Something missing in the “critiques” of Bengtsson’s choice

A few weeks ago, I (amongst others) had highlighted the words of the very respected Swedish meteorologist and climate scientist, Professor Lennart Bengtsson who had chosen to join the U.K.’s Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF):

I think the climate community shall be more critical and spend more time to understand what they are doing instead of presenting endless and often superficial results and to do this with a critical mind. I do not believe that the IPCC machinery is what is best for science in the long term. We are still in a situation where our knowledge is insufficient and climate models are not good enough. What we need is more basic research freely organized and driven by leading scientists without time pressure to deliver and only deliver when they believe the result is good and solid enough. It is not for scientists to determine what society should do. In order for society to make sensible decisions in complex issues it is essential to have input from different areas and from different individuals. The whole concept behind IPCC is basically wrong. [additional emphasis and red-lettering now added by me -hro

As I had subsequently remarked when Judith Curry had posted about Bengtsson’s decision to resign from the GWPF:

When one considers the 5th (and/or lower) rate “alliances” such as that revealed by Mann and Lewandowski last November – and the unfathomable silence of “the community” in the face thereof – compared to the totally out of proportion pressures that were obviously exerted on Bengtsson whose own views (since at least 1990) have not really changed in the intervening years is (IMHO) indicative of a huge credibility chasm (i.e. well beyond a mere gap!) in the “community”.

It also strongly suggests to me that, with sincere apologies to Shakespeare, to coin a phrase, “Something is rotten in the state of climate science”.**
But one can never really know how the pressures that have been brought to bear on an individual can affect him or her and the choices s/he might make. However, he is of a different generation and culture; so I do not fault him for the choice he has made.

** As an aside, I give myself two-stars for this coinage, a sentiment which was echoed by historian, Rupert Darwall, author of The Age of Global Warming: A History, in concluding his take via the National Review:

Science as McCarthyism

Another scientist gets blackballed for his skepticism about global warming.
Science regresses if it becomes intolerant of criticism. At the beginning of her reign, Queen Elizabeth I of England spoke words of tolerance in an age of religious strife, declaring that she had no intention of making windows into men’s souls. Unlike religion, science is not a matter of the heart or of belief. It exists only in what can be demonstrated. In their persecution of an aged colleague who stepped out of line and their call for scientists to be subject to a faith test, 21st-century climate scientists have shown less tolerance than a 16th-century monarch.

There is something rotten in the state of climate science.

But I digress …

Curry also concluded her subsequent thoughtful and wise reflections on the fallout from Bengtsson’s choice as follows:

Reflections on Bengtsson and the GWPF

There is a high degree of hypocrisy here, whereby employees of green advocacy groups can participate as authors of the IPCC reports (without apparent criticism), but a non-advocate scientist cannot participate in a (non-green) think tank without censure from scientist colleagues. Scientists should be judged for the arguments and the integrity of their behavior, and should not be censured over who they choose to talk to. Wider participation of climate scientists in substantive debates regarding climate policy is a good thing. Honest brokers are to be preferred over advocates; but the real problem arises when advocates seek to stifle scientific and policy debates. [emphasis added -hro]

With all of the above in mind, let’s step back and review – just for a moment – the “Yuck” factor. This was first articulated by none other than Peter Gleick – and subsequently wholeheartedly endorsed by none other than CRU’s “intuition” driven “Poor Phil” Jones.

Readers will no doubt recall that Gleick’s subsequent sins were greeted with (for the most part) applause from the second and third tiers and the silence of acquiescence from the “first” tier. The latter of which, one might reasonably surmise, includes the Institute of Physics (IOP) flagship publication Environmental Research Letters (ERL).

The powers that be behind this noble publication evidently have no problem with Gleick being a member of the “Executive Board” of their Editorial Board.

Yet, for some strange reason, this Editorial Board (and/or its Executive Board) chose to elevate Cook et al‘s riddled with mediocrity “97%” paper to the status of “ERL’s ‘Best article of 2013’, voted for by members of the ERL Editorial Board”. [See pdf here]

For more details on the actual sequence of events – before and after Bengtsson’s resignation from the GWPF – pls see Paul Matthews excellent summary/timeline.

But, the view from here, so to speak is …

Can you even begin to imagine what might happen to the IPCC/UNFCCC edifice (not to mention the profits of publishers such as ERL), if Bengtsson’s “red letter” claims – noted at the top of this post – were to gain further hold in the higher profile discussions in the blogosphere and elsewhere? To save you scrolling up, here they are again:

I do not believe that the IPCC machinery is what is best for science in the long term.


The whole concept behind IPCC is basically wrong.

Think about it, folks :-)

8 thoughts on “Something missing in the “critiques” of Bengtsson’s choice

  1. Hi, Hilary, hope all’s well. just an OT fyi, in case of interest (feel free to delete here ofc) — thought you might be interested in some of the stuff I’ve been poking into tonight, very historical (late 1980s) but sets an interesting context for the entire UNFCCC => IPCC series of fiascos, I think. Also context for all “the horror, the horror” about Bengtsson and GWPF, since this material shows the extent of highly activist scientists (EDF etc.) steering the IPCC process since before inception.

    You could do justice to this subject, as I cannot, if you had interest and time:



    • Hi Skiphil,

      Good to hear from you! I saw your posts earlier today … but it’s great that you now have them all in one spot, at BH, uninterrupted by trollery! Some of what you’ve posted I was aware of (although not the Streisand connection$$!)

      Don’t know if you’ve ever checked out Bernie Lewin’s site ( ) He has done some excellent work on the “early days” – long pieces, but well worth the reads. And Bernie could probably augment your very fine diggings with research of his own. So you might want to touch base with him, first.

      I also did my one of my own “early days” pieces that you may (or may not) have seen (or be interested in!).

      This was the work of the “triumvirate” of Mike Hulme, Joe Alcamo and Rob Swart in formulating “The Statement” back in 1997 (run-up to Kyoto) – and their enlisting the support and assistance of WWF.

      I called this piece The climate consensus coordinators’ cookbook

      I found it quite fascinating – as you will see if you read the Statement, if nothing else, they have been very consistent in the “message”, even if one of the “messengers” (Hulme) changes his stripes like a chameleon, every few years or so!

      But YMMV :-)

    • thanks Hillary, great to see your piece on Mike Hulme et al. and your exchange with Bernie, thx.

      I am just starting to edge my way back into climate world after being mostly offline the past six months (both parents in mid-80s and seriously ailing, alas).

      Look forward to catching up on your thoughts and reading many helpful articles here!

  2. new juicy bit, btw, speaking of activist scientists, compare and contrast to Bengtsson …… Peter Gleick is listed as one of the 1987 workshop participants! (see Oppenheimer et al. 1987)
    (Appendix I, p.44)

    no wonder he goes nuts over this stuff, it really is his life’s work and he takes all dissent or opposition quite …. personally …. and seriously.

  3. Hilary and Skiphil,

    The UN and IPCC, it seems, were biased at birth
    – Oppenheimer, Holdren, Erlich, it’s in the genes.

    Opacity rules. Isn’t it time the walls of these
    consensus fortresses came tumbling down?

    Beth the serf.

    • Beth, although there can be little doubt about the biased genesis of the IPCC, I’m not entirely certain that the UN was biased at birth (at least I’d like to think it wasn’t!)

      Although it seems to have wandered so far from its roots – particularly since the advent of the UNEP (one of the IPCC’s two “parents”, the other being the WMO) that, for all intents and purposes, during the last forty years its “roots” (and whatever integrity the UN once might have had) seem to have withered away.

      But I totally agree that it is definitely time (if not long past time) that the walls of these so-called “consensus” ** fortresses came tumbling down. Judith Curry’s comment:

      I have heard that a number of leading scientists are pretty disgusted with the way Bengtsson has been treated and see the larger issues of concern about the social psychology of our field. People are talking about writing blog posts for professional societies, trying to get signatures on a statement, etc. I hope that these individuals follow through, and that the ‘climate’ for climate research can improve.

      This is a very welcome change from the 2009 reactions to Climategate, which reflected most silence, but solidarity with the climate scientists whose emails were made public.
      Can climate scientists please stop the intimidation, bullying, shunning and character assassination of other scientists who they find ‘not helpful’ to their cause? Can we please return to logical refutation of arguments that you disagree with, spiced with a healthy acknowledgement of uncertainties and what we simply don’t know and can’t predict?

      suggests that perhaps (at long last!) the ground has shifted … or perhaps even a significant tipping point has been reached ;-)

      ** When I first stepped onto this battlefield, “consensus” was the magic – and ubiquitous – word. Hulme, to his credit, did attempt (far too belatedly, IMHO) to introduce a dose of reality to the understanding of this magic word almost four years ago. [See Honey, I shrunk the consensus!]

      And on a related note, you might be interested in my pre-Rio+20 “findings”:

      A profusion of panels and pronouncements en route to Rio+20 [see also the comments on that post!]

  4. Thsx Hilary for yr pre-Rio findings. Illuminating .. According to the Minutes
    of the Long Island Meeting of UN Sec General and top aides they noted
    ‘a unique opportunity to reshape the world … to consolidate a radical new
    global green economy …’ well beyond the environment involving economic
    and social change. A historic and disturbing document. bts.

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