One of the world's most eminent climate scientists Professor Lennart Bengtsson has blamed a McCarthy-style witch hunt for his decision to quit a controversial climate change sceptic think-tank after just three weeks.
The leading Swedish climatologist and former director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, astonished the academic world with his decision to join the advisory council of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), founded by renowned climate change critic Lord Lawson.
Explaining his decision earlier this month, Professor Bengtsson said he wanted to learn from the highly qualified experts at the GWPF in areas outside of his own expertise and to help widen the debate through his own extensive meteorological knowledge.
His perceived “defection” was described as the biggest switch from the pro-climate change lobby to the sceptic camp to date.
But in his resignation letter to the London-based GWPF today, the 79-year-old said the enormous pressure he had felt from around the world to his appointment on the organisation’s Academic Advisory Council had become “virtually unbearable”.
Prof Bengtsson added: “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 [been] 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.”
The Professor’s letter concluded: “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.”
Accepting the professor’s resignation, David Henderson, chairman of GWPF’s Academic Advisory Council, wrote to say the news had come as a “surprise and a shock”.
He added: “Your resignation is not only a sad event for us in the Foundation: it is also a matter of profound and much wider concern. The reactions that you speak of, and which have forced you to reconsider the decision to join us, reveal a degree of intolerance, and a rejection of the principle of open scientific inquiry, which are truly shocking. They are evidence of a situation which the Global Warming Policy Foundation was created to remedy.
“In your recent published interview with Marcel Crok, you said that ‘if I cannot stand my own opinions, life will become completely unbearable’. All of us on the Council will feel deep sympathy with you in an ordeal which you should never have had to endure.”