A climate change scientist has claimed that the world’s leading academic journals reject papers that don’t “support certain narratives” on the issue and instead favor “distorted” research that touts the dangers rather than the solutions.
Patrick T. Brown, a senior lecturer at Johns Hopkins University and doctor of earth and climate sciences, said the editors of Nature and Science – two of the most prestigious scientific journals – select “articles on climate that support certain pre-approved narratives”.
In an article for The free pressBrown likened this approach to how “the press focuses so intensely on climate change as the root cause” of wildfires, including the recent devastating blazes in Hawaii. He pointed to research that 80 percent of wildfires are started by humans.
Brown gave the example of an article he recently wrote titled “Global Warming Raises Extreme Daily Risk of Wildfire Growth in California.” Brown said the paper, published in Nature last week, “focuses exclusively on how climate change has affected extreme wildfire behavior” and ignored other key factors.
Brown laid out his claims in an article titled “I left out all the truth to publish my article on climate change”. “I just got published in Nature because I stuck to a story that I knew the editors would like. This is not how science should work,” the article begins.
Patrick T. Brown, a senior lecturer at Johns Hopkins University with a doctorate in earth and climate science, said the editors of Nature and Science – two of the most prestigious scientific journals – “want climate articles that support certain pre-approved narratives”.
Brown said one of his studies on the subject was published by Nature “because I stuck to a narrative that I knew publishers would like.”
He also criticized the media for focusing “carefully on climate change as the root cause” of wildfires, including the recent devastating blazes in Hawaii. Pictured: A search, rescue and recovery member conducts search operations in areas damaged by the Maui wildfires in Lahaina.
“I knew not to try to quantify key aspects other than climate change in my research, because that would dilute the story that prestigious journals like Nature and its rival, Science, want to tell,” he said. he writes about his recently published work.
“It’s important because it’s critically important for scientists to publish in top-tier journals; in many ways, they are the guardians of professional success in academia. And the editors of these journals have made it clear, both in what they publish and what they reject, that they want climate stories that support certain pre-approved narratives, even when those narratives come at the expense of of broader knowledge for society.
“Put bluntly, climate science is no longer about understanding the complexities of the world but rather about serving as Cassandra, urgently warning the public of the dangers of climate change. As understandable as this instinct may be, it distorts much scientific climate research, misinforms the public and, most importantly, makes it more difficult to implement practical solutions.
A spokesperson for Nature said “all submitted manuscripts are independently reviewed based on the quality and timeliness of their science.”
“Our editors make decisions based solely on whether the research meets our criteria for publication: original scientific research (whose conclusions are sufficiently supported by the available evidence), of exceptional scientific importance, which leads to an interesting conclusion for a multidisciplinary readership,” a statement read. said.
“The intentional omission of facts and findings relevant to the main conclusions of an article is not considered good practice with respect to accepted principles of research integrity,” the spokesperson added.
Science has been contacted for comment.
Brown opened his missive with links to articles from the AP, PBS NewsHour, The New York Times and Bloomberg that he said gave the impression that global wildfires are “primarily the result of climate change.”
He said that “climate change is an important factor”, but that it “is not the only factor that deserves our sole attention”.
Many news reports about the Maui wildfires have indicated that climate change contributed to the disaster by helping to create conditions for the fires to start and spread quickly.
The fires, which have killed at least 115 people, were believed to have been started by a downed power line, but observers said rising temperatures had caused extremely dry conditions on the Hawaiian island.
Brown said the media works like scientific journals in that the focus on climate change “fits a simple storyline that rewards the person who tells it.”
Scientists whose careers depend on having their work published in major journals are also “adapting” their work to “support mainstream discourse”, he said.
“This leads to a second unspoken rule in writing a successful climate document,” he added. “Authors should ignore – or at least downplay – practical actions that can counter the impact of climate change.”
An aerial view of Lahaina shows the extent of the destruction caused by the wildfires in Hawaii.
He gave examples of factors that are being ignored, including “a decline in the number of deaths from weather and climate disasters over the past century”. In the case of wildfires, Brown says, “Current research indicates that these changes in forest management practices could completely negate the adverse effects of climate change on wildfires.”
Poor forest management has also been blamed for a record number of wildfires in Canada this year.
But “the more practical type of analysis is discouraged” because it “weakens the case for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Brown said.
Successful papers also often use “less intuitive metrics” to measure climate change impacts because they “generate the most jaw-dropping numbers”, he said.
He went on to say that other articles he had written that did not fit a certain narrative had been “rejected outright by editors of distinguished journals, and I had to settle for less prestigious media” .
Brown concluded, “We need a culture shift within academia and elite media that allows for a much broader debate about societal climate resilience.
“The media, for example, should stop accepting these newspapers at face value and investigate what has been left out.
“Editors of leading journals need to go beyond the narrow scope of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And researchers themselves need to start standing up to publishers or finding other places to publish.