Belfast Telegraph

Academic tree ring circus

Row over QUB's 'refusal' to release climate change data

By Clare Weir

3 December 2009

A mathematician has claimed that Queen's University is refusing to hand over valuable data on tree rings which could potentially undermine popular theories on global warming.

Douglas J Keenan — who hopes that studies of trees which have grown over thousands of years will prove that climate change is cyclical rather than man-made — has been asking to see the data for two years.

But he said he has been met with opposition from the university.

However, a Queen's spokeswoman said it had responded to all Freedom of Information (FoI) requests.

The spokeswoman added that the matter was now with the Information Commissioner.

Mr Keenan has detailed a litany of correspondence between himself and the Belfast university since 2007.

And he has pointed out that the decades-old research was funded by public money.

The English mathematician says that determining the temperature flux during a time known as the "Medieval Warm Period", when Earth, or at least the Northern Hemisphere, appears to have been unusually warm, is key to the study of the subject of global warming.

He argues that the tree ring data collected at Garryland Wood in the west of Ireland can help provide a substantial portion of the solution to "one of the most important questions for science today".

Mr Keenan used to carry out mathematical research and financial trading on Wall Street and in the City of London before branching out on his own in 1995.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I am not alleging a conspiracy to hide some truth about global warming.

"In particular, I have no idea what the data says, perhaps even the data supports alarmism.

"Whatever the data says, though, substantially answers an extremely important question about global warming.

"This is a crucial issue."

Most of the tree ring data held by the university was gathered decades ago, yet it has never been published.

Mr Keenan says he has submitted three separate requests for the data in electronic form, placed on the internet or sent as an email attachment.

The first request was submitted in April 2007 and refused the next month.

He tried twice since and has appealed both subsequent refusals.

A Queen's spokeswoman said: "The University has responded to all FoI requests received from Mr Keenan.

"Mr Keenan has since referred this matter to the Information Commissioner's Office and a decision is still awaited."

Mr Keenan's last correspondence with the Information Commissioner's Office was on November 29, when he received an email saying that a new officer had been assigned to the case and that a Decision Notice was being drafted.

© 2009 Belfast Telegraph