Climate Science Paper Censored By American Meteorological Society Journal

  • Date: 08/07/14
  • Ben Webster, The Times

Research that questioned the accuracy of computer models used to predict global warming was “censored” by climate scientists, it was alleged yesterday.

One academic reviewer said that a section should not be published because it “would lead to unnecessary confusion in the climate science community”. Another wrote: “This entire discussion has to disappear.”

The paper suggested that the computer models used by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were flawed, resulting in human influence on the climate being exaggerated and the impact of natural variability being underplayed.

The findings could have profound implications. If correct, they could mean that greenhouse gases have less impact than the IPCC has predicted and that the risk of catastrophic global warming has been overstated.

However, the questions raised about the models were deleted from the paper before it was published in 2010 in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate. The paper had been submitted in July 2009, when many climate scientists were urging world leaders to agree a global deal on cutting emissions at the Copenhagen climate change summit in December that year.

Vladimir Semenov, a climate scientist at the Geomar institute in Kiel, Germany, said the questions he and six others had posed in the original version of the paper were valid and removing them was “a kind of censorship”.

He decided to speak out after seeing a former colleague, Professor Lennart Bengtsson, vilified for questioning the IPCC’s predictions on global warming.

Professor Bengtsson, a research fellow at the University of Reading, resigned from the advisory board of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Lord Lawson of Blaby’s climate sceptic think-tank, in May after being subjected to what he described as McCarthy-style pressure from fellow academics.

Dr Semenov said some seemed to be trying to suppress suggestions that the climate was less sensitive to rising emissions than the IPCC had claimed.

“If you say there are some indications that the sensitivity is wrong, this breaks the stone on which the whole building is standing,” he said. “People may doubt the whole results.”

Dr Semenov said the reviewers who objected to the questions were technically correct because they “were not explicitly based on our results”. However, he said: “We had a right to discuss it . . . If your opinion is outside the broad consensus then you have more problems with publishing your results.”

A third reviewer was much more supportive of the paper, saying its “very provocative” suggestion that climate models were flawed was “so interesting that it needs to be discussed more fully”.

However, almost the entire paragraph was deleted, along with the conclusion that “the average sensitivity of the IPCC models may be too high”.

The journal chose to publish only the opening sentence: “We would like to emphasise that this study does not question the existence of a long-term anthropogenic warming trend during the 20th century.”

A spokesman for the American Meteorological Society said: “It is a natural part of the review process for the author to be asked to make changes, edits, and rewrites . . . The changes that are made in response to the peer review ensure that the research results are as accurate as possible.”

The Times, 8 July 2014