Lennart Bengtsson: ‘Some People Like My Views, Others Don’t – That’s How Science Should Be’

  • Date: 15/05/14
  • Wills Robinson, Daily Mail

A globally-renowned climate scientist has been forced to step down from a think-tank after he was subjected to ‘McCarthy’-style pressure from scientists around the world.

Professor Lennart Bengtsson, 79, a leading climate scientist, received emails from around the world condemning his decision to move to a sceptical think-tank

Professor Lennart Bengtsson, 79, a leading climate scientist, received emails from around the world condemning his decision to move to a sceptical think-tank

Professor Lennart Bengtsson, 79, a leading academic from the University of Reading, left the high-profile Global Warming Policy Foundation as a result of the threats, which he described as ‘virtually unbearable’.

The group was set up by former Tory Chancellor Lord Lawson and are sceptical about radical policy changes aimed at combating global warming.

The Swedish climatologist, who has published more than 200 papers, said he received hundreds of emails from colleagues criticising his decision to switch to the organisation.

His ‘defection’ was described as the biggest switch from the pro-climate change lobby to the sceptic camp to date.

He was also abused on science blogs, with one describing the people who condemned him as ‘respectable’ and that his actions amounted to ‘silliness’.

Another described him as a ‘crybaby’.

However, the main pressure came from the US, where a government employee refused to be a co-author on a paper because of his links to the controversial group.

Prof Bengtsson, who had only been in the position for three weeks, told Mail Online: ‘There were quite a lot of people who were upset when I joined GWPF.

‘I received emails from colleagues all over the world telling me it was a “questionable” group.

‘But what made me the most upset was when a colleague from the US resigned as co-author of a paper, simply because I was involved.

‘I thought joining the organisation would provide a platform for me to bring more common sense into the global climate change debate.

‘I have been very concerned about tensions in the climate change community between activists and people who have questions.

‘It has led to a bad atmosphere and a declining level in the quality of science has decreased.

He believes one of the reasons for this is the US Government’s expanding role on climate change.

‘The public are concerned that recent weather phenomenon have been as a result of climate change. But it is a natural occurrence,’ he said.

‘Some people like my views, other people don’t, that is the way when it comes to science.’ 

In his resignation letter, published on the think-tank’s website, he wrote:

‘If this is going to continue I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety.

‘I see therefore no other way out therefore than resigning from GWPF. I had not expecting such an enormous world-wide pressure put at me from a community that I have been close to all my active life.

‘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.

Lord Lawson, the former Tory Chancellor condemned the behaviour as ‘appalling’ and said the reference to ‘McCarthyism’ was ‘fully warranted’. 

Professor Bengtsson currently works for the Meteorology department at the University of Reading
 Professor Bengtsson currently works for the Meteorology department at the University of Reading

 In a letter to Prof Bengtsson, he wrote: ‘I fully understand your reason; but it is an appalling state of affairs and your reference to McCarthyism is fully warranted.’

According to the council’s chairman, Professor Henderson it was the ‘climate science community in the US’ which reacted negatively to the appointment.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation has been critical of policies designed to mitigate the impact of climate change.

A report published by the group earlier this year, by Andrew Montford and John Shade, described the teaching of climate science in British schools as ‘disturbing’.

Dr Benny Peiser, the director of GWPF told Mail Online: ‘There has been a complete outpouring of disbelief and anger about this development.

‘It’s clearly a growing concern among interested observers how the intolerance within the climate science community is undermining what scientists are saying.

‘This is a major scandal and will backfire if the science community don’t come out in support of him.’

Daily Mail, 15 May 2014