Veteran children’s TV presenter Johnny Ball was booed off stage last night after denying man-made climate change before an audience of liberal atheists.
Ball, 71, claimed that spiders’ flatulence was more damaging to the environment than fossil fuels, and criticised the “bad science” of global warming during a performance at a Christmas show in celebration of atheism and science.
Audience members at ‘Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People’ at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London responded with slow handclaps, whistles, jeers until he left the stage.
One blogger who was in the audience wrote that Ball had delivered a “ten minute rant descending to an incoherent ramble” in which he said that he doubted the small proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can cause global warming.
They added: “A cry of ‘shame’ from the audience broke the dam, the boos started and a perplexed and shaken-looking Ball was finally forced from the stage.”
Ball, the father of BBC Radio 2 DJ Zoë Ball, rose to fame in the 1970s and 80s as the presenter of popular science and technology programmes aimed at children.
He was performing as part of a bill which included science writers Ben Goldacre and Simon Singh, and outspoken atheists and comedians Robin Ince and Chris Addison.
Robin Ince, who organised the show, later wrote on the microblogging website Twitter that Ball had “overran doing manmade climate change stuff that both I and the audience disagreed with.
He added: “Johnny ball is a lovely man who has done much to popularise science it’s just his climate change angle seems wrong”.
Other audience members used Twitter to voice their surprise at Ball’s views.
Helen Lippell wrote: “Oh my god just been listening to johnny ball blame global warming on farting spiders. Weirded out.”
Paul Sims, news editor of New Humanist magazine, tweeted: “Johnny Ball, childhood hero of many younger than me, just rolled out climate denial.”
However, there were some dissenting voices. Andy McHaffie wrote: “I do hope the next few audiences…are liberal enough not to boo Johnny again.
It is not the first that time that Mr Ball has caused controversy with his views on climate change.
Two years ago he used a Christmas lecture at Edinburgh University to claim that “the greens…want society to collapse”, and said he doubted whether the polar ice caps were melting.
Ball told the Telegraph today that he "regretted" his comments last night and would not be repeating them at performances this evening or tomorrow.
He said: I knew there would be people vehemently opposed to what I was saying, but I think where I went wrong was accusing the University of East Anglia of cooking the books, and in going on too long and labouring the point.
"I shouldn't have turned it into a political rant and I won't be doing climate change again because I didn't go to be controversial or upset the show."
He added: "I looked on Twitter this morning and there were a lot of people saying how disappointed they are because they've admired my work in the past and I'm upset by that."
However, he remained defiant over his views and said he always planned to "make a stand" during the show.
"The reason I do this is because I canot stand by and see young people scared to death that climate change is going to bring about the end of the world by 2050," he said.