Common sense won a victory this week when a court threw out a frivolous civil suit against global warming-skeptic and climatologist Tim Ball.
It used to be that when a scientist challenged the conventional view on the way the world worked, they were tried by the Inquisition, forced to recant and spend the rest of their days under house arrest.
The modern inquisition tactic is something known as a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” or SLAPP lawsuit.
The purpose of such a lawsuit is to silence critics by burdening them with the cost of legal bills until they shut up. Ball has been the target of three such lawsuits, which have cost him – along with the help of generous donors – more than $600,000 to defend. Well, he hasn’t shut up and he just won one of them.
Andrew Weaver – yes, that Andrew Weaver: the B.C. Green Party leader – attempted to sue Ball for a column he wrote. At the heart of Weaver’s grievance seems to be Ball’s questioning of Weaver’s credentials as a climate scientist, claiming he was more accurately a computer modeler and declaring the science of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to be “corrupted, limited and narrowly focused.”
LISTEN: Danielle Smith talks to climatologist Tim Ball about the lawsuit against him
The court threw out the suit and for good reason. First is the issue of fair comment: we are allowed to have an opinion on issues, even if it hurts the feelings of someone else, and to debate it openly in the public square.
The more public the people involved, the more chance they have to offer counterviews and get their perspective out. It’s hard to argue that Weaver, who now controls the agenda of the entire country on the issue of pipelines and greenhouse gases as the junior partner in the B.C. coalition government, has been harmed by Ball’s article. He seems to have made out just fine.
The second is the issue of the scientific method. I was taught that science involved creating a hypothesis, testing it to confirm it and being able to have others replicate your results.
The “new science” is nothing of the sort, according to Ball. The science of climate change is based on computer modelling, not real world observations. The projections of catastrophe caused by man-made carbon dioxide emissions are based on computer modelling. The projections of rising sea levels swallowing coastal cities are based on computer modelling.
As Ball reminds us, Alan Greenspan’s failure to predict the financial crisis was also based on computer modelling.
The problem with computer modelling is that while it may help us explain what happened in the past, it isn’t very helpful in predicting what is going to happen in the future.
In the last week, Robert De Niro got international attention and wall-to-wall media coverage for a speech in Dubai criticizing the Trump administration for daring to suggest that humans have tended to do pretty well when the planet is warming.
Meanwhile, physicist William Happer got barely a mention for his Prager University video raising real and legitimate concerns about climate prediction models. He said the more important greenhouse gas is water vapour, not CO2. He also said climate models don’t work because the modellers oversimplify the factors that impact climate and reverse engineer them to deliver the results they want.
That fact that De Niro – an actor, not a climate scientist – is considered a more noteworthy commentator on climate change than Happer – a climate scientist – shows just how far we have drifted from the world of real science. It’s nice to know the courts aren’t willing to play along.
Danielle Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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