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Behind The Times - another manufactured climate controversy conspiracy theory

Posted on 19 May 2014 by dana1981

Here we go again. The latest IPCC report, the US National Climate Assessment report, and a report published by US military researchers all recently warned us yet again about the risks associated with human-caused climate change. While the planet continues to warm, ice continues to melt, and sea levels continue to rise, the conservative media are trying to distract everyone from these scientific realities with a shiny quarter named Lennart Bengtsson.

Bengtsson is a meteorologist at the University of Reading, who recently decided to join a political advocacy group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). The GWPF is known for downplaying the risks posed by human-caused global warming with shoddy scientific arguments, then arguing against taking any meaningful action to address the problem.

The GWPF has called the IPCC a "deeply discredited organisation" and worse, and has accused climate scientists of being delusional or liars. The group also recently set up a new campaigning arm, which would be free from charity regulations requiring that any information they put out is fair and as accurate as possible.

Thus it was not surprising when Bengtsson's scientific colleagues were unhappy with him joining this organization. Some of those colleagues allegedly told Bengtsson that they did not want to publish research with him due to his association with this political group, which seems entirely understandable. However, in response to these alleged reactions from his colleagues (Bengtsson did not respond to requests for additional details), Bengtsson wrote in his resignation letter to the GWPF,

"I see no limit and end to what will happen. It is a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy."

To be clear, this situation bears no resemblance to McCarthyism in the United States, which involved aggressive government investigations and questioning of people suspected of having ties to Communism. For more accurate parallels in climate science today, look instead at Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's witch-hunt of Michael Mann or the Climategate inquiries directed at Phil Jones. A few colleagues withdrawing support and co-authorship with Bengtsson pales in comparison.

A few days later, Bengtsson told Rupert Murdoch's The Times that a peer-reviewer comment recommending rejection of a paper he co-authored mentioned how the 'skeptic' media would react to the study. The Murdoch media and other conservatively biased news outlets went berserk, with stories in Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, The Mail Online, The Telegraph, The Times again, The Mail on Sunday, The Australian, and Drudge, inventing conspiracy theories involving censorship of 'inconvenient research'.

Bengtsson's submitted paper had made the case that the Earth's climate sensitivity to the increased greenhouse effect is relatively low by comparing the results of several previous studies, but had not made the case well. The journal in question, Environmental Research Letters published the full comments from the reviewer in question, showing that the recommendation to reject the paper was because,

"The overall innovation of the manuscript is very low ... The paper does not make any significant attempt at explaining or understanding the differences, it rather puts out a very simplistic negative message giving at least the implicit impression of "errors" being made within and between these assessments,"

Comments from a second reviewer were even more brutal. This is precisely the purpose of peer-review – to filter out papers that aren't sufficiently accurate or don't add anything significant to our scientific understanding. In fact, Environmental Research Letters is a high-quality scientific journal with a 65% rejection rate. For examples of innovative research in this area, see our discussions of recent papers by NASA's Drew Shindell and Texas A&M's Kummer & Dessler.

In fact, Bengtsson himself seemed taken aback by the conservative media distortions of the journal's rejection of his research (although one wonders why he leaked the reviewer comments to The Times to begin with), telling the Science Media Centre,

"I do not believe there is any systematic “cover up” of scientific evidence on climate change or that academics’ work is being “deliberately suppressed”, as The Times front page suggests. I am worried by a wider trend that science is being gradually being influenced by political views. Policy decisions need to be based on solid fact."

One also wonders why Bengtsson joined GWPF if he's concerned about political views influencing science. Perhaps because Bengtsson's own political views can be rather extreme at times, as exemplified by this comment he left on a blog formerly known as The Climate Scam,

"It's a shame that the GDR [East Germany] disappeared otherwise would have been able to offer one-way tickets there for these socialists. Now there's unfortunately not many orthodox countries left soon and I surely do not imagine our romantic green Communists want a one-way ticket to North Korea. But if interested I'd gladly contribute to the trip as long as it is for a one way ticket."

Along with Richard Lindzen joining the Cato Institute, Bengtsson now gives us two examples of 'skeptical' scientists becoming associated with political advocacy groups, and zero examples of mainstream climate scientists joining political organizations. Who is it that's politicizing science?

In any case, the accusations in the conservative media of climate journals suppressing research are clearly unfounded, even according to Bengtsson himself. It's also worth noting that contrarians have been behind every documented case of climate journals behaving unethically.

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Comments 1 to 12:

  1. Look, a squirrel!

    There's always another squirrel.

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  2. The increased better understanding of the unacceptability of already developed actions that have allowed some people to get undeserved benefits and become wealthy and powerful will always be challenged by those who cannot rationally justify the actions they want to continue to get away with.

    Human history is full of examples of attempts to prolong the popularity of unacceptable unjustifiable attitudes and actions. Whenever benefit has been able to be obtained from unacceptable actions and attitudes those who got away with developing wealth and power unacceptably can be expected to fight against losing their undeserved opportunities to get more wealth and power. And they will not care about better understanding how to develop a sustainable better future for all life on this amazing planet. Though that type of development is clearly the only viable future for humanity, it is not in their interest.

    Continuing to develop the best understanding of what is going on and striving to fully inform the entire population is the best way to disappoint those who want to benefit from unacceptable unsustainable and harmful actions and attitudes. When better understanding clashes with unacceptable ways of benefiting those who know they are threatened can become fierce and can be expected to be irrational.

    Keep up the good fight againstly the fiercely irrational.

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  3. Michael Mann, who among all of us, is in the best position to comment on this episode of denial campaign, has written an OP in huffingtonpost. A good complementary reading, well agreed with Dana's article herein.

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  4. Roy Spencer also has polotical connections (see linked list of associations from Desmog blog) inlcuding the Heartland Institute and the George C. Marshall Institute.  That makes 3.  How many of the 3% of climate scientists that deny AGW are members of these organizations?

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  5. Science is about constantly increasing awareness and developing the better understanding of what is going on. Politics is about deciding what actions and attitudes to encourage and reward and which ones to discourage and penalize.

    Science and politics should be focused on the same thing, developing better understanding and awaress that enables humanity to develop a sustainable better future for humanity, which ultimately needs to be a sustainable robust diversity of life on this amazing planet.

    However, the current global socioeconomic systems have developed many unsustainable and harmful actions and attitudes because they can be made to appear popular and profitable.

    So investigation into climate, and so many other environmental and social issues, can develop better awareness and understanding of the unacceptability of popular and profitable actions and attitudes. That does not make such investigation and reporting political, but it mobilizes the political marketing of those who wish to maximize and prolong their ability to benefit from unacceptable actions and attitudes. It mobilizes actions to try to discredit the people who are creating that better awareness and understanding. And many people are easily impressed by the attempts to discredit any better understanding of the unacceptability of how they want to personally benefit.

    So climate science can only "not be political" when it exclusively produces information that suits the interests of all of the wealthy and powerful. Any information contrary to the interests of any wealthy and powerful person will mobilize political action, by that person.

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  6. I can imagine a gadget, not to far down the road that will verify factual consensus of casual claims in writing, or speech. In this case false claims by the, supposed, conservative anti-science crowd could be eliminated by the reader. Lets imagine that the gadget might color the content acording to coroborated validity ration according to reader preferences.

    We are gradually working toward that capability. The gadget is each of us correcting the discussion, keeping a higher emotional, rational, and level of knowledge and courtecy throghout the blogosphere and in opportunities for discussion. We have the facts and moral highground, we just have to keep at it. The community is getting inoculated agains the lies of the disinformation industry. And they want to do the right thing, we just have to keep figureing it out, and sharing it appropriately.

    Patience, perceverence, and valid argument will ultimately win the day.

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  7. Given the vanishingly small number of contrarian papers published for peer review, it's clear they've wanted an example of a "rejected" paper in order to claim the reason there are so few contrarian papers is they get rejected by the "conspiracy".  Expect this case to be cited every time the consensus comes up.

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  8. Regarding GWPF and Lawson...
    Nigel Lawson (GWPF founder) was on the radio recently commenting on the attempted takeover of AstraZeneca by Pfizer, stating it would be a good thing.
    Thankfully it never happened, but the comment did highlight the fact that Lawson cares not for science (or successful British businesses), only for markets and economics.

    The media seem to be obsessed with Lawsons pronouncements these days, after spending years ignoring him in his retirement.

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  9. It is ironical that there is so much hype about combatting climate change. It is a typical anthropocentric view of reality. The simple fact is that irreversible rapid climate change is under way primarily due to the unintended consequences of industry using fossil fuels. No amount of hype will change that reality. The best that society can now do is adopt sound mitigation and adaptation policies as recommended in the latest IPCC report.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Please note the comment policy prohibition on sloganeering. "The simple fact is that irreversible rapid climate change..." appears to be an assertion in contradiction to the IPCC reports you cite. If you believe this to be correct, please cite the basis for this statement.

  10. denisaf@9,

    Consequences of "industry using fossil fuels" were "unintended" until about mid-last century, before confirmed AGW. Although there were voices in the scientific community pointing the problem of AGW even earlier: click the interactive history button on the left to learn more.

    Since at least 50y ago, said consequences are known and quantified (e.g. by CO2 mass balance from Keeling Curve). Since at least 25y ago (first IPCC report confirming AGW) the consequences are intended.


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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Please abide by the comment policy (No accusation of deceptions etc).

  11. What exactly is the 97% concensus for? That you can't rule out man completely for any contribution to Global Warming? There are many factors affecting sea level besides melting land based Ice or snowpack. The 0.32 mm/yr of recent SLR trend line equals 10 inches by 2100. 2 meters or 78.74 inches by 2100 requires an increase by an order of magnitude from the recent trendline.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Beside being off-topic, your statement about SLR is out by an order of magnitude. If have evidence of non-climate related causes of SLR, then please take them to this thread. Using the search function to find an appropriate thread for commentary is not that hard. Further offtopic comments will be deleted.

  12. jetfuel:

    Sea level rise is currently 3 mm per year, or 10 times higher than the amount you cite. That being said, any further discussion specifically pertaining to sea level rise should occur on pertinent threads, rather than this one, where it is off topic. You might find that those other posts and threads will provide links to papers published in the literature which explain the projections of higher sea level rise by 2100.

    In addition, I strongly recommend that you take your inquiry regarding the scientific consensus to another thread where it is on topic. This post and thread discuss Bengtsson's views regarding climate science and the distortion of those views, in service of conspiratorial ideation, by others.

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