Additional Climategate Commentary

Additional Climategate Commentary

Updated 17 August 2014
There have been eight investigations into allegations against leading climate researchers since the theft of emails from East Anglia University's Climate Reserch Unit (CRU) in November 2009. The climate scientists involved were thoroughly exonerated of wrong-doing by each inquiry, though not without suggestions for future model and data access, and handling of Freedom of Information requests. The list is detailed on Wikipedia's Climatic Research Unit email controversy:
  1. East Anglia University: the Independent Climate Change Email Review
    (the independent Muir Russell Committee, December 2009, findings published July 2010), would "examine email exchanges to determine whether there is evidence of suppression or manipulation of data..."
    "The commission cleared the scientists and dismissed allegations that they manipulated their data. The "rigour and honesty" of the scientists at the Climatic Research Unit were found not to be in doubt. The panel found that they did not subvert the peer review process to censor criticism as alleged, and that the key data needed to reproduce their findings was freely available to any `competent' researcher." (See above Wikipedia link and references therein).
  2. East Anglia University: the independent Science Assessment Panel
    (March 2010, findings published April 2010) chaired by Lord Oxburgh
    "to reassess key CRU papers which have already been peer reviewed and published in journals. The panel did not seek to evaluate the science itself, but rather whether `the conclusions [reached by the CRU] represented an honest and scientifically justified interpretation of the data.'

    Speaking to announce the panel's report, Lord Oxburgh said his team had found "absolutely no evidence of any impropriety whatsoever" and that "whatever was said in the emails, the basic science seems to have been done fairly and properly." He said that many of the criticisms and allegations of scientific misconduct had been made by people "who do not like the implications of some of the conclusions" reached by the CRU's scientists, that the repeated FOI requests made by climate change sceptic Steve McIntyre and others could have amounted to a campaign of harassment, and the issue of how FOI laws should be applied in an academic context remained unresolved. Another panel member, Professor David Hand, commended the CRU for being explicit about the inherent uncertainties in its research data, commenting that "there is no evidence of anything underhand -- the opposite, if anything, they have brought out into the open the uncertainties with what they are dealing with." (Ibid. with references)

  3. House of Commons Science and Technology Committee
    (January 2010, findings published 31 March 2010) found
    "the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact". The emails and claims raised in the controversy did not challenge the scientific consensus that "global warming is happening and that it is induced by human activity." The MPs had seen no evidence to support claims that Jones had tampered with data or interfered with the peer-review process. (Ibid. with references.)
  4. Pennsylvania State University
    (December 2009, findings published 4 June 2010)
    "determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community..." Mann's extensive recognitions within the research community demonstrated that "his scientific work, especially the conduct of his research, has from the beginning of his career been judged to be outstanding by a broad spectrum of scientists." It agreed unanimously that "there is no substance" to the allegations against Mann. (Ibid. with references.)
  5. Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Commerce
    (May 2010, findings published 18 February 2011)
    "cleared the researchers and `did not find any evidence that NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) inappropriately manipulated data or failed to adhere to appropriate peer review procedures'. It noted that NOAA reviewed its climate change data as standard procedure, not in response to the controversy."
    (Ibid. with references.)
  6. Office of the Inspector General, National Science Foundation
    (investigation closed 15 August 2011)
    "exonerated Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University of charges of scientific misconduct. It found no evidence of research misconduct, and confirmed the results of earlier inquiries. The OIG reviewed the findings of the July 2010 Penn State panel, took further evidence from the university and Mann, and interviewed Mann. The OIP findings confirmed the university panel's conclusions which cleared Mann of any wrongdoing..." (Ibid. with references.)
  7. Information Commissioner's Office. ICO is the U.K. independent reglatory office that deals with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 across the UK; and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and, to a limited extent, in Scotland. ICO looked into alleged irregularities in CRU's handling of FOI requests pertaining to cimate data. It was a complex international issue, involving some particpating countries (Trinidad and Tobago, and Poland) who explicitly refused to release their material. ICO did issue some recommendations. See the Wikipedia article.
  8. United States Environmental Protection Agency
    This investigation is of some importance, as in 2009 EPA issued an "endangerment finding" in preparation for climate regulations on excessive greenhouse gases, regulations we see today (2014) in EPA's proposed Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units, and proposed Clean Power Plan:
    Petitions to reconsider this (endangerment finding) were raised by the states of Virginia and Texas, conservative activists and business groups including the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the coal company Peabody Energy, making claims that the CRU emails undermined the science.

    The EPA examined every email and concluded that there was no merit to the claims in the petitions, which "routinely misunderstood the scientific issues", reached "faulty scientific conclusions", "resorted to hyperbole", and "often cherry-pick language that creates the suggestion or appearance of impropriety, without looking deeper into the issues." In a statement issued on 29 July 2010, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said the petitions were based "on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy" and provided "no evidence to undermine our determination. Excess greenhouse gases are a threat to our health and welfare."

    The EPA issued a detailed report on issues raised by petitioners and responses, together with a fact sheet, and a "myths versus facts" page stating that "Petitioners say that emails disclosed from CRU provide evidence of a conspiracy to manipulate data. The media coverage after the emails were released was based on email statements quoted out of context and on unsubstantiated theories of conspiracy. The CRU emails do not show either that the science is flawed or that the scientific process has been compromised. EPA carefully reviewed the CRU emails and found no indication of improper data manipulation or misrepresentation of results."

End update. We resume our previously posted list: