## Lennart Bengtsson’s paper

I wasn’t really going to say much about Lennart Bengtsson and the GWPF. Stoat and HotWhopper have covered it if you want to read more. I have some sympathy with someone who may have felt pressurized by their colleagues. On the other hand, if I wanted them to remain friends and colleagues, I probably wouldn’t then imply that they were McCarthyites.

The next stage of the saga seems to be a claim that Bengtsson had a paper rejected from Environmental Research Letters because it was “less than helpful”and

“Actually it is harmful as it opens the door for oversimplified claims of ‘errors’ and worse from the climate sceptics side.”

This seems to have been interpreted as implying that the paper was rejected because it would help the “skeptic” argument. Personally, I don’t quite understand what is being implied here, but it seems to be suggesting that the paper had errors.

In fact, having started writing this, Leo Hickman has tweeted a link to an IoP statement about this paper. It includes one of the referee’s reports, which says,

The overall innovation of the manuscript is very low, as the calculations made to compare the three studies are already available within each of the sources, most directly in Otto et al.

The finding of differences between the three “assessments” and within the assessments (AR5), when assuming the energy balance model to be right, and compared to the CMIP5 models are reported as apparent inconsistencies.

The paper does not make any significant attempt at explaining or understanding the differences, it rather puts out a very simplistic negative message giving at least the implicit impression of “errors” being made within and between these assessments, e.g. by emphasising the overlap of authors on two of the three studies.

What a paper with this message should have done instead is recognising and explaining a series of “reasons” and “causes” for the differences.

and finishes with

I have rated the potential impact in the field as high, but I have to emphasise that this would be a strongly negative impact, as it does not clarify anything but puts up the (false) claim of some big inconsistency, where no consistency was to be expected in the first place. And I can’t see an honest attempt of constructive explanation in the manuscript.

Thus I would strongly advise rejecting the manuscript in its current form.

So, a perfectly reasonable referee’s report.

I’m actually getting quite tired of all these silly storms in teacups. It’s getting rather tedious. To cheer everyone up (well me, mainly), here’s a song I quite like. Given that this song was entirely sampled – without credit, initially, I believe – from Loleatta Holloway’s Love Sensation, it doesn’t seem entirely inappropriate, given some of the shenanigans going on at the moment.

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### 60 Responses to Lennart Bengtsson’s paper

1. Joshua says:

It figures that you’d downplay the massive implications of this earth-shattering event, being a warmist and all. McCarthy was Mother Teresa compared to these eco-zealots. First they came for Lennart Bengtsson…

Nobody expected the Permian Mass Extinction.

2. Andy Skuce says:

http://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-claims-climate-research-was-suppressed/

3. MikeH says:

So can we predict what happens from here?

My guess, based on past performance, is that the loons will start by vilifying and sending hate mail to Nicola Gulley, Editorial Director at IOP Publishing. They will then attempt by means foul or fair to find out who the reviewers are so they can vilify them and send them hate mail.

All while screaming “McCarthyism”.

4. The main factor in the Permian Mass Extinction was absolute temperature and rate of change ….. the two main factors in the Permian Mass Extinction were absolute temperature, rate of change, and ocean acidification….. the three main factors in the Permian Mass Extinction were …..

[Just in case anything thinks that was a scientifically credible response to Joshua’s comment, it wasn’t]

Andy, thanks, some very interesting comments.

5. Louise says:

Millions of people will have seen the front page of the Times, how many will read the IOP statement?

Truth doesn’t matter, perception has been set, mission accomplished 😦

6. Louise,
Indeed, that is probably true. People will now be referring back to the Times article as an example of the failure of peer review and why the whole system is flawed.

7. MikeH says:

I would be nice to see the paper. And to know who his coauthors were.

This is from the referee
“The differences in the forcing estimates used e.g. between Otto et al 2013 and AR5 are not some “unexplainable change of mind of the same group of authors” ”

LOL.

8. I also thought this comment by the referee was interesting, as I think it is well known but not always acknowledged

Even more so, as the very application of the Kappa model (the simple energy balance model employed in this work, in Otto et al, and Gregory 2004) comes with a note of caution, as it is well known (and stated in all these studies) to underestimate ECS, compared to a model with more time-scales and potential non-linearities (hence again no wonder that CMIP5 doesn’t fit the same ranges)

9. Paul says:

This affair is a new low for the GWPF. Is this a foretaste of what they will become now they have abandoned the pretence of being an ‘educational’ ‘charity’?

10. Paul,
Is this really a new low? I hadn’t noticed much difference 🙂

11. AnOilMan says:

Sounds like the journal is saying the work is derivative, and nit picky. (Was Tol a co-author?)

12. AnOilMan says:

Maybe this song is better;

World Party – Ballad of The Little Man

13. OPatrick says:

Millions of people will have seen the front page of the Times, how many will read the IOP statement?

On the otherhand, it is such a clear example of lack of balance or scepticism that it may turn out to be more of a positive than a negative. All that needs to be done is to ensure that the sequence of events is set out clearly whenever anyone brings it up.

14. OPatrick,
And – as Eli’s latest post points out – the IoP are clearly not happy about this. It’s not normal to publish referee’s reports. Given that, there’s a chance that the Times will have to respond and it may involve – metaphorically – throwing Bengtsson under the bus.

15. OPatrick says:

Ah, the conspiracy deepens (or is that broadens?) – the plucky little Times ploughing a lone furrow against the serried might of the IOP, perhaps.

16. Joshua says:

Anders –

–> “Times will have to respond and it may involve – metaphorically – throwing Bengtsson under the bus.”

Have you learned nothing about the climate wars? Think about this again. Do you really think that in any way, anyone will retreat one iota?

Here’s what they will focus on: “Summarising, the simplistic comparison of ranges from AR4, AR5, and Otto et al, combined with the statement they they are inconsistent is less then helpful, actually it is harmful as it opens the door for oversimplified claims of “errors” and worse from the climate sceptics media side. “

This will be interpreted as: “it opens the door for oversimplified validated and “inconvenient” claims of “errors” and worse from the climate sceptics media side. ”

Which, of course, would be second only to the Permian Mass Extinction on the scale of global catastrophes.

17. Joshua,
Yes, you may well have just illustrated my naivety. You’re probably right – that is how it will likely continue to be interpreted.

18. dana1981 says:

There will be some pushback in the unbiased media. Nafeez Ahmed has one story in the Guardian today, and I’ll likely have one on Monday, in part quoting the referee comment.

The Times and Telegraph may be crap, but there are still other good media outlets out there.

19. Vinny Burgoo says:

Joshua & Wotts, that’s surely how the reviewer’s sentence was intended. The reviewer thought that the Bengtsson paper had erroneously given ‘at least the implicit impression of “errors” being made within and between [the 3 sensitivity] assessments’ and it was these erroneous ‘errors’ posited by the paper rather than the paper’s own methodological errors that he/she thought might be seized upon by sceptics if the paper were published,

But anyway, today is the second anniversary of Sky News announcing that perpetual motion is in the offing, so if you want to cheer yourselves up, forget about music and watch this:

(The reporter’s eight years at Sky News ended the following month and it seems to have taken her 3 months to find another job . Was the timing of her departure a coincidence – or was it PERHAPS part of a WORLDWIDE CONSPIRACY to suppress the TRUTH about further PROMISING DEVELOPMENTS in the development of PERPETUAL MOTION, which DEVELOPMENTS ARE BEING KEPT SEKRET BY THE MURDOCH EMPIRE BECAUSE THEY SPELL DOOM FOR THE KOCH BROTHERS, PRINCE PHILLIP AND THE HANSEN TWINS??!!? (Actually, she seems to have left because of an epiphany triggered by breast milk and Aung San Suu Kyi.))

20. Vinny,
Yes, that’s how I understood it. The point that the reviewer was trying to make, is that the differences aren’t indicative of actual errors but would be interpreted as such if the paper was published as is.

However, how it’s been interpreted by some is that it was an attempt to hide actual errors which – I would suggest – is not what the reviewer was suggesting and should be clear if anyone were to read it in context.

21. Joshua says:

In case there were any questions about how this would be played:

http://climateaudit.org/2014/05/16/iop-expecting-consistency-between-models-and-observations-is-an-error/

==> “The publisher of Environmental Research Letters today took the bizarre position that expecting consistency between models and observations is an “error”.”

This is after yesterday’s post with an obvious reference to ethnic “cleansing,” from a sector of the debate that expresses outrage, outrage I say that the term “denier” is a holocaust reference.

It’s really quite remarkable that “skeptics” claim that Stevie Mac is anything other than a tribalist.

Well, on second thought, it isn’t remarkable in the least, is it?

22. Mike Pollard says:

Science is a rejection based career – rejected grant applications, rejected manuscripts, rejected tenure, etc. You would think that Bengtsson would have learned to appreciate that at his age. Its very clear that the pseudoskeptics, esp. those commenting at sites like WUWT, have very little concept of what is takes to maintain an active scientific career. As Harry G. Frankfurt as written “Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about.”

23. Mike,
That is indeed very true. Learning to cope with rejection is an important part of an academic career.

24. Interesting and – unless I’m reading it wrong – quite sensible response from Lennart Bengtsson (although, possibly, an element of self-placing on a pedestal).

25. Vinny Burgoo says:

Wotts, is attempting to hide bogus errors from sceptics a whole lot better than hiding actual errors? Perceived bogosity should have been reason enough to recommend rejection. I hope you agree that it was inappropriate for the reviewer to include political or ‘messaging’ considerations among his reasons.

(He/she comes across as a bit of a crusader. The sort of person you might find writing in the unbiased media alongside Nafeez Ahmed. 😉

26. BBD says:

ATTP reasonably complains:

I’m actually getting quite tired of all these silly storms in teacups. It’s getting rather tedious.

But this is how they play the Game. Yap, yap, yap, like ridiculous little dogs confronting the postman of reality, but the cumulative effect of all this noise is enough to confuse the electorate and distort public policy. And drive away many informed observers in disgust.

27. BBD says:

Oh come on, Vinny.

Let’s read the reviewer’s words again together:

I have rated the potential impact in the field as high, but I have to emphasise that this would be a strongly negative impact, as it does not clarify anything but puts up the (false) claim of some big inconsistency, where no consistency was to be expected in the first place. And I can’t see an honest attempt of constructive explanation in the manuscript.

Thus I would strongly advise rejecting the manuscript in its current form.

Surely this needs no further gloss?

28. Vinny,

I hope you agree that it was inappropriate for the reviewer to include political or ‘messaging’ considerations among his reasons.

I disagree with this for two reasons. Firstly, I think it is entirely appropriate for a reviewer to comment that publishing a paper as it is would likely lead to it being mis-interpreted by some. Secondly, I don’t think that pointing this out is in any way political. It is entirely reasonable for a reviewer to comment on how the wording in a paper would be interpreted – that doesn’t make it political (IMO).

29. BBD says:

And Vinny, given Dr. Bengtsson’s various rather surprising on-record statements (which we can also read together, if need be), would you describe him as apolitical? Or rather, highly politicised?

Given the only possible honest answer to that, this might better have been left unsaid:

I hope you agree that it was inappropriate for the reviewer to include political or ‘messaging’ considerations among his reasons.

30. Joshua says:

Sorry – posted this in the wrong thread… Anders, can you delete the other?

Classy response, IMO. It is fun to compare what he said to the reaction from yesterday.

In particular, this part: “Academic freedom is a central aspect of life at the University of Reading. It is a very open, positive and supportive environment to work in. I have always felt able to put forward my arguments and opinions without any prejudice.”

31. Vinny Burgoo says:

BBD, the only thing I have read by Lennart Bengtsson is the statement Wotts pointed to just now. That doesn’t seem very political. (For a while I thought he was the L Bengtsson who co-authored a paper that was, through no fault of its own, used to build the ‘750 million/2 billion people rely on Himalayan glacial meltwater’ consensus, but alas that Bengtsson turns out to have been a Lars.) Any pointers to texts revealing his non-apoliticality?

32. Joshua says:

Vinny –

–> “Wotts, is attempting to hide bogus errors from sceptics a whole lot better than hiding actual errors? ”

Surely you can see that rejecting the publication of what the reviewer considers to be an erroneous analysis does not equal “attempting to hide bogus errors.”

33. Joshua says:

Vinny –

From Bengtsson:

–> “It seems that two major actions are needed and should be implemented with highest priority. These are carbon dioxide sequestration and increased investment in nuclear power, preferably using fast breeder reactors”

34. Vinny,
This post from Eli includes a translating of something about Bengtsson.

35. Vinny Burgoo says:

Wotts, as I read it, the reviewer’s fear was not that sceptics would misinterpret the paper, it was that they would take it seriously – they would think that what it said was correct.

36. BBD says:

Vinny

BBD, the only thing I have read by Lennart Bengtsson is the statement Wotts pointed to just now. That doesn’t seem very political.

It’s a shame that the GDR disappeared otherwise would have been able to offer one-way tickets there for these socialists. Now there’s unfortunately not many orthodox countries left soon and I surely do not imagine our romantic green Communists want a one-way ticket to North Korea. But if interested I’d gladly contribute to the trip as long as it is for a one way ticket. Perhaps you could arrange a Gallup study, since it can not be ruled out that I underestimated rush to the exit

We can’t be blamed for not reading Swedish, but that doesn’t change the facts.

Now, shall we start again on the matter of who is, and who is not politicised?

37. BBD says:

they would think that what it said was correct.

Wrong, misleading, rejected. Where is the problem?

38. Vinny,
As I understand it, that’s the same thing. We’re splitting hairs, I think.

As I understand it, what the paper did wasn’t strictly wrong, but it wasn’t new. Read, for example, the first paragraph in the bit that I quote. Bear in mind, that the “skeptic” comment comes from a different review that I haven’t seen in full. The issue, as I understand it, is that the differences in these various methods don’t indicate errors, but simply different assumptions and approximations. Therefore, if the paper was to be published as it stood, it would be implying that these differences implied errors, and if the paper didn’t clarify this position this is how it would be interpreted – which would be wrong. Hence I don’t quite see the difference between what you’re saying and what I’m saying.

39. Vinny Burgoo says:

Wotts, me neither any more. I’m on my second pint of cider.

BBD, everyone is political. I was expecting evidence of him being political in his published scientific work. That he is a bit of a pinko-bashing blowhard outside of academe doesn’t excuse taking a political reading of his scientific work when reviewing it.

However, elsewhere there are suggestions that he’s a cherry-picking doom-minimiser in his published work. If that’s true, I suppose it’s fair to highlight any tendentiousness when reviewing his papers.

Probably. IANASNHIPOOTV.

40. Vinny,

I’m on my second pint of cider.

I’ve finished my second pint and have opened a bottle of red wine to drink with my homemade curry. I wouldn’t expect anything particularly coherent from me from now on 😉

41. BBD says:

Vinny

If that’s true, I suppose it’s fair to highlight any tendentiousness when reviewing his papers.

I see no evidence of tendentiousness. The reviewer’s comment is clear.

42. BBD says:

IANASNHIPOOTV

?

Sorry. Lost me there.

43. Since we’re discussing reviewing, people should bear in mind that authors typically get a right of reply even if the editor decides to reject. So, what the reviewers say clearly informs the editor, but the authors can always try to convince the editor that the reviewers are wrong. They can also take what the reviewer says into account and improve the paper – typically what happens in my case (reviewers can be wrong, but they rarely say nothing worth considering).

44. BBD says:

Sorry Vinny, I read you as meaning tendentiousness on the reviewer’s part, not Bengtsson’s. Perhaps I have misunderstood.

45. Magma says:

To cheer everyone up (well me, mainly), here’s a song I quite like.

That’s a lovely non sequitur. Offhand I can’t recall which 18th or 19th century English writer, at a loss for ideas in a serialized novel and with a chapter deadline looming, decided to interrupt the plot and had most of the characters head off on holiday to the same seaside town he was in.

46. ligne says:

BBD: i assume “I Am Not A Scientist, Nor Have I Played One On TV”.

47. Rachel M says:

For the drunks in this thread – Dinner for One:

48. Eli Rabett says:

“Vinny: I hope you agree that it was inappropriate for the reviewer to include political or ‘messaging’ considerations among his reasons. ”

If you want open publication, well, reviewers are going to start thinking about how a paper can be manipulated for political or messaging considerations. Win some, lose some.

49. AnOilMan says:

Maybe Lennart Bengtsson got to the GWPF and realized it was a Bad Project;

50. Bwana_Mrefu says:

This is the last paragraph in the follow-up story in today’s Times. It is a quote from Bengtsson:
I am worried by a wider trend that science is gradually being influenced by political views. Policy decisions need to be based on solid fact”
Oh, the irony.

51. BBD says:

Ligne

Thanks for the clue. Not my finest hour…

52. JCH says:

I speculated early on at Climate Etc that the co-author who resigned was likely Schwartz. I do not see him as being a scientist who wants to be political.

Also, he works for the United States government, and some employees by law are not allowed to lobby. I do not know if that law applies here, but some people will steer as far away from a law as possible.

53. Steve Bloom says:

Oh, Schwartz. That explains a lot IMO.

54. Marco says:

I don’t think Schwartz is the one who decided to jump off. It would be pretty funny if true, since he was the apparent co-author on that rejected ERL paper, but I just don’t see him as someone to worry about the GWPF.

55. JCH,
Thanks, I’ve just had a quick look through the paper. Unless I’m missing something, it seems to have rather fundamental error. The basic equation that it solves is

$S_{eq} = \Delta T / (F - N)$.

It seems to determine $\Delta T$ relative to 1900. One issue with this it would probably be best to do what Otto et al. did and determine the reference $\Delta T$ as being an average over some time period (decade). They used 1860-1879, I think. By referencing it to a single year, you have a much bigger influence from variability.

The more basic problem, though, is that there is no mention of a reference level for $F$ and $N$. $F$ is simply the average of the forcing for the period 1970-2000, and $N$ is simply the average of the change in ocean heat content for the same period (with corrections for heat uptake in other parts of the system). As far as I can see, there is no mention of correcting for $F$ and $N$ possibly being non-zero in 1900. So, it seems to me that the paper isn’t using the same baseline for the different terms in the above equation.

56. JCH says:

ATTP – I’ve been away the last few days attending my son’s graduation from medical school. I’m bragging. He’s Jr. AoA, and he matched to perennial top-three teaching hospital in the world. None of which makes me smarter than the average layman I am.

One of the referees referred to an issue with F and N, so do you think this is the paper in question?

If so, I think my speculation that Schwartz is likely the guy who told Bengtsson he was resigning as co-author due to Bengtsson’s joining the GWPF is made slightly more likely.

And I’m just really miffed that nobody is discussing why a United States government scientists, whether Schwartz or not, would steer clear of being associated with a lobbying group as some US government employees are strictly prohibited from doing so.

57. JCH,