Shocking details of corruption and suppression in the world of peer-reviewed climate science have come to light with a recent leak of emails. They show how a determined group of activist scientists and journalists combined to secure the retraction of a paper that said a climate emergency was not supported by the available data. Science writer and economist Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. has published the startling emails and concludes: “Shenanigans continue in climate science, with influential scientists teaming up with journalists to corrupt peer review.”
The offending paper was published in January 2022 in a Springer Nature journal and at first attracted little attention. But on September 14th the Daily Sceptic covered its main conclusions and as a result it went viral on social media with around 9,000 Twitter retweets. The story was then covered by both the Australian and Sky News Australia. The Guardian activist Graham Readfearn, along with state-owned Agence France-Presse (AFP), then launched counterattacks. AFP ‘Herald of the Anthropocene’ Marlowe Hood said the data were “grossly manipulated” and “fundamentally flawed”.
After nearly a year of lobbying, Springer Nature has retracted the popular article. In the light of concerns, the Editor-in-Chief is said to no longer have confidence in the results and conclusion reported in the paper. The authors were invited to submit an addendum but this was “not considered suitable for publication”. The leaked emails show that the addendum was sent for review to four people, and only one objected to publication.
What is shocking about this censorship is that the paper was produced by four distinguished scientists, including three professors of physics, and was heavily based on data used by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The lead author was Professor Gianluca Alimonti of Milan University and senior researcher of Italy’s National Institute of Nuclear Physics. Their paper reviewed the available data, but refused to be drawn into the usual mainstream narrative that catastrophises cherry-picked weather trends. During the course of their work, the scientists found that rainfall intensity and frequency was stationary in many parts of the world, and the same was true of U.S. tornadoes. Other meteorological categories including natural disasters, floods, droughts and ecosystem productivity showed no “clear positive trend of extreme events”. In addition, the scientists noted considerable growth of global plant biomass in recent decades caused by higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
In fact this scandal has started to attract comparison with the Climategate leaks of 2009 that also displayed considerable contempt for the peer-review process. One of the co-compilers of the Met Office’s HadCRUT global temperature database Dr. Phil Jones emailed Michael Mann, author of the infamous temperature ‘hockey stick’, stating: “I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-reviewed literature is!”
Interestingly, Professor Michael Mann of the University of Pennsylvania, has a part to play in this latest de-platforming exercise. In the Guardian attack article he said it was another example of scientists from “totally unrelated fields” coming in and naïvely applying inappropriate methods to data they don’t understand. “Either the consensus of the world’s climate experts that climate change is causing a very clear increase in many types of weather extremes is wrong, or a couple of nuclear physics dudes in Italy are wrong,” he said.
It was an AFP ‘fact-check’ attack, published soon after the Daily Sceptic article, that brought other activist scientists into the campaign to retract the offending science paper. It was part-written by Marlowe Hood, whom regular readers will recall was recently given about £88,000 by the Foundation arm of a large Spanish bank heavily involved in financing green technologies. One of the experts quoted by AFP was Dr. Freiderike Otto, who works in the pseudoscience field trying to ‘attribute’ single weather events to long-term changes in the climate using computer models. She is helped in this work by funding from the green billionaire investor Jeremy Grantham. Otto said the authors of the report were “of course” not writing their paper in good faith. “If the journal cares about science they should withdraw it loudly and publicly, saying that it should never have been published.”
Another scientist calling for the work to be cancelled was Stefan Rahmstorf, head of Earth Systems at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. He told AFP that he did not know of the Springer journal, “but if it is a self-respecting one it should withdraw the article”.
The leaked Pielke emails provide a fascinating insight into the way Springer Nature dealt with the issue over the last year. At first there was concern that Alimonti et al. only referenced the work of the IPCC’s fifth assessment report, although it was pointed out that when the paper was originally submitted the IPCC sixth assessment had not been published. It was suggested an ‘erratum’ should be compiled. Professor Alimonti took the understandable view that an ‘addendum’ was more appropriate.
The addenda were prepared and then sent out for review to four people and an adjudicator. Three reviewers recommended publication and one was against. The adjudicator was then reported to have sided with the minority view. One of the reviewers recommended acceptance by noting: “The statements made by the authors are generally in agreement with the assessment produced by the working group 1 of the IPCC on their Sixth Assessment Report.” Another reviewer wrote: “The original article is a straightforward recitation of credible, key data about several types of extreme weather events. I find nothing selective, biased or misleading in what they present. While there’s hardly anything written that isn’t well known to experts, it’s useful for non-experts to see the underlying data, which are most often obscure in the IPCC reports.”
But all to no avail. The adjudicator agreed with the one dissenting voice that the addendum did not meet the “scientific standards” that would allow for publication. “Furthermore, I recommend retraction of the original manuscript.” The article was subsequently retracted, although a new version has been republished here.
Dr. Pielke’s conclusions are damning. “The abuse of the peer-reviewed process documented here is remarkable, and stands as a warning that climate science is as deeply politicised as ever with scientists willing to exert influence on the publication process both out in the open, and behind the scenes.”
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic‘s Environment Editor.