British inquiry vindicates scientists in scandal over climate data
LONDON — The first of several British investigations into the e-mails leaked from one of the world’s leading climate research centers has largely vindicated the scientists involved.
The House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee said yesterday that it had seen no evidence to support charges that the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit or its director, Phil Jones, had tampered with data or perverted the peer review process to exaggerate the threat of global warming — two of the most serious criticisms levied against the climatologist and his colleagues.
In their report, the committee said that, as far as it was able to ascertain, “the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact,’’ adding that nothing in the more than 1,000 stolen e-mails, or the controversy kicked up by their publication, challenged scientific consensus that “global warming is happening and that it is induced by human activity.’’
The 14-member committee’s investigation is one of three launched after the dissemination, in November, of e-mails and data stolen from the research unit. The e-mails appeared to show scientists berating skeptics in sometimes intensely personal attacks, discussing ways to shield their data from public records laws, and discussing ways to keep skeptics’ research out of peer-reviewed journals. One that attracted particular media attention was Jones’s reference to a “trick’’ that could be used to “hide the decline’’ of temperatures.
The e-mails’ publication ahead of the Copenhagen climate change summit sparked an online furor, with skeptics of man-made climate change calling the e-mails’ publication “Climategate’’ and claiming them as proof that the science behind global warming had been exaggerated — or even made up altogether.
The lawmakers said they decided to investigate due to “the serious implications for UK science.’’
Phil Willis, the committee’s chairman, said of the e-mails that “there’s no denying that some of them were pretty appalling.’’
But the committee found no evidence of anything beyond “a blunt refusal to share data,’’ adding that the idea that Jones was part of a conspiracy to hide evidence that weakened the case for global warming was clearly wrong.
In a briefing to journalists ahead of the report’s release, Willis said the controversy would ultimately help buttress the case for global warming by forcing the University East Anglia — and other research institutions — to stop hoarding their data.
“The winner in the end will be climate science itself,’’ he said.
The winner today was Jones, who stepped down temporarily as chief of the climate research unit about week after the e-mail scandal broke.
The committee expressed sympathy with Jones, whom Willis said had been made a scapegoat for larger problems within the climate science community.
“The focus on Professor Jones and the CRU has been largely misplaced,’’ the report said.