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Sun Sep 21 02:05:05 SAST 2014

Inquiry sides with East-Anglia on climate scandal

Sapa-AFP | 31 March, 2010 08:230 Comments
Part of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.
Image by: Kirsty Wigglesworth

A British parliamentary inquiry into a scandal that engulfed one of the world’s leading climate research centres sided with the scientists accused over the controversy.

Lawmakers found researchers at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), headed by Phil Jones, acted in line with normal practices when they refused data requests and did not seek to mislead.

The House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee did, however, urge climate change scientists to routinely make more information available to the public in a bid to prevent future controversies.

Jones — who has stepped aside as director of the unit while investigations take place — came under fire after more than 1,000 emails were hacked from the university’s server and posted online.

Sceptics claimed the messages showed evidence scientists were trying to exaggerate the case for global warming in the run-up to December’s UN climate talks aimed at striking a new accord to tackle climate change.

But the investigation into the disclosure of data, the first of several inquiries into the controversy here, judged neither Jones nor the research unit as a whole had acted dishonestly.

“The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced,” said the committee in its report.

“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.”

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

The inquiry did, however, call for greater transparency among scientists, saying raw data and methodologies to support researchers’ work should be released as a matter of course.

“Had both been available, many of the problems at CRU could have been avoided,” said committee chair Phil Willis.

The committee also said it found no reason to challenge scientific consensus that “global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity,” citing John Beddington, the British government’s top science adviser.

It stressed its inquiry was not into the science produced at the unit, however, saying this would be the job of another investigation.

Much attention had focused on Jones’s reference in one private email to a “trick” being employed to massage temperature statistics to “hide the decline.” But the committee concluded 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 scientist has said the scandal triggered by the hacked emails pushed him to the brink of suicide.

The parliamentary inquiry is the first of three investigations into the scandal. Another independent probe is examining allegations researchers manipulated data, while a third looks into the science at the unit.

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