Climategate investigation: no proof of fraud, better disclosure called for


Climategate, the affair over the stolen emails from the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University is officially no longer a scandal. The UK’s Parliamentary Science & Technology Committee began their investigation late last year. It was established to investigate the following allegations:

The Independent Review will:

1. Examine the hacked e-mail exchanges, other relevant e-mail exchanges and any other information held at CRU to determine whether there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice and may therefore call into question any of the research outcomes.

2. Review CRU’s policies and practices for acquiring, assembling, subjecting to peer review and disseminating data and research findings, and their compliance or otherwise with best scientific practice.

3. Review CRU’s compliance or otherwise with the University’s policies and practices regarding requests under the Freedom of Information Act (‘the FOIA’) and the Environmental Information Regulations (‘the EIR’) for the release of data.

4. Review and make recommendations as to the appropriate management, governance and security structures for CRU and the security, integrity and release of the data it holds .

Climategate gave the denial movement the opportunity to push their claims into the mainstream media, and clearly had an impact on public perception.

It’s here! What does it say?

The report has just been released and it is  good news. In short, the science behind climate science is solid. Claims that scientists acted fraudulently are misplaced:

On the much cited phrases in the leaked e-mails—”trick” and “hiding the decline”—the Committee considers that they were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead.

Insofar as the Committee was able to consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU, the Committee considers that there is no case to answer.

The Committee found no reason in this inquiry to challenge the scientific consensus as expressed by Professor Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, that “global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity”. But this was not an inquiry into the science produced by CRU and it will be for the Scientific Appraisal Panel, announced by the University on 22 March, to determine whether the work of CRU has been soundly built.

Rightly, the Committee calls for more disclosure of data and methodologies:

The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. On the accusations relating to Professor Jone’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 but that those practices need to change.

Other investigations: claims of deniers dismissed

Already we have seen the following claims of the denial movement debunked:

  • Amazongate – claims that the IPCC overstated the impact of climate change on the Amazon rain forest by relying on a WWF press release have proven to be groundless.
  • Michael Mann manipulated data to “fake” climate change – Mann’s employer, Pennsylvania State University investigated these claims and found there was no basis to the allegations. According to the report released: “After careful consideration of all the evidence and relevant materials, the inquiry committee finding is that there exists no credible evidence that Dr. Mann had or has ever engaged in, or participated in, directly or indirectly, any actions with an intent to suppress or to falsify data. While a perception has been created in the weeks after the CRU emails were made public that Dr. Mann has engaged in the suppression or falsification of data, there is no credible evidence that he ever did so, and certainly not while at Penn State.”
  • The head of the IPCC has been cleared of any charges of “financial irregularities – Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman has been audited and found clear of the so called “follow the money” argument: “KPMG, the professional services company, examined the personal finances of Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, after media suggested late last year that he received money for advising several private sector companies, including Toyota and Credit Suisse. The review found these were all paid to Mr Pachauri’s non-profit organisation TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), which commissioned KPMG.”

One by one, the major claims of the denial movement have been dismissed.

Watch how they spin this into a victory about breaking “the culture of secrecy”. However the most  important facts are (1) the science is solid, (2) the charges of scientific fraud are baseless and (3) greater transparency will mitigate future claims made by the denial movement.

Addendum: This is the denial movements “Dover Moment”

A few weeks back I suggested the denial movement should be careful for that they wish for: the chance to put climate science “on trial”. Well, it would seem this was such an opportunity. If one reads the submissions you will see all the luminaries of the denial movement attempting to cast doubt on the science and attack the reputation of scientists – including a submission from our old friend Richard S. Courtney. [Hi Richard!]

It was a major effort on behalf of the denial movement to exploit the stolen CRU emails  to discredit the science. And it failed spectacularly.

It was a co-ordinated “push” by the denial movement to influence the outcome of the inquiry. And it failed spectacularly.

It was the denial movement’s attempt to legitimise their claim the science was “fraudulent”. And it failed spectacularly.

This is their “Dover moment”: when two sides disputing a scientific question are given equal opportunity to present their arguments and evidence (see Putting climate science on trial: what is the worst that could happen?). In Kitzmiller v Dover, the ID/Creationist movement was dealt a serious body blow. The climate change denial movement has just suffered an equally significant blow. This is what happens when the peddlers of propaganda attempt to take on science.

What’ next?

Let’s wait and see how the police investigation into the cyber-attack on CRU. I wonder which names we will see then?

Note: big thanks to PZ Myers at Phranygula for the shout out. Appreciated and unexpected! Cheers mate.

24 thoughts on “Climategate investigation: no proof of fraud, better disclosure called for

  1. […] See also: The rickety bandwagon of climate change denial Climategate inquiry: no proof of fraud, better disclosure called for […]

  2. Sou says:

    Thanks for the tip Mike, for some reason your comment didn’t show up but I got the email just now 🙂

    I haven’t read the report but the media release looked good for Prof Jones, CRU and climate science. Of course, if the committee had found the other way (not possible on the evidence) the ‘skeptics’ would not have claimed bias like they are doing – even though it was a joint party committee and they can’t (or shouldn’t) claim political bias.

  3. Mike says:

    BTW – I’m reading the report. Looking good, shall blog more as the implications sink in. Thanks for tipping your hat to me in your post.


  4. Nescio says:

    (Shameless-plug alert)

    The anti-science movement appears to suffer from masshysteria mimicing delusional disorder ( ) so one has to wonder if global warming denialists will respond akin to anti vaxxers ( ).


    So hot the extra F got burnt off 🙂

  6. jthomas says:

    This is indeed good news but it will not stop denialists. All denial movements never concede; they just add on other layers of conspiracies to explain the “obvious whitewash.”

    Expect a flood of denial in the next several days.

  7. […] the report released by the The UK  parliamentary Science and Technology Committee: On the much cited phrases […]

  8. […] won’t stop the deniers of course, but good news nonetheless: On the much cited phrases in the leaked e-mails—”trick” and “hiding the decline”—the […]

  9. […] just one big massive hoax conspiracy by dastardly scientists in the pocket of Big Weather? Yeah, not so much. The UK’s Parliamentary Science & Technology Committee have released their report, […]

  10. […] Tip of the old scrub brush to P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula and Watching the Deniers. […]

  11. […] The Noise Now? March 31, 2010 Now that November’s Climate Gate incident has been sorted through and the scientists have been cleared of any serious wrong doing, you would think the news would […]

  12. Scott says:

    I think you’ll find that East Anglia University is merely experiencing a natural low-fraud period due to a higher honesty output from Cambridge

  13. […] Climategate investigation: no proof of fraud, better disclosure called for « Watching the Deni… […]

  14. […] (Informe encontrado gracias al bueno de PZ primero, y a Watching the deniers después.) […]

  15. […] had hoped the denial movement could have been more creative in responding the Science & Technology Committee’s report on the stolen (or in Denierese, “liberated”) CRU emails. Not only was result almost […]

  16. […] you! Neece offers a selection of seasonal LOL-cats for your Easter pleasure. Jon reports on the “Climategate” investigation results. Austin Cline analyzes the tea-bagger movement, while Djinn completes the picture with a collection […]

  17. […] The recent Climategate “scandal” (note scare quotes) was the high water mark of this campaign to smear the reputation of scientists. Their claims have shown to be false. […]

  18. […] Official investigations by the universities involved have completely exonerated the scientists. See here and here. […]

  19. Al Black says:

    So the finding that the CRU cannot be tried for criminal fraud translates in your mind to “completely exonerated?” What the inquiry published in its findings was “we are disturbed by the CRU scientists’ treatment of the so-called divergence problem. That is the fact that, for that period of time where both a proxy global temperature series and a recorded global temperature series are available, the two series markedly diverge. This clearly suggests either that the proxy series is unreliable or that the recorded series is unreliable (or possibly both: the point is that they cannot both be true). The CRU scientists’ attempt to hide the problem by concealing the divergence demonstrates, we believe, a lack of integrity.”
    I fail to see how this gives you any comfort, or how you can expect anyone to trust anything that comes out of the CRU. That lack of integrity remains a scandal.

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