Some of the emails leaked in Climategate discuss my work. Following is a comment on that, and on something more important.
In 2007, I published a peer-reviewed paper alleging that some important research relied upon by the IPCC (for the treatment of urbanization effects) was fraudulent. The emails show that Tom Wigley — one of the most oft-cited climatologists and an extreme warming advocate — thought my paper was valid. They also show that Phil Jones, the head of the Climatic Research Unit, tried to convince the journal editor not to publish my paper.
After my paper was published, the State University of New York — where the research discussed in my paper was conducted — carried out an investigation. During the investigation, I was not interviewed — contrary to the university’s policies, federal regulations, and natural justice. I was allowed to comment on the report of the investigation, before the report’s release.
But I was not allowed to see the report. Truly Kafkaesque.
The report apparently concluded that there was no fraud. The leaked files contain the defense used against my allegation, a defense obviously and strongly contradicted by the documentary record. It is no surprise then that the university still refuses to release the report. (More details on all of this — including source documents — are on my site.)
My paper demonstrates that by 2001, Jones knew there were severe problems with the urbanization research. Yet Jones continued to rely on that research in his work, including in his work for the latest report of the IPCC.
Misconduct at Queens University of Belfast
Arguably, the biggest concern with global warming is that warming itself will cause further warming. For example, the polar ice caps reflect sunlight back into space, thereby cooling Earth. A global warming theory suggests that if the caps shrink due to warming, then they will reflect less sunlight and so Earth will warm even further. It is possible that Earth warms so much that it reaches what is called a “tipping point,” where the global climate system is seriously and permanently disrupted — like when a glass of water has been tipped over and the water cannot realistically be put back into the glass.
No one knows for sure how much Earth would have to warm before it reaches the tipping point — though about a thousand years ago, there was a time known as the Medieval Warm Period when much of Earth appears to have been unusually warm. It is not currently known just how warm the Medieval Warm Period was, but clearly the warmth then was below the tipping point because Earth’s climate continued without problem.
Suppose that during the Medieval Warm Period, Earth was 1°C warmer than today. That would imply that the tipping point is more than 1°C higher than today’s temperature. For Earth’s temperature to increase 1°C might take roughly a century (at the rate of increase believed to be currently underway). So we would not have to be concerned about an imminent disruption of the climate system.
Finding out how warm the Medieval Warm Period is thus of enormous importance for the study of global warming.
It turns out that global (or at least hemispheric) temperatures are reflected by the climate in western Ireland (for a short explanation of that, see my site). Trees grow in western Ireland, of course, and each year those trees grow a ring. Thick rings indicate climate conditions that were good for the trees; thin rings indicate the opposite. If many trees in western Ireland had thick rings in some particular years, then climatic conditions in those years were presumably good. Tree rings have been used in this way to learn about the climate centuries ago.
Queen’s University Belfast has data on tree rings that goes back millennia — and in particular, to the Medieval Warm Period. QUB researchers have not analyzed the data, because they lack the expertise to do so.
They also refuse to release the data. The story is scandalous.
I have been trying to obtain the data via the UK Freedom of Information Act since April 2007.
(Nature.com had a brief piece about my FOIA request. The piece has statements from QUB that are dishonest: see my comment posted there. Statements from QUB therefore should be checked. My site has source documents for its claims.)