British Parliamentary Inquiry Clears ‘Climategate’ Scientists

LONDON, UK, March 31, 2010 (ENS) – An investigation into leaked emails by British climate scientists that appeared to indicate a conspiracy to manipulate data to bolster a case for global warming has cleared the scientists of wrongdoing.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee today published its report on the disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit, CRU, at the University of East Anglia.

The investigation found no basis for accusations of dishonesty and no attempt to mislead on the part of the scientists.

The committee said it found no reason in this inquiry to challenge the scientific consensus as expressed by Professor John Beddington, the government’s chief scientific adviser, that “global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity.”

The committee does call for the climate science community to become more transparent by publishing raw data and detailed methodologies.

MP Phil Willis chairs the House Science and Technology Committee (Photo courtesy House of Commons)

Committee Chair Phil Willis MP said, “What this inquiry revealed was that climate scientists need to take steps to make available all the data that support their work and full methodological workings, including their computer codes. Had both been available, many of the problems at CRU could have been avoided.”

Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit, stepped down in November 2009 to allow this and several other investigations into the furor that has become known as Climategate to proceed. It arose after hackers stole and released more than 1,000 emails by the climate scientists last November.

In their report, the committee said that, “the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact.”

“The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced,” the committee said. “On the accusations relating to Professor Jones’s refusal to share raw data and computer codes, the committee considers that his actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community but that those practices need to change.”

“On the much cited phrases in the leaked emails, ‘trick’ and ‘hiding the decline,’ the committee considers that they were colloquial terms used in private emails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead,” the report states.

The evidence “clearly refutes” suggestions that the use of the phrase ‘hide the decline’ was proof of a conspiracy, the committee said.

“Insofar as the committee was able to consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU, the committee considers that there is no case to answer,” the report states.

The Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia (Photo by Iqbal Aalam)

University of East Anglia Vice-Chancellor, Edward Acton, said, “We are delighted that the Select Committee has produced a fair and balanced report that makes crystal-clear that the ‘scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact’.”

“We are pleased too that it has dispelled and rejected many of the myths that have arisen over the matter, while accepting that we have been taken to task on a number of issues which we are determined to address,” Acton said.

Acton said, “UEA both accepts and supports the Committee’s findings about the increased need for greater transparency whenever possible in science and particularly climate science.”

“We have already stated that we will release all requested temperature data, both retrospectively and going forward, as we secure the necessary permissions,” the vice-chancellor said.

“It is a matter of regret to UEA that the theft from this University of emails, and the misrepresentation of their contents as exposed by the Committee report, has damaged the reputation of UK climate science,” Acton said.

This was not an inquiry into the science produced by CRU and it will be for the Scientific Appraisal Panel, announced by the university on March 22, to determine whether the work of CRU has been soundly built.

Geologist Ernest Oxburgh is leading a parallel investigation into the integrity of the climate science at CRU. Co-investigators include Kerry Emanuel, a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Huw Davies, a former president of the International Association of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science.

Another pending inquiry is being headed by former civil servant Muir Russell, who will investigate whether scientists, including Jones, manipulated data or the peer review process. This inquiry will examine the extent to which university followed freedom of information laws. The Russell report is due out later this spring.

On the mishandling of Freedom of Information requests, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee said it considers that much of the responsibility should lie with the University of East Anglia, not CRU.

Professor Phil Jones (Photo courtesy U. East Anglia)

“The leaked emails appear to show a culture of non-disclosure at CRU and instances where information may have been deleted to avoid disclosure, particularly to climate change sceptics,” said the committee in its report.

The failure of the university to grasp fully the potential damage this could do and did was regrettable. The university needs to re-assess how it can support academics whose expertise in FoI requests is limited.

Just before he stepped down in November, Jones said, “We have been bombarded by Freedom of Information requests to release the temperature data that are provided to us by meteorological services around the world via a large network of weather stations. This information is not ours to give without the permission of the meteorological services involved. We have responded to these Freedom of Information requests appropriately and with the knowledge and guidance of the Information Commissioner.”

Jones expressed confidence in the conclusions of his team and others that global warming is occurring. “That the world is warming is based on a range of sources: not only temperature records but other indicators such as sea level rise, glacier retreat and less Arctic sea ice,” he said.

“Our global temperature series tallies with those of other, completely independent, groups of scientists working for NASA and the National Climate Data Center in the United States, among others,” said Jones. “Even if you were to ignore our findings, theirs show the same results. The facts speak for themselves; there is no need for anyone to manipulate them.”

Committee Chairman Willis said today, “Climate science is a matter of global importance. On the basis of the science, governments across the world will be spending trillions of pounds on climate change mitigation. The quality of the science therefore has to be irreproachable.”

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2010. All rights reserved.