8 july 2010

Inquiry backs climate row scientists

By Fiona Harvey, Financial Times July 7 2010

Claims that prominent climate scientists distorted and concealed data were dismissed on Wednesday by an investigation into a scandal that threatened to destroy the credibility of global warming science.

But the review of the so-called “climategate” e-mails, which were hacked from the University of East Anglia in the UK last November, castigated climate scientists for their culture of secrecy, which the investigators blamed for creating public mistrust of their findings.

Sir Muir Russell, a former British civil servant who headed the six-month investigation, said the scientists “failed to display the proper degree of openness” and been “unhelpful and defensive” in response to requests for data. “This was a lesson into what not to let happen,” he said.

He called on climate scientists to make their data and the methods they used to come up with their conclusions widely available.

“Don’t fall into the habit of not being open or concealing things, and try to find ways of engaging people on ground that generally advances science,” he said.

Critics said the leaked e-mails showed scientists manipulating findings to fit their theories, refusing access to their data and attempting to subvert the scientific peer-review process.

The review, independently run but commissioned by UEA, found the “rigour and honesty” of the scientists involved was “not in doubt”.

Phil Jones, the scientist at the centre of the scandal, was reinstated at UEA’s climatic research unit on Wednesday with a slight change of job title. However, the committee concluded: “E-mails might have been deleted in order to make them unavailable should a subsequent request be made for them.”

Professor Jones denies deleting e-mails in response to requests under Britain’s Freedom of Information Act.

The committee said there was no evidence “that might undermine the conclusions” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body of the world’s leading climate scientists.

Its 2007 report on climate science came under attack this year for containing some flaws. But the hopes of climate scientists that the investigation would draw a line under the affair were quickly dashed as bloggers rushed to label the review a “whitewash” and “travesty”.

Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think-tank that challenges aspects of global warming science, said the committee’s conclusions were “unlikely to restore public confidence in climate science”.

>>> Back to list