(LifeSiteNews) — A climate scientist admitted to overhyping the effect global warming has on wildfires.
Patrick Brown, a lecturer at John Hopkins University who holds a Ph.D. in Earth and Climate Science, said that he chose to present data in his research paper in a way that focused on climate change in order to get published in the prestigious Nature magazine.
In a series of posts on X (formerly Twitter), Brown explained that in his recently published article titled “Climate warming increases extreme daily wildfire growth risk in California,” he focused on the effect that warming has on forest fires instead of highlighting other relevant factors.
Brown said his “research looked at the effect of warming in isolation, but that warming is just one of many important influences on wildfires with others being changes in human ignition patterns and changes in vegetation/fuels.”
“So why didn’t I include these obviously relevant factors in my research from the outset? Why did I focus exclusively on the impact of climate change?”
“Put simply, I’ve found that there is a formula for success for publishing climate change research in the most prestigious and widely read scientific journals and unfortunately this formula also makes the research less useful,” the scientist stated.
Brown explained that showing climate change has an impact on something, without quantifying that impact and comparing it with other relevant factors is usually sufficient to get published in Nature.
“In the paper, I focused on the influence of climate change on extreme wildfire behavior but did not quantify … the influence of other obviously relevant factors like changes in human ignitions or the effect of poor forest management,” Brown stated.
“I knew that considering these factors would make for a more realistic (and thus useful) analysis, but I also knew that it would muddy the waters of an otherwise clean story and thus make the research more difficult to publish.”
“This type of framing, where the influence of climate change is unrealistically considered in isolation, is the norm for high-profile research papers,” Brown asserted.
The researcher furthermore said that another part of the “formula” to get published in prestigious journals is “to ignore or at least downplay near-term practical actions that can negate the impact of climate change.”
“If deaths related to outdoor temperatures are decreasing and agricultural yields are increasing, then it stands to reason that we can overcome some major negative effects of climate change. It is then valuable to study this success so that we can facilitate more of it.”
“However, there is a taboo against studying or even mentioning successes since they are thought to undermine the motivation for greenhouse gas emissions reductions,” he continued.
“Identifying and focusing on problems rather than studying the effectiveness of solutions makes for more compelling abstracts that can be turned into headlines.”
Brown admitted that he followed this formula to get published “because I began this research as a new assistant professor facing pressure to establish myself in a new field and to maximize my prospects of securing respect from my peers, future funding, tenure, and ultimately a successful career.”
“I am bringing these issue[s] to light because I hope that highlighting them will push for reforms that will better align the incentives of researchers with the production of the most useful knowledge for society,” he said.
Nature magazine claims it does not have a ‘preferred narrative’
Many media outlets accused Brown of “manipulating data,” and Science editor-in-chief Dr. Magdalena Skipper said he displayed “poor research practices” after the climate scientist published his “admission.”
Brown insists he did not manipulate data and said that he does not disavow his paper per se; rather, he just framed the information in a “less useful” way to further the mainstream climate narrative.
“Overall, the point I am making is that the easiest pathway to a high-impact publication in this field is to focus on and highlight a climate change impact (even when it is just one driver in a complex, multi-causal system),” Brown said.
In her response to Brown’s accusations, Skipper claimed that “when it comes to science, Nature does not have a preferred narrative.”
Brown disagreed, saying that a paper that “projects large future increases in heat-related mortality but totally ignores cold-related mortality” would get easily published (and has been published here), while a paper that “does the opposite: projects large future decreases in cold-related mortality but ignores any change in heat-related mortality,” would be much less likely to be published in Nature.
Evolutionary biologist Nick Longerich from the University of Bath commented on the discussion on X, stating that “Springer-Nature is a multibillion-dollar, for-profit, private media empire. They have the same incentives as any for-profit media company — NYT or Fox News — to tell the stories that get audience engagement. Scientists have an incentive, in the form of prestige, to play along.”
Pete Irvin, lecturer in climate change and solar geoengineering at the University College London, also chimed in, affirming Brown’s claims.
“Important stuff from Patrick Brown here on the distortions introduced into the public and policy discussion of climate change by scientists molding their research to support the dominant narrative on climate change,” Irvin wrote on X, adding that “Most of us in the field know this is true, but few say so.”
Brown’s assertions are in accordance with recent statements by climatologist Judith Curry, who said that there is a “manufactured consensus” in climate science because scientists would achieve “fame and fortune” for exaggerating the risks associated with “climate change.”