Some are calling it the new "Climategate."
A paper by Lennart Bengtsson, a respected research fellow and climatologist at Britain's University of Reading, was rejected last February by a leading academic journal after a reviewer found it "harmful" to the climate change agenda. The incident is prompting new charges that the scientific community is muzzling dissent when it comes to global warming.
"[Bengtsson] has been a very prolific publisher and was considered one of the top scientists in the mainstream climate community," said Marc Morano, of the website ClimateDepot.com, which is devoted to questioning global warming.
Bengtsson had grown increasingly skeptical of the scientific consensus, often cited by President Obama, that urgent action is needed to curb carbon emissions before climate change exacts an irreversible toll on the planet with extreme drought, storms and rising seas levels.
The president repeatedly has rejected naysayers in the climate debate -- most recently, when he spoke May 9 in Mountainview, Calif. "We've still got some climate deniers who shout loud, but they're wasting everybody's time on a settled debate,” he said.
The administration recently released a comprehensive climate report that critics worry will be used to justify additional environmental regulations.
Bengtsson's paper, submitted to the journal Environmental Research Letters, found that greenhouse gas emissions might be less harmful and cause less warming than computer models project. For that, Morano said, Bengtssonpaid a steep price.
"They've threatened him. They've bullied him. They've pulled his papers. They're now going through everything they can to smear his reputation. And the ‘they’ I'm referring to is the global warming establishment," Morano said.
The Times of London reported that Bengtsson resigned from the advisory board of a think tank after being subjected to “McCarthy-style pressure” from other academics. Pressure even reportedly came from one U.S. government scientist.
Bengsston told the Times of London this week: "It is an indication of how science is gradually being influenced by political views. The reality hasn't been keeping up with computer models."
He added, "If people are proposing to do major changes to the world's economic system we must have much more solid information."
His view helps to illustrate the cavernous divide in this debate. Climate scientists who question the consensus often say they're demonized -- unable to publish, unable to find research funding. The scientific establishment presses on -- frustrated with anyone who, in their view,would impede saving the planet.
The debate raises a question about whether consensus in science is even relevant. As the novelist and global warming skeptic Michael Crichton argued,"The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with consensus."
The Bengtsson allegations recall a similar controversy in 2009, dubbed “Climategate,” when hundreds of emails were leaked, several of which raised questions about whether scientists were overstating the climate change case.