Scientists, One by One


A few weeks ago I was mulling over an idea I had for my next blog post. This was in response to various discussions at WUWT, Bishop Hill and Pointman’s about forming some sort of climate change sceptics’ action group. In the end I was argued round to supporting the idea, albeit with some reservations. The idea for my article was basically this: that although the Climate Alarmist bandwagon is extremely political, it will require more accredited scientists to stick their necks out and publicly refute the IPCC-backed ‘consensus’ position on the dangers of man-made CO2 before politicians consider rolling back Green-inspired policies such as state subsidies for wind turbines and solar cell manufacturers.

There are already so many holes in the science the IPCC chooses to include in its Assessment Reports (e.g. troubles with models, shoddy efforts to analyse historic temperatures or that very inconvenient failure of global temperatures to rise in the last 17 years) that if you take the trouble to find them swiftly make clear just how poor the Alarmist case is. The problem is that office-holding politicians (i.e. the ones that get to make decisions) do not have the time, the skills or the inclination to do so. Instead they will, naturally enough, simply listen to the sort of learned institutes that have always been the voice of established science (e.g. the Royal Society), and a few of the more prominent individual scientists who manage to gain the political ear. It is an appeal to authority write large, which is how people in general (myself included) reach conclusions about most things in life anyway.

It follows that the amount of political pressure that can be brought to bear is almost irrelevant unless there are enough accepted voices of authority to provide scientific foundations for a change in political direction. No sane politician (at least in as much as any are sane) will revoke legislation merely on the basis of sceptic pressure groups: there has to be a critical mass of scientific authority to provide the necessary respectability. In other words, debate between supporters and critics of the IPCC has to re-enter the mainstream of climatology, so that a sceptic side exists that politicians can support if they so choose.

A number of entirely reputable scientists are already, to a greater or lesser extent, critical of the IPCC-backed science. These include Judith Curry, Richard Tol, Roy Spencer, Richard Lindzen and the legendary Freeman Dyson. But I was thinking that what is needed, even more than a grass-roots sceptic organisation, is some sort of way to encourage and support more sceptical scientists into taking a public stand about the politically motivated,  distorted science the IPCC continues to serve up to politicians.

And then just before I could put finger to keyboard another scientist raised his head above the lip of the trench. Lennart Bengtsson is as eminent as they come in the field of meteorology, and he had recently agreed to join the advisory board of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, an organisation highly critical of the IPCC and its Assessment Reports. The reaction of his IPCC-backing colleagues was so fierce that he wrote, “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.  I would never have expecting anything similar in such an original peaceful community as meteorology. Apparently it has been transformed in recent years.” Understandably the pressure told and he quit the GWPF almost before he had started.

The viciousness of the reaction of IPCC-supporting scientists clearly demonstrates how sensitive they are to the political realities. None of them have publically said, ‘Who cares what organisations he joins, if his science is good.’, or ‘Perhaps he’ll teach the idiots at the GWPF some proper climatology’. No: to even admit that interaction with critics of the ‘mainstream’ science could be in any way valid is heresy, pure and simple. It is, and is intended to be, a warning to others.

Much to Bengtsson’s credit his published resignation letter to the GWPF not only lays bare the tactics of those applying the pressure to him, but also omits a very important thing. He never says he was scientifically wrong. He never recants his unstated assumption: that the scientific stance of the GWPF could be as valid as that of the IPCC. He may not be joining the GWPF, but the guardians of the Alarmist ‘consensus’ have made themselves a new enemy, one with enough connections to get his story onto the front page of The Times. I think this will turn out to be a major tactical mistake on their part, albeit one they had little choice but to make. Indeed, they have forced Bengtsson to clarify his position on global warming, and it turns out he is very, very sceptical of the IPCC-backed science indeed.

And so we are left with a political problem that can only be solved by scientists, one by one, exposing themselves to ridicule and ostracism: by putting their careers on the line. At one and the same time I both wish I was one of them, and am glad I am not. To those that do take the plunge I offer my wholehearted thanks and support.


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