The UK Information Commissioner’s Office has ruled that Queen’s University Belfast must hand over data obtained during 40 years of research into 7,000 years of Irish tree rings to a City banker and part-time climate analyst, Doug Keenan.
Data from trees have been a major source of contention between the global warming proponents and skeptics, and indeed, between different camps of global warming scientists. Its all about the tree rings and hockey sticks. The tree rings are used to figure out what the climates were centuries ago. And that tree ring analysis gave Dr. Michael Mann the data to make his famous hockey stick chart.
The Chart became the center of the IPCC’s argument that man-made global warming was real. Memo’s released as part of the Climategate scandal reveals that even the CRU at the University of East Anglia , had serious problems with the Hockey Stick chart, but it was pushed through by the chart’s creator Dr. Mann.
the Guardian has discovered that there was a vitriolic debate within the mainstream science community in 1999, during preparation of the IPCC report, about the validity of the graph. Mann and CRU’s tree-ring specialist Dr Keith Briffa are often portrayed by their enemies as co-conspirators, but the CRU emails reveal that back then they were actually in competing camps. Mann promoted his hockey stick. Briffa was very dubious, especially about the prominence the IPCC wanted to give it.
Mann won the day and his chart became the center of the global warming argument. And the best part of it (for him) no one could check his work, because access to the tree ring data was restricted to “outsiders, until now.
The Belfast ecologist who collected most of the data, Professor Mike Baillie, described the ruling as “a staggering injustice … We are the ones who trudged miles over bogs and fields carrying chain saws. We prepared the samples and – using quite a lot of expertise and judgment – we measured the ring patterns. Each ring pattern therefore has strong claims to be our copyright. Now, for the price of a stamp, Keenan feels he is entitled to be given all this data.”
Keenan revealed this week that he is launching a new assault. On Monday, he demanded the university also hand over emails that could reveal a three-year conspiracy to block his data request.
Keenan has become notorious for pursuing a series of vitriolic disputes with British academics over climate data. Two years ago, he accused Phil Jones of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia of “fraud” over his analysis of data from weather stations in China.
Jones’ boss at the time agreed with Keenan and just recently Jones conceded that he may have to fix the paper may have to revise the original paper.
In August 2007, Wigley warned Jones by email: “It seems to me that Keenan has a valid point. The statements in the papers that he quotes seem to be incorrect statements, and that someone (W-C W at the very least) must have known at the time that they were incorrect.”
In the Belfast case Graham Smith, deputy information commissioner, as well as insisting the university hand over the data, Smith has accused the university authorities of “a number of procedural breaches.”
The case goes back to April 2007, when Keenan asked Queen’s University for all data from tree-ring studies by Baillie and others. The data covers more than 7,000 years. They contain upwards of 1m measurements from 11,000 tree samples, mostly of oak. The university turned down Keenan’s request, citing a range of exemptions allowed under both the Freedom of Information Act and the European Union’s environmental information regulations. Keenan appealed to the information commissioner.
Over the subsequent three years, the university has claimed that it did not have to supply the data because it would be too time-consuming; because the data does not amount to environmental information; because the research is unfinished; because the data is private property, commercially confidential and of “negligible” public interest – and because Keenan would not understand them.
But Smith says the university, one of the world’s leading centres for tree-ring research, is wrong on each count. His judgment notes that rather than taking 12 months to collate the data, as the university at first claimed, it would take 12 hours. Smith chastised the university for failing to comply with a number of regulations in assessing Keenan’s original request. The university has until 3 May to provide the data to Keenan, unless it appeals. The university says it is “considering its position.”
Keenan says he believes the Irish tree rings could bolster the case that there was a widespread medieval warm period on Earth 1,000 years ago. This is contentious because it would question the suggestion that warming in the 20th century was unique in recent history.
This a giant win for the truth, as more of the data will be distributed broadly. Heck we might even find out why this data was so secret.
If you want to read more from Jeff Dunetz go to his Blog The Lid