Independent Climate Change E-Mail Review Exonerates, Chides Scientists
A report following the leak of a slew of private e-mails from scientists concerning climate change largely exonerated those involved from allegations of propagating false data, but also rebuked scientists for not being open enough with their research. In November 2009, approximately 1,000 e-mails from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia (UEA) were made public without authorization. The e-mails fueled challenges to the work of CRU, to the reliability of climate science in general, and to the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Further drawing attention was the time at when the e-mails were released, which was shortly before the Copenhagen Summit on climate change and became a firestorm of controversy during the summit. This review examined the conduct of the scientists involved and makes recommendations to the University of East Anglia. The report concluded that on the specific allegations made against the behavior of CRU scientists, their "rigor and honesty as scientists" is not in doubt.
"In addition, we do not find that their behavior has prejudiced the balance of advice given to policy makers. In particular, we did not find any evidence of behavior that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments," the report stated. "In addition, we do not find that their behavior has prejudiced the balance of advice given to policy makers. In particular, we did not find any evidence of behavior that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments."
However, the review board, chaired by former British civil servant Sir Muir Russell, said there has been a "consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness," both on the part of the CRU scientists and on the part of the UEA, who "failed to recognize not only the significance of statutory requirements but also the risk to the reputation of the University and, indeed, to the credibility of UK climate science."
Specifically, the report concluded that on the allegations that the CRU did not appear to have acted in a way consistent with the spirit and intent of the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) or Environmental Impact Report (EIR), there was "unhelpfulness" in responding to requests and evidence that e-mails might have been deleted in order to make them unavailable should a subsequent request have been made for them. "University senior management should have accepted more responsibility for implementing the required processes for FoIA and EIR compliance," the report concluded.