The B.C. Court of Appeals has found an article written about Andrew Weaver in 2011 was defamatory after the claim was dismissed by a trial judge in 2018.
The 1,179-word article titled Corruption of Climate Science Has Created 30 Lost Years, written by Timothy Ball slams Weaver’s qualifications as an academic. Ultimately, Justice Susan Griffin concluded — and was supported unanimously — Ball’s words were an “attack” on Weaver that would lower his standing in the community.
Focusing most heavily on the public debate aspect of climate change, Griffin wrote in her decision the original judge failed to recognize Ball was a “qualified person in the field” who bore the title ‘Dr.’ and referred to matters in a way that suggested he had “a degree of knowledge or expertise in the field that was greater than that of the ordinary reader.”
Griffin stated that debates around climate change often take place online, but that many “internet publications purport to report news and information without employing standards of professional journalism.”
At the time of publication, Weaver was teaching at the University of Victoria as a professor in the School of Earth and Ocean Science. He held a PhD in applied mathematics from the University of British Columbia and a master’s in applied mathematics from Cambridge University.
Weaver, considered a leading voice for action to address climate change, became a Member of the Legislative Assembly in 2013 and was leader of the B.C. Green Party from 2015 t0 2020.
Ball, a retired professor from the Department of Geography at the University of Winnipeg, holds a PhD from the faculty of science of Queen Mary College, University of London, for which his field of study was climatology. Called a “climate skeptic,” Ball holds the view that concerns about climate change are overstated and not supported by true science.
According to the decision, the two men were aware of their differing views prior to the article. Weaver was upset when he came across the article and his lawyer demanded a retraction and an apology from Canada Free Press. Weaver’s lawyer also demanded an apology from Ball.
Canada Free Press retracted the article and apologized four days later. Ball did not immediately issue an apology and Weaver filed a civil suit.
More than a month later, Ball issued an apology and filed a response to the civil claim. His response stated that some of the statements in the article were true, while others were opinion and fair comment.
“Applying the classic test of whether the words have a tendency to injure the person’s reputation in the estimation of reasonable right‑thinking persons, the words were defamatory,” stated Griffin. “A reasonable person would read the article as alleging that Dr. Weaver was not professionally competent or qualified and was academically biased in his field of climate science.”