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Climatologist Dr. Judith Curry on Lennart Bengtsson: This ‘has the potential to do as much harm to climate science as did the Climategate emails’

Lennart Bengtsson resigns from the GWPF

Posted on May 14, 2014 | 62 Comments
by Judith Curry

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. – Lennart Bengtsson

The GWPF has announced that Lennart Bengtsson has announced his resignation from the GWPF Advisory Council.  From the press release (which I received via email):

GWPF Voices Shock and Concern at the Extent of Intolerance within the Climate Science Community

It is with great regret, and profound shock, that we have received Professor Lennart Bengtsson’s letter of resignation from his membership of the GWPF’s Academic Advisory Council.

The Foundation, while of course respecting Professor Bengtsson’s decision, notes with deep concern the disgraceful intolerance within the climate science community which has prompted his resignation.

Professor Bengtsson’s letter of resignation from our Academic Advisory Council was sent to its chairman, Professor David Henderson. His letter and Professor Henderson’s response are attached below.

Dr Benny Peiser, Director, The Global Warming Policy Foundation

The text of Bengtsson’s resignation letter:

Dear Professor Henderson,

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. 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. I would never have expecting anything similar in such an original peaceful community as meteorology. Apparently it has been transformed in recent years.

Under these situation I will be unable to contribute positively to the work of GWPF and consequently therefore I believe it is the best for me to reverse my decision to join its Board at the earliest possible time.

With my best regards
Lennart Bengtsson

David Henderson’s response:

Dear Professor Bengtsson,

I have just seen your letter to me, resigning from the position which you had accepted just three weeks ago, as a member of the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s Academic Advisory Council.

Your letter came as a surprise and a shock. I greatly regret your decision, and I know that my regret will be shared by all my colleagues on the Council.

Your resignation is not only a sad event for us in the Foundation: it is also a matter of profound and much wider concern. The reactions that you speak of, and which have forced you to reconsider the decision to join us, reveal a degree of intolerance, and a rejection of the principle of open scientific inquiry, which are truly shocking. They are evidence of a situation which the Global Warming Policy Foundation was created to remedy.

In your recent published interview with Marcel Crok, you said that ‘if I cannot stand my own opinions, life will become completely unbearable’. All of us on the Council will feel deep sympathy with you in an ordeal which you should never have had to endure.

With great regret, and all good wishes for the future.

David Henderson, Chairman, GWPF’s Academic Advisory Council

Die Klimazweibel has a post on this, read the comments.  Pielke Jr states:

For experts in the climate issue, there is enormous social and peer pressure on what is acceptable to say and who it is acceptable to associate with. My recent experiences are quite similar to Bengtsson’s:

Unfortunately, “climate mccarthyism” is not so far off. It has been practiced for a while:

The main problem here is not that people have strong views or call people names. It is that the elite in this community – including scientists, journalists, politicians — have endorsed the climate mccarthyism campaign, and are often its most vigorous participants.

Over the long run, of course, good science will win out and policy will muddle through. In the short term however, the community will continue to do itself a lot of damage.

The climate issue is coming to represent a globalized version of the US abortion debates. I tell my grad students that there is no use for policy analysts in the abortion debates. I should follow my own advice!

Also of interest, Marcel Crok refers to a 1990 interview with Bengtsson, excerpts:

Bengtsson believes that climate experts should not pretend to be more knowledgeable than they really are. ‘In case of the greenhouse effect there is an interaction between media, politics and science. Every group pushes the other groups. Science is under pressure because everyone wants our advice. However, we cannot give the impression that a catastrophe is imminent. The greenhouse effect is a problem that is here to stay for hundreds of years. Climate experts should have the courage to state that we are not yet sure. What is wrong with making that statement clear and loudly?’

Bengtsson thinks that the IPCC has been particularly actuated for political reasons. ‘The IPCC prediction that with a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere the temperature on Earth would rise by two degrees should be taken with a grain of salt.’

‘If you talk to the greenhouse mafia about these observations, they provide some answers, but those are not real. There is no proper support for the claim that the greenhouse effect should already be visible. It is sometimes stated that the Southern Hemisphere is warming. But there are so few observational sites over there that it is very difficult to draw any definitive conclusions about the temperature in the Southern Hemisphere.’

Bengtsson is not the only climate expert who thinks that much of the excitement about the greenhouse effect is undue. Many of his colleagues have been rather uneasy about what happened after they opened Pandora’s box. They have become afraid, now that politicians, camera crews, pressure groups and environmental departments worldwide have thrown themselves at the climate disaster, to openly state that what they have declared may have been a bit premature.

Bengtsson: ‘Many of us feel rather uncomfortable with much of what has been claimed about the greenhouse effect. No one had been talking about it because temperatures had been slightly on the decline during the last 30 years. Only after Jim Hansen of NASA had put the issue back on the agenda after the warm summer of 1988 has it become part of the political agenda. In itself there is no problem with that. Looking hundreds of years ahead the greenhouse effect could become a serious problem. Some policies are obviously a clever thing to do: save energy, become less dependent on oil, those are good ideas. But one cannot oversell the greenhouse effect. There are many environmental problems that are much more urgent like that of the sulphur dioxide in Eastern Europe.’

UPDATE:  GWPF has a new press release on this, with the following statement:

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.”

JC comments.  I will have much more to write about this in a few days.  For now, I will say that 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




Lennart Bengtsson speaks out
Lennart Bengtsson on global climate change
In “Communication”
Nullius in Verba
In “Ethics”
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kim | May 14, 2014 at 8:12 pm | Reply
I’m only a bird in a gilded cage.

Skiphil | May 14, 2014 at 8:38 pm |
The Mark Steyn quote about his reasons for taking on the battle against the Mannian Commisars is more apt than ever, now that we are hearing that the most ferocious attacks were coming from the CliSci “community” in the USA.

This episode puts Judith Curry’s courage and determination in a bright light. Despite the mockery she gets from certain squalid trolls here, what she does is impressive and most laudable.

Even Mark Steyn, quite familiar with campaigns to enforce political correctness in various fields has been “stunned” by the degree of enforced conformity in climate science. He will now need to revise his last comments to take account of this new episode in rigidly imposed Orthodoxy. Steyn writing BEFORE the news of Bengtsson’s recantation:

If you’re older, tenured, sufficiently eminent and can stand his acolytes jumping you in the parking lot and taking the hockey stick to you, you’ll acknowledge that his greatest achievement is distinguished mainly for its “misrepresentations” and “falsifications”.

But, if you’re a younger scientist, you know that, if you cross Mann and the other climate mullahs, there goes tenure, there goes funding, there goes your career: you’ll be cut off like Briffa’s tree rings. I’ve been stunned to learn of the very real fear of retribution that pervades the climate world. That’s why I’m playing this one differently from the Maclean’s case: Dr Mann will be on the witness stand under oath, and the lies that went unchallenged in the Big Climate echo chamber will not prove so easy to get away with. I didn’t seek this battle with this disreputable man. But, when it’s over, I hope that those who work in this field will once again be free to go where the science leads.

HR | May 14, 2014 at 8:20 pm | Reply
full disclosure.

name the emalers

Gary | May 14, 2014 at 8:30 pm |
Unless the bullies are called out by name for their misbehavior, they will only grow bolder.

Generalissimo Skippy | May 14, 2014 at 8:25 pm | Reply
See that’s why we need UNtopia – Minnesota. Webby can re-educate them.

fulltimetumbleweed | May 14, 2014 at 8:28 pm | Reply
In academia there is no protection from your peers. If you don’t tow the line bad things start happening. Your grants get cut off, you lose positions on influential committees for no apparent reason, your adjunct positions are not renewed and your publications aren’t published. Yet when it starts happening everyone will nod and frown and say the proper condolences to your face while they use anonymity to hide their real actions. We like to think scientists are above this kind of petty machination but they aren’t. They are ordinary human beings and the anonymity of peer review makes blacklisting and black balling all too easy. You always tell an academic because of the number of knives in his back.

Jay Currie | May 14, 2014 at 8:29 pm | Reply
This was the day “science” fell out of “climate science”.

The alarmists have, however, scored an own goal: they have revealed their bully boy tactics. The next time someone cites the “consensus” they will be countered with the fact that the “consensus” wa manufactured at the end of a metaphorical baseball bat.

I hope we do find out who the bullies are. They need to be exposed, vilified and then shunned by anyone who has the slightest scientific or moral integrity.

pokerguy (aka al neipris) | May 14, 2014 at 9:02 pm |
Uh huh. Their bully boy tactics as you put it have been on display since climate-gate. If anything, it’s just going to get worse before it…what? Gets better? Maybe, maybe not.

I see violence in the offing. And not the metaphorical kind you mention above. It strikes me as virtually inevitable that some lunatic will pick up a gun and take a shot at some climate “denier” for the “good of the planet.”

Pete Bonk | May 14, 2014 at 8:30 pm | Reply
Pathetic,and at the same time, sadly, so predictable. Heretics have always been severely punished by the true believers. Diversity of thought isn’t politically correct. Voltaire has been dead for some time….

Skiphil | May 14, 2014 at 8:32 pm | Reply
Senator McCarthy was a lightweight compared to these Global Warmng Mullahs.

p.s. Whatever one thinks of him, McCarthy was going after actual spies commiting espionage on behalf of the USSR. Michael Mann & company are treating harmless thoughtful people as though they are far lower than spies for the USSR at the height of the Cold War. But then, to Commisars enforcing climate orthodoxy, any serious dissent or disobedience must be worse than espionage.

stan | May 14, 2014 at 8:34 pm | Reply
Global warming is all about politics. Period. The actions of the left-wing climate alarmists in the US are no different than the actions of their political activist brethren. If you disagree with Obama and his friends, you are slandered as bitter, mean-spirited, hate-filled, racist, sexist, homophobic terrorists who want to deny medical care to the poor, starve kids, kill seniors, and rape the environment. The slanders are constant. And it goes well beyond slander. Speak out and the IRS, EPA, DOJ, BATF will descend on you to use the awesome power of the government to harass, abuse and intimidate you.

What happened to Bengtsson is just like what happened to conservatives filing for 501(c) 4, or the nuns who complained about Obamacare, or the Koch brothers. If you don’t toe the left’s political line, they will use anything and everything available to them no matter how immoral in their efforts to destroy you.

They are morally retarded indeed.

nottawa rafter | May 14, 2014 at 8:35 pm | Reply
How can anyone be surprised by these tactics. I see it every day on TV , in print and on the internet. It is despicable and beyond defense. The cause may be important but to what price. Regimes in other countries and in other centuries felt their cause was also important. Thankfully they are no longer with us.

David Appell | May 14, 2014 at 8:38 pm |
What tactics? His colleagues setting him straight on the reputation of the organization he had just joined?

I wonder how you (and Judith) felt about all the threats other climate scientists have been getting, back years ago.

Teddi | May 14, 2014 at 8:44 pm |
..and one of the main culprits in applying these tactics [ Appell ] shows up on cue – good timing David.

Skiphil | May 14, 2014 at 8:54 pm |
yes, many can remember how dishonest David Appell & company were about the alleged “death threats” that turned out not to exist….

Paging David Appell and Nick Stokes again: time to fess up and apologize

and in any case, random angry emails from the great unwashed do not compare to an aggressive campaign by allegedly professional scientist to ostracize and ruin one of their own.

Pete Bonk | May 14, 2014 at 9:03 pm |
I think David just called Professor Lennart Bengtsson a fool in need of being set straight. “Setting him Straight”? sounds a bit homophobic, David.

nottawa rafter | May 14, 2014 at 9:09 pm |
Apple So much group pressure he was concerned for his health. The fact you seem to be condoning this pressure says everything anyone needs to know about you.

Curious George | May 14, 2014 at 9:13 pm |
David Appell: I hope no one ever sets you straight against your will. It is frequently done in concentration camps, where a very persuasive equipment is available.

Scottish Sceptic | May 14, 2014 at 8:36 pm | Reply
As I’ve written at Bishop Hill, what we are seeing here is “science” as a community acting to re-enforce social boundaries between the legitimate “insiders” in academia and those outside who are thus deemed “illegitimate”.

By effectively drawing a line around academia and calling it “science” and persuading all the press, politicians, etc. to see those inside as legitimate to speak on subjects like climate and those outside as therefore illegitimate, it means that no matter how qualified or experience we skeptics are, that we will always be deemed as illegimate.

However, that only works as long as people believe the boundary around “science” is real and meaningful. What Lennart Bengtsson did, was to show that the boundary is illusionary – that it is made of glass – and by breaking down that boundary he not only legitimised the GWPF, but he also showed that there was no intrinsic reason why academics should be listened to any more than any other groups …. like e.g. skeptics.

That is why it was so important for those insiders to re-enforce the boundary by this concerted campaign of attacks.

It’s the same psychology of gang culture. It’s very similar to inter-union demarcation disputes (in this case we skeptics are being told to clear off their lawn because we are dabbling in areas which they consider to be “their” domain).

And the kind of psychological reaction to “territorial” disputes is as old as when we came down from the trees. Chimpanzees engage in these boundary disputes, gorillas.

The Chimpanzee behaviour is particularly nasty – combining as a group to target individuals, particularly mothers with young and then devouring the young. This is really what we are seeing, but in a much less extreme version: very ancient behaviour attacking those who break the taboos and cross the boundary to the “enemy” troop.

David Appell | May 14, 2014 at 8:36 pm | Reply
In this 2013 paper, Bengtsson finds a lower bound for equilibrium climate sensitivity of 2.0 +/- 0.5 C:

“Determination of a lower bound on Earth’s climate sensitivity,”
Lennart Bengtsson and Stephen E. Schwartz, Tellus B 2013

Click to access Climate_Sensitivity.pdf

Skiphil | May 14, 2014 at 8:45 pm |
David Appell,
Which makes it that much more striking that your Climate Commisars are trying to destroy him. He doesn’t seem to have some cavernous scientific distance from the mainstream but maybe thinks that uncertainties are larger and/or policy recommendations have been badly formulated??

For that he must be ostracized from the “community” of climate science he has served and worked in effectively for 50+ years!!

Mark Silbert | May 14, 2014 at 8:49 pm |
What is your point?

manacker | May 14, 2014 at 9:09 pm |
Mark Silbert

David Appell doesn’t have a point.

It’s just a waffle intended to side step the issue at hand here: Bengtsson’s resignation from GWPF.


JCH | May 14, 2014 at 9:15 pm |
Stephen E. Schwartz is one of Bengtsson’s co-authors. He writes exactly what he wants to write. His papers have angered warmists. He hasn’t lost his job. He continues to publish a lot of very sound papers.

I rather doubt he would be part of a disgraceful arm twisting. I would not be surprised if he objects to aspects of the GWPF, but I do not know that for sure.

So who is he talking about, and why no evidence? It’s just his assertion.

craigm350 | May 14, 2014 at 8:38 pm | Reply
Reblogged this on CraigM350.

Jim Cripwell | May 14, 2014 at 8:42 pm | Reply
Will the same sort of pressure be brought to bear on the people who are advising the APS on CAGW?

Teddi | May 14, 2014 at 8:42 pm | Reply
There is nothing new here with this story…

Again, many good scientists and professionals have had their careers harmed over the last two decades by this agenda based movement called AGW. We must acknowledge and remember them at moments like this…

Pingback: Climate Fascists | Jay Currie
Mark Silbert | May 14, 2014 at 8:47 pm | Reply
This is beyond disgraceful. It makes one feel debased by even trying to debate the issues with such misanthropes. Let’s hear from a few alarmists that abhor this type of behavior and mistreatment of an icon.

I’m listening!!

stan | May 14, 2014 at 8:57 pm |
You’ll get only crickets. Alarmists are people of the left. It’s all about the politics. Ethics and morality are defined as that which aids the lust for political power. Nothing else.

“There are no morals in politics.”

Lord Beaverbrook | May 14, 2014 at 9:05 pm |
‘This is beyond disgraceful. It makes one feel debased by even trying to debate the issues with such misanthropes. Let’s hear from a few alarmists that abhor this type of behavior and mistreatment of an icon.’

Would Tweets like these fall into that category:

“Groups perceived to be acting in bad faith should not be surprised that they are toxic within the science community. Changing that… (1/2)”

“… requires that they not act in bad faith and not be seen to be acting in bad faith. (2/2)”

Hear ye the gospel and bow before it!

JCH | May 14, 2014 at 9:18 pm |
Abhor what behavior? Is there an email we can read? Maybe the hacker can find the evidence.

kim | May 14, 2014 at 9:30 pm |
Sorry you’re so bitter, JCH, such that you’ve stopped up your ears to the testimony.

Joshua | May 14, 2014 at 9:34 pm |
–> “This is beyond disgraceful. ”

Wow. Beyond disgraceful. That’s bad. Can you describe what it was, at least in some detail, just what it was that was beyond disgraceful? Help me to share in your outrage.

ceresco kid | May 14, 2014 at 9:42 pm |

Ohh please. The man said he was pressured and he was concerned about his health and safety. You have stuck your head in the sand and thrown in dissembling on top of it. Accept that this kind of bullying and strong arm methods are done every day by the warmists.

Danley Wolfe | May 14, 2014 at 8:52 pm | Reply
What is going on now including this latest on Bengtsson has the “feel” of an organized propaganda campaign the likes of which harken back to Dr Goebbels and Willi Münzenberg. In this re, Alan Leisher head of AAAS issued a letter to members yesterday (also asking for donations) which said inter alia:

[quote] Based on the evidence, about 97% of climate scientists agree that human-caused climate change is happening. Yet a large fraction of this country’s population and policymakers can’t seem to accept the fact that the climate is changing. It’s time to shift the debate from whether human-caused climate change is happening to what we can do about it.

We need to make it clear that scientists believe that doing nothing now is extremely dangerous and could result in abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts on future generations. And we need your help.

As you may know, AAAS recently launched a new initiative to expand the dialogue on the risks associated with climate change. At the heart of the initiative is the “What We Know” report, an assessment of current climate science and impacts that emphasizes the need to understand and recognize possible high-risk scenarios.

But to have the greatest impact, we must do more than issue a report. We must continue to get the word out about the urgency of this issue. Will you join us?

As members of the science community, we need to change the conversation from whether the earth is warming to just how we are going to work together to alter the course our planet is on. We have to reach out to the American people, to policymakers, and even to other countries about what science is showing about the dangers of climate change and the severe outcomes that could occur through inaction or continued resistance to change.

I count at least seven statements by Leisher that do not represent the views of qualified critics with bone fides including those of participants in Curry’s blog. I would counter that those of us who do not blindly accept the climate protagonists story line to restructure the world economy need to do more than yelp on blogs like Curry’s. There needs to be more of a grass roots and intelligent response to get our views across!

Scottish Sceptic | May 14, 2014 at 9:43 pm |
It’s more like a bunch of chimpanzees hooting, howling and thrashing about the trees intimidating one of their number who has “defected” to the other side. When he gets back to the “troop”, the big cheese will beat him up in front of all the rest of the troop, he’ll submit gracefully to the treatment, and then once its been established that troop members don’t ever cross over into the territory of the other troop — he’ll be left alone.

beththeserf | May 14, 2014 at 8:56 pm | Reply
Divine right rer rule
and decide who is in and
who is goddam out

H/t Church of Climatology..