Something darkly ominous just happened in the ranks of climate scientists, and it follows a trend in which many people have not been permitted to speak — or even been fired — for holding views about such issues as marriage, militant Islam and foreign policy that opposed the positions of left-wing elitists.

At issue now is the case of Swedish scientist Lennart Bengtsson, a respected former director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany. He is currently a research fellow at the University of Reading, England.

Bengtsson recently announced his affiliation with the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a London-based think tank that offers science-based critiques of claims that human action is the principal cause of climate change.

He joined the foundation, he told the London Daily Mail earlier this month, because “The reality hasn’t been keeping up with the (computer) models. Therefore, if people are proposing to do major changes to the world’s economic system, we must have much more solid information.”

The German magazine Der Speigel quoted Bengtsson in May as saying, “We urgently need to explore realistic ways to address the scientific, technical and economic challenges in solving the energy problems of the world and the associated environmental problems. I think the best and perhaps only sensible policy for the future is to prepare society for adaptation and change. In 25 years, the world will have 9 to 10 billion people. This will require twice as much primary energy as today.”

Which is to say, the campaign to restrict or even halt the production and use of fossil fuels and nuclear power puts the well-being — and potentially even the survival — of millions, perhaps billions, of people at risk.

Bengtsson got a reaction — though not one he had expected. The 79-year-old scientist suddenly became the target of a concentrated attack that threatened his very livelihood. One German physicist even compared his move to “joining the Ku Klux Klan.”

In the face of that onslaught, Bengtsson gave in. In his letter of resignation from the GWPF, he said, “I have been put under such an enormous group pressure in recent days from all over the world that has become virtually unbearable to me. If this is going to continue, I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety.”

So, Bengtsson concluded, “I see therefore no other way out therefore than resigning from GWPF. I had not expected such an enormous worldwide pressure put at me from a community that I have been close to all my active life. Colleagues are withdrawing their support, other colleagues are withdrawing from joint authorship, etc.

“I see no limit and end to what will happen. It is a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy. I would never have expected anything similar in such an original peaceful community as meteorology. Apparently it has been transformed in recent years.”

Transformed, indeed. It’s widely claimed that “97 percent of climate scientists” attribute a recent (but now halted) warming trend to human action, a figure that has been widely disputed, at least as it implies that all those experts think the outcome will be catastrophic.

But when you’re told, “Nice career you’ve got there — too bad if something happened to it,” the bullying becomes persuasive.

The specter of McCarthyism was driven home when a prominent scientific journal, Environmental Research Letters, rejected a paper Bengtsson and four other well-credentialed scientists wrote that said that climate is probably less sensitive to greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide than is asserted by the proponents of new restrictions on growth.

One peer reviewer said that printing the article would be “harmful because it opens the door for oversimplified claims of ‘errors’ and worse from the climate skeptics’ media side.”

That is, it shouldn’t be published not because it was wrong, but because it was on the “wrong side” of the debate.

Dr. Benny Peiser, GWPF’s director, responded, “Over the last few years, the editors of many of the world’s leading science journals have publicly advocated drastic policies to curb carbon dioxide emissions. At the same time, many have publicly attacked scientists skeptical of the climate alarm. Instead of serving as open-minded brokers of the contested fields of climate science and climate science, most science editors have opted to take a dogmatic stance that no longer allows for open research.”

The episode recalls the 2009 “Climategate” scandal at the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in England. A whistleblower revealed emails from leading climate scientists asking each other to help keep dissenting research out of academic journals and even to find ways to dismiss editors who published such papers.

Is this really how science is supposed to work?

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. Email at: mdharmoncol@yahoo.com.