Peer pressure on Bengtsson: scientific or political?

peer pressure ahead

It was only two weeks ago when Lennart Bengtsson joined the Academic Advisory Council of the GWPF (Global Warming Policy Foundation), known for challenging the global warming consensus. Bengtsson is a Swedish meteorologist with a career in Meteorology and Environmental sciences. At the age of 79 he is now a Senior Research Fellow at the Environmental Systems Science Centre in the University of Reading. His resignation after just two weeks from the GWPF Advisory Board came as lightning at clear heaven. This is how his resignation letter goes:

I have been put under such an enormous group pressure in recent days from all over the world that has become virtually unbearable to me. 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. I would never have expecting anything similar in such an original peaceful community as meteorology. Apparently it has been transformed in recent years.

Under these situation I will be unable to contribute positively to the work of GWPF and consequently therefore I believe it is the best for me to reverse my decision to join its Board at the earliest possible time.

It shows the peer pressure he encountered. Some who commented on other blogs mocked the discribed peer pressure, by saying that Bengtsson joined a advisory board of a political foundation, that his peers weren’t amused and just communicated this unhappyness with him. What is the big deal? I agree that everybody has the right of his own opinion, so these peers should have the right to indicate that they are concerned. But such pressure is not a small feat easy to dismiss. Especially in a polarized field as Climate Science. Colleagues withdrawing from joint authorship is something not to take lightly for a publishing scientist (which he apparently still is). Would this be a young scientist, this probably would be “fin de carrière”.

More: the pressure that Bengtsson experienced was not because of scientific issues, but because he joined the GWPF Advisory board. There was a massive, swift reaction, not because of a scientific disagreement, but the objections were entirely of a political nature. That should come as no surprise in a politicized field.

This peer pressure was of a politicial nature and only in one direction: when scientists choose to cooperate with political organizations that agree with the consensus, no such fuss is made. But when cooperating with a board of an organization that challenges the consensus, suddenly the peer pressure kicks in.

With this resignation letter we see another glimpse of peer pressure, not the scientific one, but a political one. And only in ONE direction.


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