doubt about climate change is big business
2006 citation from the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanograpic
article constitutes an outstanding contribution towards promoting
public awareness of climate change science in Canada."
Meteorological and Oceanographic Society
and Mail, Aug. 12, '06)
a cloudless morning in June, Tim Ball has joined a hundred-odd members
of the Comox Valley Probus Club for a buffet of coffee, cinnamon
buns and pink lemonade. As this group of retired business people
wraps up its monthly meeting, Prof. Ball surveys the crowd and runs
a hand over his suntanned dome.
does not appear the least bit fatigued, which is remarkable considering
that the 67-year-old former University of Winnipeg professor has
spent much of the last couple of months crisscrossing the country,
addressing community forums, business groups, newspaper editorial
boards and politicians about climate change. He has been nearly
as dogged as Al Gore, whose own globe-hopping slide show is the
subject of the documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth.
that is where the similarity between them ends.
Ball clutches a cordless microphone and smiles out at the sea of
white hair. He teases the audience about their age, throws in a
hockey joke, then tells the crowd that, unlike Mr. Gore, he is a
climatologist, and he is not at all panicking about climate change.
temperature hasn't gone up," he asserts. "But the mood
of the world has changed: It has heated up to this belief in global
the next hour, Prof. Ball stitches together folksy anecdotes with
a succession of charts, graphs and pictures to form a collage of
doubt about the emerging consensus on climate change. There's a
map of Canada covered in ice 20,000 years ago - proof, he says,
that wild swings in the earth's temperature are perfectly normal.
There's a graph suggesting that atmospheric carbon dioxide is at
its lowest level in 600 million years.
momentum, he declares that Environment Canada and other agencies
fabricated the climate-change scare in order to attract funding
for propaganda and expensive attempts to model climate change using
Canada can't even predict the weather!" he bellows. "How
can you tell me that they have any idea what its going to be like
100 years from now if they can't tell me what the weather is going
to be like in four months, or even next week?"
proof of the climate-change conspiracy, Prof. Ball shows the crowd
a graph with a kinked line jigging across it. This is the famous
"hockey-stick graph" published by Pennsylvania State University
scientist Michael Mann and his team in 1999, which shows temperatures
to be fairly stable for hundreds of years, then rising rapidly in
the last few decades. Al Gore, among many others, uses it to illustrate
the case for global warming.
Ball claims that the Mann team "cooked the books," and
that its blunders were confirmed just a few days previously, in
a report to the Congress by the U.S. Academies of Science. "He
threw out all the data that didn't fit his hypothesis," Prof.
Ball says, without offering evidence to back the charge. His outrage
is now as searing as the baking-hot sun outside. "I personally
think [Mann] should be in jail!"
fact, Prof. Ball says, the real danger for Canada is not warming,
but cooling: "It's like Y2K," he concludes. "We all
just need to calm down."
is met with raucous applause. It is as though a weight has been
lifted from the audience's collective shoulders: What a relief to
learn that this global crisis, one they keep hearing will bring
extreme weather, submerge small island nations and devastate economies,
may be nothing to worry about.
in the audience have any idea that Prof. Ball hasn't published on
climate science in any peer-reviewed scientific journal in more
than 14 years. They do not know that he has been paid to speak to
federal MPs by a public-relations company that works for energy
firms. Nor are they aware that his travel expenses are covered by
a group supported by donors from the Alberta oil patch.
Canadians recognize, of course, that fossil-fuel businesses could
lose large sums if the federal government moves to curtail greenhouse-gas
they may not realize that by quietly backing the movement behind
maverick figures such as Prof. Ball, the fuel industry - with its
close ties to the party that brought Prime Minister Stephen Harper
to power - is succeeding, bit by bit, in influencing both public
opinion and Canadian policy on global warming, including the international
Ipsos Reid poll released in May found that, despite increasing scientific
evidence to the contrary, four of every 10 Canadians surveyed still
agreed with Prof. Ball's assertion that climate change is due to
natural warming and cooling patterns.
is a very entertaining performer, very slick," says Neil Brown,
the Conservative MLA for Calgary-Nose Hill, who attended a presentation
Prof. Ball made to a caucus of provincial Tories in Calgary. "When
someone shows up and tells me that the earth is actually cooling,
then it gets my attention."
scientific mainstream is unequivocal that global warming is real,
happening at a rate unprecedented in human history, and most likely
caused mainly by human greenhouse-gas emissions. Last year, the
national academies of science of all the G8 nations, representing
most scientists in the developed world, sent a joint message to
their leaders urging prompt action.
February, the UN and the World Meteorological Society's Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which brings together more than
2,000 scientists to review tens of thousands of peer-reviewed papers
on climate science, will release its fourth report. The authors
say it will contain a warning that human-caused global warming could
drive the Earth's temperature to levels far higher than previously
Weaver is the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis
at the University of Victoria, and a lead author of a chapter in
the upcoming IPCC report. He gives a frustrated sigh at the mention
of Tim Ball's cross-country tour.
says stuff that is just plain wrong. But when you are talking to
crowds, when you are talking on TV, there is no challenge, there
is no peer review," Prof. Weaver says.
other senior scientists, he charges that Prof. Ball's arguments
are a grab bag of irrelevancies and falsehoods: "Ball says
that our climate models do not [account for the warming effects
of] water vapour. That's absurd. They all do."
he says, Prof. Ball's claims that climate change could be explained
by variations in the earth's orbit or by sunspots are discounted
by widely available data.
of Prof. Ball's other arguments don't stand up to scrutiny. Consider
the hockey-stick graph: He was right that the U.S. Academies of
Science had delivered a review of climate science to Congress. But
their report concluded that temperatures in the last 25 years really
have been the highest in 400 years. Moreover, the panelists assured
reporters that there was no evidence at all that the Mann team cherry-picked
its data - completely contradicting what Prof. Ball told his audience
Ball is doing is not about science," says Prof. Weaver. "It
is about politics."
throughout Europe have accepted the IPCC position on climate change,
and have been looking for ways to take collective action, primarily
via the Kyoto Accord. Yet North Americans have lagged behind, hamstrung
by a lingering debate in the media and among politicians about climate
did this doubt take hold?
a now-infamous 2003 memo, U.S. pollster and consultant Frank Luntz
advised Republican politicians to cultivate uncertainty when talking
about climate change: "Voters believe that there is no consensus
about global warming within the scientific community. Should the
public come to believe the scientific issues are settled, their
views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you
need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary
issue in the debate ," wrote Mr. Luntz (the italics are
doubt about climate-change science has become big business for public-relations
companies and lobbyists south of the border. Between 2000 and 2003,
ExxonMobil alone gave more than $8.6-million (U.S.) to think tanks,
consumer groups and policy organizations engaged in anti-Kyoto messaging,
according to the company's own records. Those groups promote the
minority of scientists who still dispute the IPCC consensus on climate
change, creating the appearance of widespread scientific disagreement.
Luntz met with Prime Minister Harper in May, but the Conservatives
already had adopted his advice. Mr. Harper was emphasizing that
climate change was but an "emerging science" long before
he cancelled an array of programs designed to promote energy conservation.
Minister and Edmonton-Spruce Grove MP Rona Ambrose, for example,
has talked up the flaws of the Kyoto Accord, while steadfastly rejecting
its modest emission-reduction targets. And on June 30, the government
simply disappeared its main climate-change web site
), which once contained educational materials for teachers.
given the resonance of the climate-change issue with most Canadians,
political leaders can't afford to denounce mainstream science too
loudly. That task has instead been taken up by activists in the
Conservative Party's Alberta heartland.
the past four years, a coalition of oil-patch geologists, Tory insiders,
anonymous donors and oil-industry PR professionals has come together
to manufacture public consent for Canada's withdrawal from Kyoto.
Through a Calgary-based society ironically dubbed the Friends of
Science, they have leveraged Tim Ball and a handful of other "climate
skeptics" onto podiums and editorial pages across the country.
the federal government stalls, the skeptics preach doubt, softening
the public for a diluted "Made-in-Canada" climate policy.
Prof. Ball admits that when he meets with business leaders and politicians,he
advises them to weigh the high price of action against more cost-effective
efforts may help delay emissions caps for years. Not bad for a campaign
that began with a bitch session among a clutch of oil-patch retirees.
started out without a nickel, mostly retired geologists, geophysicists
and retired businessmen, all old fogeys," says Albert Jacobs,
a geologist and retired oil-explorations manager, proudly remembering
the first meeting of the Friends of Science Society in the curling
lounge of Calgary's Glencoe Club back in 2002.
all had experience dealing with Kyoto, and we decided that a lot
of it was based on science that was biased, incomplete and politicized."
Jacobs says he suspects that the Kyoto Accord was devised as a tool
by United Nations bureaucrats to push the world towards a world
socialist government under the UN. "You know," he says,
"to this day, there is no scientific proof that human-caused
C02 is the main cause of global warming."
managed to insert that last message into the Canadian Society of
Petroleum Geologists' official statement on climate change in 2003.
But he and his fellow Friends of Science decided that if they wanted
to have broad influence on climate policy, they needed money in
order to stage events, create publicity materials, commercials and
a web site, and reach the media and politicians. Tim Ball spoke
at the group's first fundraiser.
the event didn't raise enough for the group's ambitious plans. There
was plenty of money for the anti-Kyoto cause in the oil patch, but
the Friends dared not take money directly from energy companies.
The optics, Mr. Jacobs admits, would have been terrible.
conundrum, he says, was solved by University of Calgary political
scientist Barry Cooper, a well-known associate of Stephen Harper.
his is privilege as a faculty member, Prof. Cooper set up a fund
at the university dubbed the Science Education Fund. Donors were
encouraged to give to the fund through the Calgary Foundation, which
administers charitable giving in the Calgary area, and has a policy
of guarding donors' identities. The Science Education Fund in turn
provides money for the Friends of Science, as well as Tim Ball's
travel expenses, according to Mr. Jacobs.
who are the donors? No one will say.
money's] not exclusively from the oil and gas industry," says
Prof. Cooper. "It's also from foundations and individuals.
I can't tell you the names of those companies, or the foundations
for that matter, or the individuals."
pushed in another interview, however, Prof. Cooper admits, "There
were some oil companies."
brilliance of the plan is that by going through the foundation and
the university fund, donors get anonymity as well as charitable
status for their donations. In the last two years, the Science Education
Fund has received more than $200,000 in charitable donations through
the Calgary Foundation. Yet its marketing director Kerry Longpré
said in June that she had never heard of the Friends of Science.
The foundation, she said, deals only with the university, which
is left to administer donations as it sees fit.
Cooper and Mr. Jacobs both affirm that the Science Education Fund
paid the bills for the Friends' anti-Kyoto video, Climate Catastrophe
Cancelled. It features Canada's most vocal climate skeptics, including
Prof. Ball, University of Ottawa hydrologist and paleoclimatologist
Ian Clark, Carleton University paleoclimatologist Tim Patterson
and University of Ottawa lecturer Tad Murty.
also includes Sallie Baliunas, a senior scientist with the George
C. Marshall Institute in Washington, a fiercely anti-Kyoto think
tank which has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from ExxonMobile.
Cooney, the university's vice-president of external relations, insists
that the Friends of Science is neither affiliated with nor endorsed
by the school. And when he saw the University of Calgary's coat
of arms on early copies of the anti-Kyoto video, Mr. Cooney ordered
Prof. Cooper to remove it.
is a letter-sized piece of paper bearing the words "Friends
of Science" taped to the wall in Kevin Grandia's Vancouver
that single sheet, Mr. Grandia has strung a web of string, leading
to the names of individuals, free-market think-tanks, private companies
and charitable foundations. And from them more strings lead, invariably,
to the names of energy corporations.
Grandia is being paid full time by James Hoggan and Associates,
a public-relations firm, to examine the connections between fossil-fuel
companies, the climate skeptics, and the PR industry itself.
the money trail," says Mr. Grandia, ball of string in hand.
"Why the hell do all of these lead back to oil and gas?"
Fred Singer, a former professor of environmental sciences at the
University of Virginia, who supplied one of the charts for Tim Ball's
slide show. A string leads from Mr. Singer's name straight to ExxonMobile,
which has given his Science and Environment Policy Project $20,000
(U.S.), according to the oil company's 1998 and 2000 grant records.
strings loop from Mr. Singer to Shell, Arco, Unocal, Sun Energy
and the American Gas Association. In a Massachusetts superior court
deposition, he admitted to having consulted for all those companies,
as well as the Global Climate Coalition, whose members in industry
spent tens of millions of dollars to fight the Kyoto Accord in the
Grandia's boss, James Hoggan, chuckles when he sees the wall of
paper and string. Mr. Hoggan, whose clients include Alcan, CP Rail,
Norske Canada and the David Suzuki Foundation, has assigned two
of his 19 staffers to this bit of intra-industry tail-chasing. (It
is supported by a donation of $300,000 from former Internet entrepreneur
John Lefebvre, now an environmentalist and philanthropist.)
Hoggan says he got involved simply because he was angry that his
peers in PR were muddying public understanding of climate science.
"For years there have been these kind of campaigns that are
aimed at manipulating public opinion, and not necessarily manipulating
it in the direction of good public policy, but trying to fight government
regulations that will cost industry money.
happened with the tobacco industry. It happened with the chemical
industry. It happened with the asbestos industry. And now it's happening
with climate change," he says.
makes me extremely angry. I don't think that the people who are
involved in this should be able to get away with it. My goal is
to find out as much as we can about these people and make it public.
Who are they? Who is paying them? What motivates them? How is it
they can sleep at night?"
of Mr. Hoggan's peers show up on Grandia's Friends of Science spider
web. First is Morten Paulsen of the PR giant, Fleishman-Hillard,
who wears three hats. In one, he's a long-time Tory/Reform/Canadian
Alliance activist - the co-chair of the Alberta Conservatives' 2006
convention, and one-time director of communications for Preston
Manning. In another, Mr. Paulsen is the registered lobbyist for
ConocoPhillips Canada, the country's third-largest oil-and-natural-gas
production and exploration company.
Paulsen also happens to be the registered lobbyist for the Friends
of Science. Indeed, he used to be listed as the main public-relations
contact on the Friends' website. Then, in June, his Tory connections
were revealed on Mr. Grandia's blog (desmogblog.org). Mr. Paulsen's
name no longer appears on the site.
there is Tom Harris, Ottawa director of the High Park Group, which
is a registered lobbyist for the Canadian Electricity Association
and the Canadian Gas Association.
Harris has written several essays attacking Kyoto and the science
behind climate change for the National Post and the CanWest newspaper
chain. In his articles, he quotes several members of the Friends
of Science advisory board - including Profs. Ball, Khandekar, Patterson
and Murty - but he never mentions his own connections to the Calgary
2002, for example, Mr. Harris organized the Friends' first Ottawa
press conference in 2002, and helped make their video, according
to Mr. Jacobs. And as recently as May, he organized a trip to Ottawa
for Tim Ball, paying him $2,000 to give a presentation to federal
election of a Conservative government to Ottawa presented a golden
opportunity for the Friends of Science to help reopen the debate
on Kyoto. By this year, they had circulated thousands of
Climate Catastrophe Cancelled DVDs among politicians and news outlets,
ran a radio ad on stations in Alberta, put up a web site, and jetted
Tim Ball across the country for face time with media, business and
climax of the spring campaign was an open letter to Mr. Harper,
printed in the Financial Post and other CanWest chain newspapers
on April 6. The letter, signed by "60 experts in climate and
related scientific disciplines," exhorted the Prime Minister
to hold public consultations on the government's climate-change
plan. (Jacobs says the Friends didn't write the letter, which is
featured on the front page of the society's web site. The society's
advisory board and president all signed it.)
of the climate and meteorological science establishment quickly
noted that only a third of the names on the petition were Canadian.
Many of them were economists and geologists, not climate experts.
One of them, Gordon Swaters, a professor of applied mathematics
at the University of Alberta, later said that he disagreed with
the letter completely.
of the other signatories had received money from the oil, gas and
coal industries in the U.S. - Patrick Michaels of the University
of Virginia, for example, was handed more than $100,000 for climate
skeptic work by the coal-based Intermountain Rural Electric Association
this July, according to the Associated Press.
"These people are ignorant. Well-meaning, but just plain ignorant,"
fumed Ian Rutherford, executive director of the Canadian Meteorological
and Oceanographic Society, which represents 800 Canadian atmospheric
and oceanic scientists and professionals.
Friends of Science are driven by ideology and some kind of a misplaced
understanding of how the world works. Many are what you would call
paleogeologists. Looking at the geological record, they see evidence
of wild swings in climate. Of course these swings are there: If
you go back hundreds of millions of years, 40-million years, even
400,000 years, you will find wild swings in temperature over long
periods of time. But that's irrelevant. There was hardly any life
on earth, let alone human life, at that time. So their time scale
is all out of whack.
of them ever come to our scientific conferences. They know they
would be laughed out of the building. The stuff they say, some of
it is so nonsensical it's hardly worth discussing."
its own letter to the Prime Minister, the Meteorological and Oceanographic
Society objected to the Friends' complaints about a lack of debate,
pointing out that Canadian climate scientists from universities,
government and the private sector participate actively in the IPCC's
international reviews. The government, it argued, should be relying
on IPCC reports for good scientific information.
various levels of government have gone on to give Prof. Ball an
audience. This spring he addressed the Alberta Tories in Calgary,
as well as the province's standing policy committee on energy and
sustainable development. On the trip Tom Harris organized for him
in May, he met with the Ottawa Citizen editorial board, and gave
his slide show to a half-dozen federal Conservative MPs and a clutch
of Tory staffers. (Prof. Ball is not listed in the federal government's
made a particular impression on Brad Trost, MP for Saskatoon Humboldt:
"It really broadened the perspective. You know, maybe there
is more uncertainty on [climate change]. Maybe we need to put more
research into this to get a better idea," says Mr. Trost. "Just
like the Y2K problem, we were a little oversold on that one. You
sort of wonder. Just because something is repeated often, it doesn't
make it true."
public relations," says Mr. Hoggan, "we call this the
echo-chamber technique. You have Tim Ball saying the polar bears
are fine. Then you get Tim Ball's PR guy writing the same thing.
And then Tim Ball takes to the road, talks to reporters and does
press briefings, making sure the message is repeated over and over.
effect is to delay public judgment on climate change, and thereby
his speeches and interviews, Tim Ball consistently denies any knowledge
that he is receiving funds from oil companies.
wish I was being paid by them," he deadpanned at his Comox
show. "Maybe then I could afford their products."
Mr. Jacobs, Prof. Ball says he doesn't know, and doesn't want to
know, who forks out the money for his expenses and activism. He
simply wants to talk about the science, and will do so to whomever
climate skepticism isn't exactly making Prof. Ball rich. He says
that although he has earned as much as $5,000 for speeches to industry
groups such as lime producers, he more frequently gives talks for
is a warm, likable character, and there is no reason to believe
he is not sincere in his concern for science and public policy.
He clearly relishes the spotlight, and seems to grow taller, sharper
and brighter on stage. He punches the air with his microphone, and
breaks out into a broad grin at the crowd's response to his jabs
at Environment Canada.
it must take something more than conviction to propel him through
the more than 100 barn-burning speeches he gave across the country
in the past year. He angrily claims that his stance has led to being
denied research funding from Environment Canada, although he admits
that he has not actually applied for federal climate-research funding
in more than a decade.
old colleague at the University of Winnipeg puts Prof. Ball's passion
down to sheer anti-authoritarianism. "He is a contrarian. He
lives to challenge authority," says the professor of geography,
who would speak only anonymously.
the IPCC scientists suddenly recanted," he jokes, "Tim
would be the first one out there saying, 'Wait a minute, global
warming really is happening!' "
Ball's adversaries admit that skeptical inquiry serves to make the
science better. They just wish he would conduct new research and
practice his skepticism on the pages of the peer-reviewed journals.
his part, Prof. Ball insists that the reason he lobbies so tirelessly
on the issue is his frustration that the skeptics' arguments aren't
reflected in the pronouncements of scientific institutions like
the IPCC. Perhaps so, but his hard work is helping weaken the power
of such internationally respected institutions.
proof, for Friends of Science founder Albert Jacobs, is in the policy.
success is very recent, and our success is tied to the Conservative
government," Mr. Jacobs says. "Rona Ambrose, she has been
tearing down that Kyoto building."
next big challenge, he says, is to reach children. The Friends of
Science is now lobbying to have its message included in the grade-school