UK: Professor Wolfgang Wagner, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Remote Sensing, resigned after admitting that a recent paper casting doubt on man-made climate change should not have been published. He wrote in a resignation note published in the Journal that the paper entitled On the misdiagnosis of surface temperature feedbacks from variations in Earth’s radiant energy balance by Roy Spencer and Danny Braswell, was “fundamentally flawed and therefore wrongly accepted by the journal”. He also mentioned, “Peer-reviewed journals are a pillar of modern science.”
The paper, published in July, was swiftly attacked by scientists in the mainstream of climate research. They also commented on the fact that the paper was not published in a journal that routinely deals with climate change. The journal’s core topic is methods for monitoring aspects of the Earth from space.
The paper became a cause celebre in “sceptical” circles through its claim that mainstream climate models inflated temperature projections through misunderstanding the role of clouds in the climate system and the rate at which the Earth radiated heat into space. This meant, it said, that projections of temperature rise made in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports were too high.
Publishing in “off-topic” journals is generally frowned on in scientific circles, partly because editors may lack the specialist knowledge and contacts needed to run a thorough peer review process. In essence, Dr Wagner, a professor of remote sensing at Vienna University of Technology, is blaming himself for this failing. But he also blames the researchers themselves for not referencing all the relevant research in their manuscript.
Scientific papers that turn out to be flawed or fraudulent are usually retracted by the journals that publish them, with editorial resignations a rarity. But Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said Dr Wagner had done the decent thing. “It was a mistake, he’s owned up to it and taken an honourable course, and I think he’s to be commended for it,” he said.