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‘Science As McCarthyism’: Lennart Bengtsson Blames U.S. Climate Scientists For McCarthy-Style Witch-Hunt – Worried for his ‘safety’ – His joining skeptic group compared to ‘joining the Ku Klux Klan’

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CCNet 15/05/14

Science As McCarthyism

Lennart Bengtsson Blames U.S. Climate Scientists For McCarthy-Style Witch-Hunt

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it. –Voltaire

A German physicist compared Bengtsson’s move to joining the Ku Klux Klan. — Der Tagesanzeiger, 7 May 2014

A leading climate scientist has resigned from the advisory board of a think-tank after being subjected to what he described as “McCarthy”-style pressure from fellow academics. Professor Lennart Bengtsson, a research fellow at the University of Reading, said the pressure was so intense that he would be unable to continue working and feared for his health and safety unless he stepped down from the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s academic advisory council. He said the pressure had mainly come from climate scientists in the US, including one employed by the US government who threatened to withdraw as co-author of a forthcoming paper because of his link with the foundation. –Ben Webster, The Times, 15 May 2014

Science regresses if it becomes intolerant of criticism. At the beginning of her reign, Queen Elizabeth I of England spoke words of tolerance in an age of religious strife, declaring that she had no intention of making windows into men’s souls. Unlike religion, science is not a matter of the heart or of belief. It exists only in what can be demonstrated. In their persecution of an aged colleague who stepped out of line and their call for scientists to be subject to a faith test, 21st-century climate scientists have shown less tolerance than a 16th-century monarch. There is something rotten in the state of climate science. –Rupert Darwall, National Review Online, 15 May 2014

I received your letter with shock, dismay and huge sympathy. The pressure on you from the climate community simply confirms the worst aspects of politicized science. I have been reprimanded myself for opposing the climate bandwaggon, with its blind dedication to political ambitions; it needs to be exposed, globally. Thanks for showing so much courage. Let´s hope there are more honest brokers in the climate world than are apparent today. —Professor David G. Gee, Uppsala University, 15 May 2014

A globally-renowned climate scientist has been forced to step down from a think-tank after he was subjected to ‘McCarthy’-style pressure from scientists around the world. Professor Lennart Bengtsson, 79, a leading academic from the University of Reading, left the high-profile Global Warming Policy Foundation as a result of the threats, which he described as ‘virtually unbearable’. Dr Benny Peiser, the director of GWPF told Mail Online: ‘There has been a complete outpouring of disbelief and anger about this development. It’s clearly a growing concern among interested observers how the intolerance within the climate science community is undermining what scientists are saying. This is a major scandal and will backfire if the science community don’t come out in support of him.’ –Wills Robinson, Daily Mail, 15 May 2014

The complex and only partially understood relationship between greenhouse gases and global warming leads to a political dilemma. We do not know when to expect a warming of 2 degrees Celsius. The IPCC assumes that the earth will warm up by 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celcius in response to a doubling of CO2 concentration. These high values of climate sensitivity, however, are not supported by observations. In other words: global warming has not been a serious problem so far if we rely on observations. It is only a problem when we refer to climate simulations by computer models. There is no alternative to such computer simulations if one wants to predict future developments. However, since there is no way to validate them, the forecasts are more a matter of faith than a fact. –Lennart Bengtsson, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 14 April 2014

I deeply regret that any scientist, particularly such a distinguished scientist as Bengsston, has had to put up with these attacks.  This past week, we have seen numerous important and enlightening statements made by Bengtsson about the state of climate science and policy, and science and society is richer for this.  We have also seen a disgraceful display of Climate McCarthyism by climate scientists, which has the potential to do as much harm to climate science as did the Climategate emails.  And we have seen the GWPF handle this situation with maturity and dignity. –Judith Curry,Climate Etc, 14 May 2014

There is something odd about the global warming debate — or the climate change debate, as we are now expected to call it, since global warming has for the time being come to a halt. I have never shied away from controversy, nor — for example, as Chancellor — worried about being unpopular if I believed that what I was saying and doing was in the public interest. But I have never in my life experienced the extremes of personal hostility, vituperation and vilification which I — along with other dissenters, of course — have received for my views on global warming and global warming policies. –Nigel Lawson, Standpoint Magazine May 2014

1) Professor Bengtsson Blames U.S. Climate Scientists For ‘Witch-Hunt’ – The Times, 15 May 2014

2) Climate Scientist Forced From New Role In ‘McCarthy’-Style Witch-Hunt – Daily Mail, 15 May 2014

3) Rupert Darwall: Science As McCarthyism – National Review Online, 15 May 2014

4) Dear Lennart: A Letter In Support Of Professor Bengtsson – Professor David G. Gee, Uppsala University

5) Lennart Bengtsson: The Science And Politics Of Climate Change – Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 14 April 2014

1) Professor Bengtsson Blames U.S. Climate Scientists For ‘Witch-Hunt’
The Times, 15 May 2014

Ben Webster

A leading climate scientist has resigned from the advisory board of a think-tank after being subjected to what he described as “McCarthy”-style pressure from fellow academics.

Professor Lennart Bengtsson, a research fellow at the University of Reading, said the pressure was so intense that he would be unable to continue working and feared for his health and safety unless he stepped down from the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s academic advisory council.

He said the pressure had mainly come from climate scientists in the US, including one employed by the US government who threatened to withdraw as co-author of a forthcoming paper because of his link with the foundation.

Lord Lawson of Blaby, the former chancellor of the exchequer who founded the think-tank because of his belief that the risk from global warming has been exaggerated, condemned the treatment of Professor Bengtsson.

In a letter to him yesterday, Lord Lawson wrote: “I fully understand your reason; but it is an appalling state of affairs, and your reference to McCarthyism is fully warranted.”

Professor Bengtsson, a former director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg and author of more than 200 papers, accepted an invitation to join the council less than three weeks ago. His decision significantly enhanced the credibility of the foundation, which announced that “one of Sweden’s leading climate scientists” had joined its council.

Professor Bengtsson wrote in his resignation letter: “I have been put under such an enormous group pressure from all over the world that has become virtually unbearable. It is a situation that reminds me [of] the time of McCarthy.”

He told The Times that the strongest opposition had come from the US. “It was the climate science community in the US which took this very negatively. I think the reason is the very loaded atmosphere in the US… they would like to do something very substantial about climate change.”

2) Climate Scientist Forced From New Role In ‘McCarthy’-Style Witch-Hunt 
Daily Mail, 15 May 2014

Wills Robinson

A globally-renowned climate scientist has been forced to step down from a think-tank after he was subjected to ‘McCarthy’-style pressure from scientists around the world.

Professor Lennart Bengtsson, 79, a leading climate scientist, received emails from around the world condemning his decision to move to a sceptical think-tank
Professor Lennart Bengtsson, 79, a leading academic from the University of Reading, left the high-profile Global Warming Policy Foundation as a result of the threats, which he described as ‘virtually unbearable’.The group was set up by former Tory Chancellor Lord Lawson and are sceptical about radical policy changes aimed at combating global warming.

The Swedish climatologist, who has published more than 200 papers, said he received hundreds of emails from colleagues criticising his decision to switch to the organisation.

His ‘defection’ was described as the biggest switch from the pro-climate change lobby to the sceptic camp to date.

He was also abused on science blogs, with one describing the people who condemned him as ‘respectable’ and that his actions amounted to ‘silliness’. Another described him as a ‘crybaby’.

However, the main pressure came from the US, where a government employee refused to be a co-author on a paper because of his links to the controversial group.

Prof Bengtsson, who had only been in the position for three weeks, told Mail Online: ‘There were quite a lot of people who were upset when I joined GWPF.

‘I received emails from colleagues all over the world telling me it was a “questionable” group. But what made me the most upset was when a colleague from the US resigned as co-author of a paper, simply because I was involved. I thought joining the organisation would provide a platform for me to bring more common sense into the global climate change debate.

‘I have been very concerned about tensions in the climate change community between activists and people who have questions. It has led to a bad atmosphere and a declining level in the quality of science has decreased.

He believes one of the reasons for this is the US Government’s expanding role on climate change.

‘The public are concerned that recent weather phenomenon have been as a result of climate change. But it is a natural occurrence,’ he said. Some people like my views, other people don’t, that is the way when it comes to science.’

In his resignation letter, published on the think-tank’s website, he wrote: ‘If this is going to continue I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety. I see therefore no other way out therefore than resigning from GWPF. I had not expecting such an enormous world-wide pressure put at me from a community that I have been close to all my active life.

‘Colleagues are withdrawing their support, other colleagues are withdrawing from joint authorship etc. I see no limit and end to what will happen. It is a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy.

Lord Lawson, the former Tory Chancellor condemned the behaviour as ‘appalling’ and said the reference to ‘McCarthyism’ was ‘fully warranted’.

In a letter to Prof Bengtsson, he wrote: ‘I fully understand your reason; but it is an appalling state of affairs and your reference to McCarthyism is fully warranted.’

According to the council’s chairman, Professor Henderson it was the ‘climate science community in the US’ which reacted negatively to the appointment.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation has been critical of policies designed to mitigate the impact of climate change.

A report published by the group earlier this year, by Andrew Montford and John Shade, described the teaching of climate science in British schools as ‘disturbing’.

Dr Benny Peiser, the director of GWPF told Mail Online: ‘There has been a complete outpouring of disbelief and anger about this development.

‘It’s clearly a growing concern among interested observers how the intolerance within the climate science community is undermining what scientists are saying.

‘This is a major scandal and will backfire if the science community don’t come out in support of him.’

3) Rupert Darwall: Science As McCarthyism
National Review Online, 15 May 2014

There is something rotten in the state of climate science.

On Monday, Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson took a tilt at climate skeptics. “The assumption that the vast majority in a scientific field is engaged in fraud or corruption is frankly conspiratorial,” Gerson wrote. As a non-scientist, he decided that the answer to the question of whether humans had warmed the planet was to trust scientists.

The article’s timing was unfortunate. Three weeks ago, Lennart Bengtsson, a leading Swedish meteorologist approaching his 80s, announced that he was joining the avowedly skeptical Global Warming Policy Foundation think tank. In an interview with Speigel Online, Bengtsson spoke of the need for climate-model predictions to be validated against observations. “Since the end of the 20th century, the warming of the Earth has been much weaker than what climate models show,” he said.

Hadn’t the IPCC covered this in its recent report? “Yes,” Bengtsson replied, the scientific report does this but, at least in my view, not critically enough. It does not bring up the large difference between observational results and model simulations. I have full respect for the scientific work behind the IPCC reports but I do not appreciate the need for consensus. It is important, and I will say essential, that society and the political community is also made aware of areas where consensus does not exist.

One of the most telling features of climate science is just how few climate scientists changed their minds as the evidence changed. The pause in global temperature in the last 15 years or so has been unexpected. Now we know why: Yesterday, Bengtsson dropped a bombshell. He was resigning from the think tank. In his resignation letter, Bengtsson wrote:

I have been put under such an enormous group pressure in recent days from all over the world that has become virtually unbearable to me. If this is going to continue I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety. . . . Colleagues are withdrawing their support, other colleagues are withdrawing from joint authorship etc. I see no limit and end to what will happen. It is a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy.

Especially significant was a tweet from Gavin Schmidt, a leading climate modeler at the NASA Goddard Institute, who for many years worked alongside James Hansen. “Groups perceived to be acting in bad faith should not be surprised that they are toxic within the science community,” Schmidt tweeted. “Changing that requires that they not act in bad faith and not be seen to be acting in bad faith.”

Evidently the right to practice and discuss climate science should be subject to a faith test. It is an extraordinarily revealing development. Fears about unbelievers’ polluting the discourse, as some academics put it, illustrate the weakness of climate science: The evidence for harmful anthropogenic global warming is not strong enough to stand up for itself.

Inadvertently Schmidt’s tweet demonstrates how far climate science has crossed the boundary deep into pseudo-science. Karl Popper observed of the trio of pseudo-sciences prevalent in 1920s Vienna that their followers could explain why non-believers rejected their manifest truths. For Marxists, it was because of their class interests. For subscribers to Freudian psychoanalysis and Alfred Adler’s psychology, non-belief was evidence of unanalyzed repressions crying out for treatment. So it is with climate science. Only the pure of heart should be allowed an opinion on it.

Science regresses if it becomes intolerant of criticism.

Full comment

4) Dear Lennart: A Letter In Support Of Professor Bengtsson
Professor David G. Gee, Uppsala University

Dear Lennart,

I received your letter with shock, dismay and huge sympathy.

All scientists know that hypotheses are hypotheses and nothing more.

That politicians take hypotheses and run with them at their own convenience, is universal. But when so-called scientists give priority to their political convictions, it verges on corruption and is devastating for the world of science, in general.

The pressure on you from the climate community simply confirms the worst aspects of politicized science. I have been reprimanded myself for opposing the climate bandwaggon, with its blind dedication to political ambitions; it needs to be exposed, globally.

Thanks for showing so much courage. Let´s hope there are more honest brokers in the climate world than are apparent today.

Yours, David

David G. Gee
Professor Em. Orogen Dynamics
Department of Earth Sciences
Uppsala University, Sweden

5) Lennart Bengtsson: The Science And Politics Of Climate Change
Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 14 April 2014

The science isn’t settled and we still don’t know how best to solve the energy problems of our planet.

Since the end of the 19th century, we have known that the Earth’s climate is sensitive to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. At that time, the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius showed that an increase in CO2 concentrations would lead to a warmer climate. However, Arrhenius harbored little hope that this would happen. Consequently, the Swedes would have to continue to suffer in a cold and miserable climate. Since then, much has changed. Annual CO2 emissions have now reached a level that is about 20 times higher than that of 1896. This has caused concern worldwide.

More CO2 in the atmosphere leads undoubtedly to a warming of the earth surface. However, the extent and speed of this warming are still uncertain, because we cannot yet separate well enough the greenhouse effect from other climate influences. Although the radiative forcing by greenhouse gases (including methane, nitrogen oxides and fluorocarbons) has increased by 2.5 watts per square meter since the mid-19th century, observations show only a moderate warming of 0.8 degrees Celsius. Thus, the warming is significantly smaller than predicted by most climate models. In addition, the warming in the last century was not uniform. Phases of manifest warming were followed by periods with no warming at all or even cooling.

The complex and only partially understood relationship between greenhouse gases and global warming leads to a political dilemma. We do not know when to expect a warming of 2 degrees Celsius. The IPCC assumes that the earth will warm up by 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celcius in response to a doubling of CO2 concentration. These high values of climate sensitivity, however, are not supported by observations. In other words: global warming has not been a serious problem so far if we rely on observations. It is only a problem when we refer to climate simulations by computer models.

There is no alternative to such computer simulations if one wants to predict future developments. However, since there is no way to validate them, the forecasts are more a matter of faith than a fact. The IPCC has published its expert opinion a few months ago and presented it in the form of probabilities. As long as the results cannot be supported by validated models they produce a false impression of reliability.

EU member states pursue a strategy of reducing the climate risk by reducing the use of fossil fuels in the shortest time to a minimum. Many citizens are risk averse and therefore support this policy. In addition, many citizens want to phase-out nuclear power, because it is also seen as too risky. To eliminate both nuclear energy as well as fossil fuels is an enormous challenge. Nevertheless, Germany and Switzerland have opted for such an energy transition. To pursue such a radical and perhaps risky energy policy, despite the limited economic, scientific and technical capabilities of the two countries is an enormous undertaking.

There are two things that need to be addressed in this context. Firstly, such energy transitions will, unfortunately, do little to reduce global CO2 emissions, since 90 percent of these emissions come from countries outside Europe. Many of these countries are likely to increase their CO2 emissions in the future, as their population increases and their top priority is to improve the living standards of their citizens. China is a special case. Its CO2 emissions have more than doubled in the last decade and are now about 50 percent higher than those of the United States. For various reasons, there are no alternatives to fossil fuels in the developing countries for the time being. Energy demand there is great. Currently, 1.3 billion people have no access to electricity. To reduce their own emissions easily and quickly, the OECD countries have outsourced some of their energy-intensive production to developing countries. In the national statistics, this looks good. Globally, however, not much changes, since the emissions occur simply somewhere else.

Secondly, the rapid transition to renewable energy has led to a considerable increase in energy prices in many countries, especially in Europe. This weakens the competitiveness and leads to a relocation of energy-intensive industries to countries such as the USA, where the energy price has dropped significantly by the use of shale gas.

It is no surprise that there are other forces that are driving rapid change. Because once government subsidies are involved, huge profits are available. However, before radical and hasty changes to the current energy system are implemented, there must be robust evidence that climate change is significantly detrimental. We are still far away from such evidence. It would be wrong to conclude from the report of the IPCC and similar reports that the science is settled.

We do not yet know how best to solve the energy problems of our planet. But many things can happen in the next 100 years. A moderate climate sensitivity, as suggested by recent observations, could provide the world a breathing space of about half a century (but not much longer) if at the same a switch from coal to natural gas occurs. This gives us the opportunity to avoid unnecessary and panicked investment, and to invest the available resources in well thought-out and long-term oriented research programs instead. These include new types of nuclear energy as well as the use of nuclear waste to generate energy.

Lennart Bengtsson was until 1990 Director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg. After his retirement, he has led, among others, the Department of Earth Sciences at the International Space Science Institute in Bern.

Translation Philipp Mueller

 

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