Tom Wigley

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Tom Wigley was born in Adelaide, Australia, in 1940. He holds a PhD (1967) in mathematical physics from the University of Adelaide. In a long and productive career, he trained and worked as a meteorologist at Australia’s Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, taught at the University of Waterloo in Canada, and was the director of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in the UK. Tom was senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, from 1993 to 2006, and recently held a DORA Professorial Fellowship in the Department of Ecology and Environmental Science at the University of Adelaide.

Wigley is one of the most highly cited climate researchers in the world. He is perhaps best known for developing the Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse Gas-Induced Climate Change (MAGICC), which is one of the most widely used and highly respected climate simulation models in existence. Wigley, working with colleague Sarah Raper, developed MAGICC largely during his tenure with the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, where he served as Director from 1979 until 1993. He continued to refine and update the model for many years after his move to NCAR in Colorado. Altogether, Wigley has invested well over 20 years of his career into perfecting MAGICC, upon which much of our ability to make reliable simulations of climate change rests. In addition to his work on MAGICC, Wigley has published groundbreaking research on atmospheric aerosols, on statistical analyses of data to isolate the “signal” of human-induced warming, and on aqueous geochemistry, including the now-standard method for the carbon dating of groundwater, among many other discoveries.

Wigley has encountered criticism from some of his erstwhile environmentalist allies for backing increased reliance on nuclear power to help reduce carbon emissions  — a position he came to after realizing that greenhouse gas reductions projected by the IPCC were far too optimistic and were essentially unachievable. Along with two American colleagues, Wigley articulated this critique in a highly controversial, widely discussed Nature Commentary piece published in 2008.[13]
Wigley is the author or co-author of more than 150 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, as well as the author or editor of two books (see below). He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Selected Books

  • The Science of Climate Change: Global and U.S. Perspectives (Pew Center on Global Climate Change, 1999)
  • Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2006)

Antinuclear Sentiment Brings Coal-Fired Future

After clear warnings from scientists more than 20 years ago, the issues of human-caused climate change and fossil-fuel-dominated energy should be on the way into the environmental history books. Sadly, they’re not, which is why we need a new global movement of nuclear support.

A bit like the CFC/ozone dilemma, we should by now be enjoying disputes about just how the success came about, and focusing attention on more challenging sources of emissions.

What happened instead? A denial machine that cut its teeth working for the tobacco industry moved on to climate change. Climate change denial took off as the vested interests did what they do best. In this they found a most unexpected ally: environmentalism and the emergent paradigm of sustainability.

With the roots of the movement being more strongly defined as anti-nuclear than anti-fossil fuels, environmentalism effectively pulled uranium from the table. Were it not for their opposition, uranium might have powered the boom of the developing world in the 90s and 00s while also gradually re-powering the developed world towards zero-carbon energy generation.

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