When climate science battles ideology and loses, the results are not pretty. That seems to be the story with an elderly scientist from Sweden, Dr Lennart Bengtsson. In the past month he's emerged from relative obscurity (as far as the general public is concerned) to being a minor celebrity of denialati.
If he was trying to trash his scientific reputation he could hardly have chosen a more effective way to do it.
Lennart Bengtsson very publicly declares his ideology and joins the GWPF
Earlier this month, Lennart decided to formally declare his political leanings. Lennart joined the Board of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a denier group in the UK that lobbies against the mitigation of global warming. As Greg Laden points out, that organisation mostly attracts misfit economists and failed financiers, not climate scientists. Nigel Lawson, who is the public face of the group, was probably getting some pats on the back that he had managed to entice a genuine climate scientist to align himself with them in such a public fashion.
Lennart has voiced his opinions on policy and politics on other occasions in the past. For example, he has written (h/t Marco and idunno):
It's a shame that the GDR disappeared otherwise we would have been able to offer one-way tickets there for these raving 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 will gladly contribute to the trip as long as it concerns a one way exit. Perhaps you could arrange a Gallup study, then it can not be ruled out that I underestimated utresebehovet.(Does anyone know what utresebehovet translates to in English?) Answer, thanks to Frank D: Literally "outward need", in context I think he means he underestimated the need of the "romantic Green communists" to get out of the "orthodox" western countries.
Lennart Bengtsson very publicly declares he'll stick to science and quits the GWPF
After joining the Board of the GWPF things started to go wrong because, although Lennart is 79 years old, he's still publishing and holds a post at the University of Reading. That made things tricky, because apparently Lennart wants to continue to publish. Lennart said that his colleagues warned him that so publicly joining the GWPF was not a good look and other scientists would probably steer clear of him. No reputable scientist would want to be associated with anyone from a science denying organisation. According to Lennart he's already had collaborators withdraw from collaborating with him although he hasn't named anyone as far as I know. So Lennart did an about face and resigned from the GWPF.
Lennart Bengtsson changes his mind again and very publicly declares ideology won his inner battle between his ideology and science
His resignation would have been the end of the matter if he'd just shut up, put his head down and continued with his research. However he chose to take a different route, which makes his resignation from the GWPF inexplicable. He chose to go to the papers and yell and scream. He chose to politicise the situation even further.
Why quit the GWPF so you can continue as a scientist only to turn around the very next day and burn your bridges as a scientist?
Why does Lennart scream "politicisation" when it's Lennart who's the only person showing his ideology?
Lennart made an even bigger fool of himself by getting a front page spread on The Times newspaper. And now he's made it into The Australian as well. (Lennart didn't even get top billing in the article in The Australian. He was just a footnote to a blurb about some pimply-faced script kiddie from the USA who annoyed the University of Queensland.) Lennart told a denier journalist that a paper he submitted for publication got rejected. The spin is that he was persecuted. I suppose he thought that if he could make out that scientists are ganging up on him he could play the victim card.
Now that will work with the denialiti. Over at WUWT for example, they are up in arms (archived here and here and here). It proves their "nefarious intent" conspiracy theories. They aren't interested in whether or not the paper had any merit. It's sufficient that someone they'd never heard of a month ago has come out as a martyr for the deniers' cause.
It won't work with the scientific community (or much of the general public who read more broadly). Lennart has broken the rules and revealed part of what was in a referee report on a rejected paper. Lennart decided his ideology trumped science and "came out" as a science denier. Lennart should have expected the consequences from the scientific community.
The consequences are that the IOP, the publisher of the journal in question, Environmental Research Letters, has come right out and shown that the paper was without merit. They've published one of the referee's reports in full and are seeking permission to publish the others as well. The IOP press release states:
The draft journal paper by Lennart Bengtsson that Environmental Research Letters declined to publish, which was the subject of this morning’s front page story of The Times, contained errors, in our view did not provide a significant advancement in the field, and therefore could not be published in the journal.Lennart's "paper" didn't just contain errors, it didn't even include any research from the look of things. It was just an article about already published research. Turns out that Lennart's so-called scientific paper was nothing more than a bit of denialist propaganda, about on par with articles by the usual quacks in Quadrant magazine (Bob Carter etc). Based on the referee's report that was published, it looks as if all that Lennart did was say "ooh, there are some differences between climate sensitivity calculations published in different papers so "something must be wrong"" (nefarious intent-style), without bothering to look at the reasons for differences. Here are some excerpts from one of the referee's reports:
The manuscript uses a simple energy budget equation (as employed e.g. by Gregory et al 2004, 2008, Otto et al 2013) to test the consistency between three recent "assessments" of radiative forcing and climate sensitivity (not really equilibrium climate sensitivity in the case of observational studies).
...The overall innovation of the manuscript is very low, as the calculations made to compare the three studies are already available within each of the sources, most directly in Otto et al.
The finding of differences between the three "assessments" and within the assessments (AR5), when assuming the energy balance model to be right, and compared to the CMIP5 models are reported as apparent inconsistencies.
...What a paper with this message should have done instead is recognising and explaining a series of "reasons" and "causes" for the differences.
...The IPCC process itself explains potential inconsistencies under the strict requirement of a simplistic energy balance: The different estimates for temperature, heat uptake, forcing, and ECS and TCR are made within different working groups, at slightly different points in time, and with potentially different emphasis on different data sources. The IPCC estimates of different quantities are not based on single data sources, nor on a fixed set of models, but by construction are expert based assessments based on a multitude of sources. Hence the expectation that all expert estimates are completely consistent within a simple energy balance model is unfounded from the beginning.
Wanting to be remembered for ideological flip-flops, flouting professional ethics and writing shoddy papers?
You've got to wonder what motivates someone who's had a decent career as an academic to decide they want to be remembered for:
- joining a science denying lobby group - then quitting it because they don't have the courage of their convictions
- flouting professional ethics not just by publicising a referee report on a rejected paper of theirs, but by misrepresenting it and the journals decision that it wasn't worthy of their journal
- letting the whole scientific community know that they write very shoddy papers
- coming out very publicly as a science denier.
Science deniers are having a bad time of it at the moment. They can't win a trick. There's more at Rabett Run and Greg Laden's blog and William Connolley's Stoat and And Then There's Physics, as well as at The Guardian.
From the WUWT comments
Frank K. thinks it's a good thing (for deniers, not Lennart, obviously) that Lennart has brought his shoddy paper to the attention of the world and says:
May 16, 2014 at 7:36 am
I think the good thing to come out of all of this is that Dr. Bengtsson’s paper will now have so much attention that it can be judged on its merits by a much larger scientific audience than if it were just quietly published by some narrowly-focused climate journal. So, I think this whole episode just backfired badly on the warmists…(heh)
May 15, 2014 at 4:44 pm
First it was Delingpole. Then the Spectator. Then the Daily Mail. Then The TImes. The important aspect is that this stuff is now entering the journalistic narrative, otherwise dominated by planet-burning deathwishes.
When the floodgates will open, many journalists will suddenly do their coming out as climate skeptics. Just hang on, we aren’t too far from that date.
Bruce Cobb shows his colours as a deluded denier when he says:
May 15, 2014 at 5:13 pm
These are the end times for the Warmist ideology/religion, and they know it. Now is when the Warmanista nastiness will be at its’ height. They will stop at nothing. But, their nasty behavior is there for all to see, and damages their “cause” even further, setting it upon a death spiral.
ossqss wants to sue scientists who maintain their professional integrity and says:
May 16, 2014 at 8:25 am
And the rats begin to scatter and hide, but it is too late. They have already tripped the trap.
Justice for all, not just some, will prevail.
Is it time to crowd source legal action against these defiant bullys?
This type of behavior would not be tolerated anywhere else in society. Why has it been acceptable in the climate community? Why?
JimS is one of the few who accepts the inevitability of global warming :) and says:
May 16, 2014 at 8:50 am
AGW is so entrenched within the scientific community and political sphere, it will not go away. Just watch.
philjourdan roundly criticises Lennart's double standards (at least that's what it looks like) and says:
May 16, 2014 at 9:54 am
It is hard to maintain double standards rationally – even for people who are naturally duplicitous. Their own words are going to haunt them. But they do not have to worry about sycophants coming to their defense. No matter how contorted the justification is.
May 16, 2014 at 10:52 am
The most effective counterattack on ERL would be to list and critique the substandard warmist papers it has published.
So far there is nothing but silence on that score.