Official 'Climategate' report clears scientists of wrongdoing

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The UK government's first official report into the 'Climategate' scandal has concluded that the University of East Anglia did not tamper with climate data.

But the parliamentary panel added that there was a culture of withholding information at the university's Climatic Research Unit (CRU).

It said that most of the controversy could have been avoided if the unit had simply published all of its data in the first place.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee said it saw no reason to doubt the scientific consensus that global warming is taking place.

The Unit's head, Phil Jones, quit in December, after climate change skeptics alledged he had falsified data, citing emails that they said showed he had massaged figures.

But the panel concluded that, as Jones claimed, he was simply using colloquialisms to describe acceptable statistical procedures.

"We are content that the phrases such as 'trick' or 'hiding the decline' were colloquial terms used in private emails, and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead," it said in the report.

It even sympathized with Jones for his reluctance to make data available under the Freedom of Information Act. Jones, for example, replied to one request by saying: "I should warn you that some data we have we are not supposed [to] pass on to others. We can pass on the gridded data — which we do. Even if WMO [World Meteorological Organization] agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?"

But, said the panel, this has been overplayed. "Whilst we are concerned that the disclosed e-mails suggest a blunt refusal to share scientific data and methodologies with others, we can sympathise with Professor Jones, who must have found it frustrating to handle requests for data that he knew — or perceived — were motivated by a desire simply to undermine his work," the report says.