On 22 January 2010 the House of Commons all-party Science and Technology Committee established an inquiry into the disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. Today it published its findings, which follow:
The Science and Technology Committee today publishes its report on the disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia. The Committee calls for the climate science community to become more transparent by publishing raw data and detailed methodologies.
Phil Willis MP, Committee Chair, said:
"Climate science is a matter of global importance. On the basis of the science, governments across the world will be spending trillions of pounds on climate change mitigation. The quality of the science therefore has to be irreproachable. What this inquiry revealed was that climate scientists need to take steps to make available all the data that support their work and full methodological workings, including their computer codes. Had both been available, many of the problems at CRU could have been avoided."
The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. 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 but that those practices need to change.
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.
On the mishandling of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests, the Committee considers that much of the responsibility should lie with the University, not CRU. The leaked e-mails appear to show a culture of non-disclosure at CRU and instances where information may have been deleted to avoid disclosure, particularly to climate change sceptics. The failure of the University to grasp fully the potential damage this could do and did was regrettable. The University needs to re-assess how it can support academics whose expertise in FoI requests is limited.
These findings completely exonerate the man at the centre of the controversy, Professor Phil Jones. To the extent that there is criticism of a culture of non-disclosure, responsibility for this is sheeted home to the University of East Anglia, not the Climatic Research Unit. This means that the mountain that climate change deniers have built upon this episode in order to discredit climate change science turns out to be very small molehill.
To read the Committee’s report on the House of Commons website see here.
For today’s news item on the Committee’s report see here, and for an editorial on the matter see here.
For earlier commentary on this controversy, specifically on a piece by conservative US columnist George Will which was published in The Weekend Financial Review, 20-21 February 2010, see More climate change denial.