By Ben Spencer
Published: 21:10 EST, 15 May 2014 | Updated: 00:33 EST, 16 May 2014
Professor Lennart Bengtsson, who claims his research on global warming is being 'covered up'
A scientific study which suggests global warming has been exaggerated was rejected by a respected journal because it might fuel climate scepticism, it was claimed last night.
The alarming intervention, which raises fears of ‘McCarthyist’ pressure for environmental scientists to conform, came after a reviewer said the research was ‘less than helpful’ to the climate cause.
Professor Lennart Bengtsson, a research fellow at the University of Reading and one of five authors of the study, said he suspected that intolerance of dissenting views on climate science was preventing his paper from being published.
‘The problem we now have in the climate community is that some scientists are mixing up their scientific role with that of a climate activist,’ he told the Times.
Prof Bengtsson’s paper suggests that the Earth’s environment might be much less sensitive to greenhouse gases than previously thought.
If he and his four co-authors are correct, it would mean that carbon dioxide and other pollutants are having a far less severe impact on climate than green activists would have us believe.
The research, if made public, would be a huge challenge to the finding of the UN’s Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that the global average temperature would rise by up to 4.5C if greenhouse gases in the atmosphere were allowed to double.
The paper suggested that the climate might be less sensitive to greenhouse gases than had been claimed by the IPCC in its report last September, and recommended that more work be carried out ‘to reduce the underlying uncertainty’.
The five contributing scientists submitted the paper to Environmental Research Letters – a highly regarded journal – but were told it had been rejected. A scientist asked by the journal to assess the paper under the peer review process reportedly wrote: ‘It is harmful as it opens the door for oversimplified claims of “errors” and worse from the climate sceptics media side.’
Prof Bengtsson, 79, said it was ‘utterly unacceptable’ to advise against publishing a paper on the political grounds.
He said: ‘It is an indication of how science is gradually being influenced by political views. The reality hasn’t been keeping up with the [computer] models.
Professor Bengtsson currently works for the Meteorology department at the University of Reading
‘If people are proposing to do major changes to the world’s economic system we must have much more solid information.’
Next year the UN hopes to broker an international agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol which would impose legally binding targets on every country.
The last attempt, at the Copenhagen conference in 2009, ended in disaster, with recriminations flying and all chances of a deal in tatters.
The Paris conference in December 2015 is thought by many politicians to be the last realistic chance for a deal to be made if disastrous climate change is to be averted.
A controversy at this stage risks putting the science which underpins the negotiations at doubt, something many - not least politicians in Britain and the US - will be keen to avoid.
The publisher of the Environmental Research Letters journal last night said Professor Bengtsson’s paper had been rejected because it contained errors and did not sufficiently advance the science.
A spokesman for IOP Publishing said: ‘The paper, co-authored by Lennart Bengtsson, was originally submitted to Environmental Research Letters as a research Letter.
‘This was peer-reviewed by two independent reviewers, who reported that the paper contained errors and did not provide a significant advancement in the field, and therefore failed to meet the journal’s required acceptance criteria.
‘As a consequence, the independent reviewers recommended that the paper should not be published in the journal which led to the final editorial decision to reject the paper.’