British panel clears climate scientists
The researcher at the center of the controversy, a leading climatologist named Phil Jones, was immediately reinstated to a job resembling his old one, at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. That unit, often referred to by its initials, has played a leading role in efforts to understand the earth’s past climate.
Embarrassing e-mail messages sent by Dr. Jones and other scientists were stolen in November and posted to the Internet, leading to a deluge of accusations from climate change skeptics as well as admissions from some of the scientists that they had been guilty of poor behavior.
But were they, as the skeptics charged, guilty of scientific misconduct?
“On the specific allegations made against the behavior of C.R.U. scientists, we find that their rigor and honesty as scientists are not in doubt,” said the new review, led by Muir Russell, a leading British civil servant and educator.
The Russell panel also found little reason to question the advice the scientists had given to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body that produces a major review of the science of global warming every few years. The new report said that “we did not find any evidence of behavior that might undermine the conclusions of the I.P.C.C. assessments.”
The review was the fifth to come to essentially the same conclusion about the e-mail messages sent by Dr. Jones and other scientists, though it was the most comprehensive and eagerly awaited of the investigations. Last week the second of two reviews at Pennsylvania State University exonerated Michael Mann, a scientist there who had also been a focus of the controversy.
The latest report was not a complete vindication for scientists or for the University of East Anglia, which commissioned it. Echoing the findings of an earlier report by a parliamentary committee in London, the reviewers criticized “a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness” in responding to demands for backup data and other information under Britain’s law governing public records.
Climate change skeptics criticized the four previous reviews of the issue as whitewashes that failed to delve deeply enough into the scientific uncertainties about climate change.
For their part, the reviewers took the position that conclusions on science get sorted out in academic interchanges and scientific publications and that their role in the inquiry was to focus on a narrower set of questions raised by the private e-mail messages.