claim that I am not currently active is also false. I continue to publish with a peer-reviewed article with Dr. Willie Soon of Harvard et al in Ecological Complexity, and a peer-reviewed book on science and climate recorded by naturalists on Hudson Bay in the 18th century with Dr. Stuart Houston and Mary Houston published by McGill Queens University Press. Despite being retired from academia, I continue to research and publish. Having sat on committees reviewing my colleague’s annual research production, I know I am as productive as most who are full time academics.

More importantly, these challenges to my research ignore the totality of my experience. I was the primary author of the climate half of two editions of a textbook that is still in print – Fundamentals of Physical Geography published by Copp Clark Pitman. I taught the subject at all university levels for over 20 years. I have carried out research contracts for government and private industry and acted as technical advisor to many groups and for 17 years wrote a monthly column on weather for farmers. Of course, they will claim this is not ‘academic’ but it is useful and requires an accurate understanding for people who depend on the weather for their commerce. In short, they denigrate and ignore experience and belittle those who struggle with real world issues.

The two charges that I claimed to be a Professor for 28 years and the first PhD in climatology Canada are also false. The information developed without my knowledge from advertising of a presentation I made at a conference. The information that I was 25 years a professor was changed to 28 years, and the claim that I was among the first PhD’s in climate became “was the first.” Once on the web this became the source of information for anyone Googling my name. I have no control over what goes out on the web. The Internet has its values but it also perpetuates and rapidly spreads misinformation as those who spend their time with personal attacks understand and exploit.

The claim that I am “…not objectively qualified to be regarded as an expert on climate…” flies in the face of my entire record. I was considered qualified enough by the University of Manitoba to be appointed an adjunct professor and I served on many postgraduate theses committees among other activities. I was considered qualified enough by governments who appointed me to various committees and Boards. I was considered qualified by various sectors of the society who paid me for consulting work.

It is also ludicrous when people like Al Gore and many others including scientists from other disciplines present themselves as climate experts. In fact, it is reasonable to say, based on the scientists and people associated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that there are very few qualified climatologists. It also underscores that the authors of these charges do not understand the nature of climate as an academic discipline.

Climatology is a generalist study in a world of specialization. To have even a simple grasp of climate, climate mechanisms and climate change requires understanding and incorporating information from almost all scientific disciplines. Stand outside and you experience the weather, which is the combined result of everything from cosmic radiation in deep space to volcanic heat from the bottom of the ocean. Climatology is the study of how the pattern of weather in a region or how that changes over time. Desmogblog originally claimed I did not have a PhD in climatology, but despite provision of the diploma (see attached) they never publicly retracted the information so it is still raised in various media interviews.

The claims of corporate funding are equally bizarre and unfounded. They misuse, distort and completely misinterpret information in extremely tenuous arguments. They use the phrase “direct and indirect funding” because they accuse me of receiving indirect funding, but cannot accuse me of receiving direct funding. They can’t do that, because I have never received any direct funding from any energy company. Here are the facts on which that claim is based: the comment that I had “been paid to speak to federal MPs by a public relations company that works for energy firms… and his travel expenses are covered by a group supported by donors from the Alberta oil patch” is a ridiculous attempt at guilt by association. The speech to MPs came about because I was in Ottawa on another engagement and was asked if I would speak to a group of parliamentarians from all parties. I agreed, and my expenses were covered. I was not told what to say by anyone.

For a long time I understood my expenses were paid by Friends of Science and publicly said so. It turns out I was wrong. In the meantime, Desmogblog claimed that because a small portion of the expenses I thought came from Friends of Science were from an oil company, oil companies had therefore paid me. The reality was even more tenuous: my expenses came from an international public relations company who had done work for energy companies, among many others, and so they claimed that money was equally tainted.

In another document under the title “Links to Corporate-funded Lobby Groups” the charges are as follows:

I am a co-founder of the Friends of Science.

This is false. I met with and advised a group when the organization was being planned. I acted as a scientific advisor and though not formally listed am proud to help them get all the scientific information on the table. I warned them in the very first meeting they would be attacked mercilessly, nastily and personally. I also advised them to put their funding in a blind trust, which they did in conjunction with the University of Calgary.

I am Chair of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP).

Yes, I am Chair of NRSP, and proud to hold that position.

I am a “Science Roundtable Member of the Tech Central Science Foundation.”

I was unaware of this position. I have written articles for Tech Central and am proud of that as well.

Why don’t they list all the other positions I have held?

  • Technical Advisor to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
  • Chair of the City of Winnipeg’s Committee on Hazardous Waste.
  • Chair of the Assiniboine River Management Advisory Board.
  • Chair of the Canadian Committee on Climate Fluctuation and Man.
  • Member of the Manitoba Water Commission.
  • Research Fellow George Morris Centre
  • Paul Harris Fellow Rotary Canada
  • Former Board Member of British Columbia Agriculture in the Classroom
  • Founder and Director, Rupert’s Land Research Centre 1980 – 1996
  • Board Member, The Forks Development Heritage Advisory Board

All claims of corporate “direct and indirect funding” are about events that happened long after my views and position were well-established and expressed extensively in a variety of academic and public forums, including academic journals. To suggest they influenced my thinking is simply ridiculous. No corporation funded any of my primary or secondary research, directly or indirectly. This last point is important. A corporation would be foolish not to be aware of what is actually known and being said in climate science. They are as entitled to their view and a right to participate in society as any other group. Indeed, one could argue more so since they provide tangible and useful input. They are also directly accountable through the market place unlike special interest groups. The bullying of large segments of society into silence is very unhealthy in a supposedly free and democratic society. It is even worse when it is done to promote one agenda by denigrating another.

References are made to a lawsuit that I brought against a professor who accused me of some of the errors on the Desmogblog website in a letter to the Calgary Herald. The lawsuit included the Calgary Herald because they published the letter without confirming the information with me. They infer I have dropped the lawsuit because it was unfounded. This is simply not the case. I dropped the lawsuit with the Calgary Herald because they published a letter of retraction. It was not the full letter I wanted, but it was enough to satisfy. I chose not to pursue the other half of the suit because I had already paid $17,000 out of my own pocket and could not afford anymore. I subsequently learned from his own public admission that Johnson’s legal costs were paid by James Hoggan.

The Natural Resources Stewardship Project is not required to disclose its funding sources. This was done at the request of major individual donors who expressed concern about public smears and attacks precisely as represented in many of the accusations in this document. Incidentally, I am no longer attached to NRSP, having resigned a month ago.

I hope nobody else has to suffer the attacks I have, because the evil of the internet is that information can be disseminated – often anonymously – and there is no way of retracting it, especially when people are skilled at assuring their entries pop up first.