It is looking more and more as if there has been a major case of scientific fraud in the data supporting the idea of anthropogenic global warming. The famous “hockey stick” chart shows a major increase in average global temperatures in recent decades and one of the major contributors to the data underlying the chart is Keith Briffa, a dendrochronologist from the University of East Anglia.
While widely published in such prestigious publications as Science, Briffa has consistently refused to release the raw data on which his studies have been based. That alone should have been enough to disqualify him, as that is about as serious a breach of the scientific method as you can commit. But, perhaps because his studies undergirded the received wisdom regarding climate change, he got away with it. Until he published a paper in a publication of the Royal Society. The society has a policy:
As a condition of acceptance authors agree to honour any reasonable request by other researchers for materials, methods, or data necessary to verify the conclusion of the article… Supplementary data up to 10 Mb is placed on the Society’s website free of charge and is publicly accessible. Large datasets must be deposited in a recognised public domain database by the author prior to submission. The accession number should be provided for inclusion in the published article.
Steve McIntyre, a statistician and noted climate-change skeptic who has been repeatedly denied access to the data by Briffa for 10 years, wrote the Royal Society, which was embarrassed that this requirement had not been enforced. Briffa was eventually forced to comply (the details of McIntyre’s pursuit of the data he should have been given freely can be found in narrative form here). It appears (and I am no statistician, let alone a dendrochronologist) that the data was seriously cherry-picked to produce a desired result. When a larger and more logical data set is used, the hockey stick disappears (scroll down to see the chart). The late 20th century does not look any different from earlier times.
If this turns out to be the case, it will be interesting to see how long it takes the mainstream media to begin reporting what should be a huge story. The great Piltdown fraud of the 20th century is probably the most famous scientific fraud, but it had few real-world consequences. It just led human paleontology down the wrong path for four decades. But climate change fraud could have trillions of dollars of real-world consequences, the cap-and-trade bill now stalled in Congress by no means the least of them.