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Key climate change scientist says he can’t find data

The British academic at the centre of the ‘Climategate’ affair, whose raw data is crucial to the theory of climate change, has admitted that he has trouble ‘keeping track’ of the information.

world Updated: Feb 16, 2010 00:58 IST

The British academic at the centre of the ‘Climategate’ affair, whose raw data is crucial to the theory of climate change, has admitted that he has trouble ‘keeping track’ of the information.

Professor Phil Jones told the BBC on February 13 that there was truth in the observations of colleagues that he lacked organisational skills, that his office was swamped with piles of paper and that his record keeping is ‘not as good as it should be’.

Jones’s data is crucial to the famous ‘hockey stick graph’ showing a supposed spike in global temperatures that has often been used by climate change advocates to support the theory.

Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now — suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon.

He also said that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming.

The admissions will be seized on by sceptics as fresh evidence that there are serious flaws at the heart of the science of climate change and the orthodoxy that recent rises in temperature are largely man-made.

Jones has been in the spotlight since he stepped down as director of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit after the leaking of emails that sceptics claim show scientists were manipulating data.

The raw data, collected from hundreds of weather stations around the world and analysed by his unit, has been used for years to bolster efforts by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to press governments to cut carbon dioxide emissions. The panel is headed by Rajendra Pachauri of The Energy Research Institute in New Delhi.

Following the leak of the emails, Jones has been accused of ‘scientific fraud’ for allegedly deliberately suppressing information and refusing to share vital data with critics.

More scientists have come out expressing doubts about the IPCC’s claims that there was “unequivocal” evidence that global warming was taking place and that this was a product of man-made carbon emissions.

“The temperature records cannot be relied on as indicators of global change,” said John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a former lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change , told the Times of London on Monday.

Christy and other scientists have focussed on the thousands of weather stations across the globe used to collect temperature data for the past 150 years.

They believe these stations have been measuring increasingly higher temperatures because of urbanisation, changes in land use and, in many cases, being moved to different locations.

Christy has published papers looking at these effects in east Africa, California and Alabama. “The story is the same for each one,” he told The Times.

“The popular data sets show a lot of warming but the apparent temperature rise was actually caused by local factors affecting the weather stations, such as land development.”

Similar criticisms have been made by Professor Ross McKitrick, of the University of Guelph, Canada.

He was invited by the IPCC panel to review its last report and, as a consequence, became a strong critic of the panel and its methods.

In a later study of the panel’s methods, he said, “We concluded, with overwhelming statistical significance, that the IPCC’s climate data are contaminated with surface effects from industrialisation and data quality problems. These add up to a large warming bias.”