Balls to Johnny

Comedy crown turn on climate change denier Ball

Former children’s TV presenter Johnny Ball was booed off stage at a comedy gig on Tuesday night after launching into a denial of man-made climate change.

His diatribe against what he called the ‘bad science’ of global warming drew slow handclaps and jeers from the audience of Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People – a show designed by stand-up Robin Ince to celebrate rationality and the scientific method.

However, 71-year-old Ball went against the thousands of scientists whose peer-reviewed research has led to the consensus that burning fossil fuels has led to a potentially catastrophic build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,

Instead – after singing a song about John Dalton’s atomic theory in the style of George Formby – he claimed that CO2 levels are too negligible to cause warming, that water is a greater greenhouse glass and that in any case plants absorb excess CO2.

An article published on the New Scientist’s website yesterday provides a wealth of scientific evidence against such claims.

Ball also made some less decipherable comments that insects’ and spiders’ natural emissions were more damaging to the climate than fossil fuels.

His performance, at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London, came shortly after science writer Ben Goldacre made a thoughtful denouncement of newspapers that similarly adopted other widely unaccepted scientific ideas for political means.

Dara O Briain, who was also on the bill, said he was ‘weirded out’ by Ball’s diatribe. He said on stage: ‘I’m shell-shocked… discombobulated by a childhood hero doing that.

‘What next? Iggle Piggle will walk out and start masturbating on stage?’

Some members of the audience also registered their surprise at Ball’s performance on Twitter.

Paul Ogden tweeted: ‘Johnny Ball is a rabid climate change denier. Just witnessed amazing rant at the Bloomsbury Theatre. Another childhood hero joins GGlitter.’

Salim Fadhley said: ‘Watching Johnny Ball channel the Daily Express for ten long minutes was excruciating.’

And Toby Dignum added: ‘Johnny Ball was a childhood hero, who got me into science in the first place. What a shame he's now peddling clim chng denial.’

However, at least one punter stood up for Ball. Twitter user Cathusmax sent a message to Ince saying: ‘Harrowed by crowd's reaction to Johnny Ball's farting spiders- surely it's all about challenging views with evidence not vitriol.’

This is not the first time Ball has caused a storm for his views on climate change. He espoused similar opinions at the Royal Society of Edinburgh Christmas lecture and at the Manchester Science Festival two years ago.

And here is a clip from earlier this year of former Redcoat Ball, who has no scientific qualifications, talking about climate change on BBC Radio Ulster.

Click here for Chortle's review of the night

Published: 16 Dec 2009

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