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Johnny Ball: climate zealots out to ruin me

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 18 February, 2011 | By: Stephen Exley

After ‘alarmist nonsense’ comment, science educator’s bookings plummet by 90%

Veteran children’s TV presenter Johnny Ball has claimed his outspoken views on climate change have sparked a malicious campaign which threatens to wreck his career speaking about science in schools.

The long-term science educationalist, who rose to fame in the 1970s and 1980s presenting science and technology programmes for youngsters, has built up a prolific public speaking career over the past decade, visiting up to 100 schools, science festivals and teacher training events each year to talk about the environment, maths and science.

But his bookings have dropped by 90 per cent over the past year and the 72-year-old has blamed this on harassment by extreme environmentalists who object to his dismissal of climate change as “alarmist nonsense”.

Mr Ball, father of TV and radio presenter Zoe, told The TES a website featuring pornographic images was posted online bearing his name, while another blogger stated he “should not be allowed near children”.

Since the former presenter of Think of a Number, Johnny Ball Reveals All and Think Again contacted police last week, both items have been taken offline.

An imposter also attempted to cancel Mr Ball’s booking at a training day for maths teachers in Northampton next month.

“This was clearly a criminal act aimed directly to damage me and my career business,” he said. “Since notifying the police of these acts aimed at damaging my name and reputation, the offensive web links have quite amazingly disappeared.

“People have every right to make up their own minds on my stance on many issues regarding children.

“But to deliberately smear my name in ways that are clearly criminal is so very disappointing. I would hope it is not the way fair and sensible debate is going in this far more open, modern society.”

Mr Ball, who has also written books on maths and produced five educational stage musicals, hit the headlines in 2009 when he was reportedly booed off stage after hitting out at the “bad science” of man-made global warming at an event at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre organised by comedian Robin Ince.

He previously spoke on the issue at the Royal Society of Edinburgh Christmas lecture and at the Manchester Science Festival in 2007.

He said: “The reason I take this stance is because several films have been introduced into schools which imply that the earth may not be able to sustain human life as we know it, in around 39 years’ time, which is unscientific, alarmist nonsense.

“Of course mankind is a great burden on the earth, but at every turn we are learning to manage and better control our impact and the damage we do … However, my main concern is that the alarmism is actually frightening schoolchildren to an alarming degree.

“It is suggesting to them that the previous generation have all but ruined the planet, and unless they switch standby lights off, for instance, we could all be going to hell in a handcart.

“This does nothing to promote confidence in our young. It sends the message that all technology is harmful and that we should reject much of it and return to a more frugal existence.

“Yet, in truth, great strides are being made. Gas-fired power stations now produce twice as much power for the same fossil fuel as they did 15 years ago. Cars have far cleaner exhausts and have doubled their mileage and tyre wear, and they are all recyclable or reclaimable. These are success stories.”

A spokesman for South Thames Police said the force was investigating Mr Ball’s complaints.


  • Original headline: Johnny Ball: climate change zealots are out to ruin me

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4.3 average rating

Comment (9)

  • As part of a current, getting rather heated debate in the Guardian, this article was kindly referenced.

    It may be some within the profession do have opinions and feedback on some of the issues raised educationally, and might find the time to contribute here:

    As may be gathered, the discussion has progressed for a long time, but there are many valid views abounding.

    What has been welcome is the over-arching concern to ensure that our kids are getting the best education possible, with what they are being required to learn, get taught, and examined upon serving their needs and future careers in the best way possible.

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    18 February, 2011


  • Johnny Ball is a fantastic inspiration for kids and adults. If we listened to more people like him rather than feeding them the completely incorrect "inconvenient truth" about our planet, we will damage them as much as [we] are polluting it [the planet.]
    Worry about deforestation and plastic particulates in our sea. The Iceland Volcano kicked out more CO2 than we could in 10 years. However, in the 10 weeks it was active, we reduced our forests by a geographical area greater than Wales. Trees absorb CO2. Johnny Ball is a legend.

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    Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    18 February, 2011


  • Journalists that covered the climate change mistake for the last 25 years of needless panic, have done to science and media, what abusive priests did to the Catholic Church. You lazy copy and paste clowns will sooner or later be charged with treason for leading us to a false war of climate variation and for condemning our children to a death by CO2. Meanwhile, the UN had allowed carbon trading to trump 3rd world fresh water relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for just over 25 years of climate control instead of needed population control. Call the courthouse and have theses news editors charged for perpetuating this needless panic and fear mongering.

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    18 February, 2011


  • Real planet lovers are now the “majority” former-believers and all are happy and relieved that their children will not suffer a CO2 h e l l after all, not disappointed like you remaining faded believers, the fossils that you are. The neocon deniers didn’t win the climate change battle because they were a small faction all along. We former believers are dictating climate change policy now, with our ever growing majority voters so continued defense and support of Climate Change’s unstoppable warming is hurting the planet as it divides environmental efforts and stalls progressive social reforms. Green has been reborn as environmentalism again and population and pollution control are the goals in that order. Welcome aboard. We celebrate Nature, not condemn it as weak and dying. We face the future challenges of population , air pollution in city cores, waste and energy with optimism and enthusiasm, not this sick sense of learned helplessness that plagued the CO2 fear mongering days.
    Even Obama himself blew off climate change in his Feb. speech and none of his thousands of consensus scientists raised a fuss over it. They were paid, they don‘t care. Real scientists would be marching in the streets. This IS after all the biggest emergency ever, unstoppable warming, not bad weather. Why are the scientists not leading this insanity, instead of the politicians promising to lower the seas with taxes? If climate change was true these scientists would be on every news cast and every front page and on every talk radio show. This was our Iraq War of climate WMD’s. System Change, not climate change.

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    18 February, 2011


  • Climate Change and Global Warming are anti-abortion and bible -thumping’s big brothers. But keep in mind that all of these issues are about preserving LIFE, so are you willing on both sides of the climate change issue to work together, for the sake of LIFE?
    For now the game is climate change and let's all start fresh and agree that (although very well intentioned), unstoppable warming was just a little exaggerated. The prediction of unstoppable and out of control heating, had become equated with DEATH, not pollution. Public resentment has exploded because the promise of death to all, was not sustainable. You can't have a little death.
    Climate Change was just as insane as still having any religion of any kind in our society and not allowing free choice for abortion. If we all agree to remove the CO2 factor from the entire environmental equation, deniers will be on the same footing as believers. We all want the same thing. So I suggest we get rid of all religion of any kind and allow a woman to be her own body. And we end all public climate change research and convict it’s leaders, end all CO2 legislation, and most importantly, arrest the news editors for treason for perpetuating this false war, a war against climate variation. Meanwhile, the UN had allowed carbon trading to trump 3rd world fresh water relief, starvation rescue and 3rd world education for just over 25 years of climate control instead of needed population control. Call the courthouse now. All of you. All of us.
    System Change, no climate change.
    Remove the CO2 and together we can nurture anew and evolve as a species.

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    18 February, 2011


  • Famous person booked to speak about science notices a fall in bookings when he publically announces that he prefers make-believe to scientific evidence. What a shock!

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    19 February, 2011


  • One sees this story is 'evolving'...

    Sadly, offering commentary in the Guardian (or trying to), especially attempting to steer back to the simple issue of science education (inc. climate) in schools, rather ironically falls foul of a rather selective 'Comment if Free' policy.

    Make of that what one will.

    Must be nice to own the pitch and, excuse any bad pun, 'ball'.

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    22 February, 2011


  • Well, the Guardian is obsessing about it a bit, if in a rather draconian manner, mod-wise. I posted, again, here:

    "I rather suspect my comment…

    >I asked readers to give evidence of climate films being shown in schools, after claims by Johnny Ball. Why are you all so quiet?<

    Well, this kind of thing can prove quite a gag:

    >This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our community standards. Replies may also be deleted. For more detail see our FAQs.<

    …may not last long'

    And was, sadly, proven correct. While the author and supporters rail about no evidence of skewed science curricula straying beyond fact to advocacy.

    I guess the Guardian doesn't brook inconvenient actual information getting in the way of its opinions. Or do irony.

    Can't say such activities help the cause of free speech, or legitimate counter argument (I mean from those in support of Guardian-approved viewpoints), much.

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    23 February, 2011


  • Carry on being scientific, Johnny. Climate Change is the new religion-and zealots they are.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    24 February, 2011


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