The accusation of McCarthyism has been thrown around for years, usually in situations where there is no real parallel with Senator Joe McCarthy’s1950s witch-hunt aimed at uncovering Communists. Now Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe has called for climate scientists associated with the IPCC to be investigated for criminal violations the spectre of McCarthy has chillingly returned.

A document prepared by minority staff of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works claims scientists mentioned in emails stolen from the Centre for Climatic Research (CRU) at the University of East Anglia are guilty of manipulating data and obstructing its release. It lists federal laws they may have violated and names 17 climate scientists -- some of the most eminent in the world -- who Inhofe’s staff claim should be investigated for possible criminal investigation.