Professor Judith Curry has had enough. A Climatologist and former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Judith Curry, has resigned.

Judith is an honest researcher and a fair-minded critic in the ongoing debates over man-made climate change. She pointed out the uncertainties and deficiencies of climate modelling. She worked to clarify what is known and unknown by climate science. This caused her to be pilloried as “anti-science” by other researchers in the highly politicised environment of climate change research.

Judith famously doubted the claim of environmentalists that Hurricane Katrina was caused by man-made global warming. She was attacked by colleagues for ‘letting the side down’ and under-mined in her academic role. Shocked by the vitriol of her fellow climatologists, Judith sought out other climate scientists who challenged the theory that carbon dioxide emissions were causing catastrophic global warming. She found that a significant body of scientific opinion remained un-convinced. Moreover, as a scientist, she believed that science is the process of  acquiring new knowledge and testing theories against measurable evidence. Judith consistently drew people’s attention to uncertainties in climate research and the significant gaps in our understanding of climate dynamics. She called out the track record of climate change models over estimating short and medium term changes in climate temperature. She challenged the biases and assumptions that were presented as scientific fact.

Judith questioned the integrity of environmentalists who worked in the field of climate science. Campaigners like James Hansen and Bill Mckibbon who’s papers are sought after from western politicians and Holloywood actors looking for a cause. As Judith became increasingly skeptical, “The Science” was called on by western politicians to give a renewed sense of meaning and purpose. As traditional party policies looked increasingly tired and the War on Terror looked increasingly empty, ‘saving the planet’ became the new cause celebre for politicians in the West. Climate ‘science’ has increasingly driven government policy across the western world. At international Climate Change conferences, western leaders compete in their “historic efforts to challenge climate change” and give commitments to transforming energy policy. The UK’s Climate Change Act 2008 has written the virtual elimination of carbon dioxide emissions into British law. It was opposed by only 5 MPs. A formidable political machine, justified by “The Science” does not welcome inquiring minds like Judith Curry. However, “The Science” is still only a theory and scientists, like Judith, have been seen as unwelcome irritants who spoil the simple narrative.

Academia has welcomed billions of dollars for climate research from the US and UK governments, the EU and the UN as well a wealthy private institutions like the Sierra Club. In an environment where climate research is used to justify government decision-making and academics are dependent on government money, is it any wonder that a mutually beneficial groupthink has evolved?

Judith’s resignation letter is instructive:

“I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science. Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicised academic establishment — funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards and professional recognition. Research is not conducted to understand the complexities of a changing global climate. How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide.”

Let me relate an interaction that I had with a postdoc about a month ago. She wanted to meet me, as an avid reader of my blog. She works in a field that is certainly relevant to climate science, but she doesn’t identify as a climate scientist. She says she gets questioned all the time about global warming issues, and doesn’t know what to say, since topics like attribution, etc. are not topics that she explores as a scientist. WOW, a scientist that knows the difference! I advised her to keep her head down and keep doing the research that she thinks interesting and important, and to stay out of the climate debate”

Climate change is an important issue and there are a lot of good people working to genuinely understand this hugely complex area. However, our knowledge of the drivers of climate temperature change is still in its infancy. The inability if the climate models to predict temperature variations shows that our collective understanding is incomplete and rudimentary. We are still playing with theories. The complexities of climate change require scientists with critical minds, not political cheer-leaders.

We need more people like Judith. Thankfully, I don’t think that we’ve heard the last of Judith Curry.

Andy Shaw tweets @AndyShaw1