Johnny Ball in talks with GWPF over teaching of climate change in schools
Johnny Ball may be commissioned by the Global Warming Policy
Foundation (GWPF) to investigate the teaching of climate change in
British schools. The two parties have not yet confirmed a deal but
GWPF director Benny Peiser has told the Carbon Brief that the
foundation are in the "discussion process with Ball and another
He said the study will not contest the basic physics of climate
change but how the range of impacts are being taught. Peiser added
that he wanted the study to be "as objective as possible" and that
the GWPF do not have a clear idea of what they expect to find.
Ball's research will include scrutinising text-books and exam
Johnny Ball is a former children's TV presenter and famous for
engaging kids with science. He made headlines last month when he
expressed fears that he was a victim of an internet smear campaign
as a result of his climate scepticism. The claims were picked up by
Daily Mail, the
Telegraph and the Express.
Ball outlined his position on teaching in schools in a piece for the
BBC's Daily Politics show:
"How are your kids, your grandchildren,
the next generation? Their potential is incredible. In a few years'
time, the world will be their oyster. So why are we filling their
heads with doom and gloom?
…Why, when everything about our lives is
getting better by miles, are we giving our kids the impression that
the world is becoming unravelled and may not be able to support
It seems Johnny Ball - who was a fantastic science communicator
in his time - already has some strong views on how climate change
is communicated in schools.
He also has some strong
views on climate science which include
labelling the idea that "this natural gas" [CO2] may pose the
greatest threat to the future as "nonsense".
In the same article for the BBC, Ball writes
"From my reading around the subject,
only 4% of the CO2 that goes into the atmosphere is put there by
man. The rest is completely natural - the rain falls and washes it
out again and so you have to have a carbon cycle to keep
replenishing it. It's all completely natural."
This statement that carbon dioxide can be "washed out" of the
atmosphere by rain is not accurate - and indeed demonstrates a lack
of understanding of the global carbon cycle.
An individual molecule of CO2 does have a relatively short
at about 3-4 years), after which it is transferred into oceans,
vegetation, or soil as a part of the carbon cycle - as
illustrated below by NASA.
In the natural carbon cycle, the molecules change but the
percentage of carbon does not (for
more detail see here). The problem with the extra 4% of
man-made carbon is that it cannot be absorbed by nature so over
time the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere increases. As a result
atmospheric carbon dioxide is currently at its highest
level in 15 to 20 million years.
Johnny Ball has made several other dubious claims about climate
change. Last month we scrutinised them in a little more detail. You
can read them here.
Bearing in mind Benny Peiser has said the GWPF's study will not
contest the "basic physics" of climate change and will be "as
objective as possible", the selection of Johnny Ball as a lead
researcher is a little bemusing.