‘Climategate’: Parliament Backs the Science, if Not the Scientists

Mar 31, 2010 12:43pm

The science in the so-called "climategate" scandal was well-done; the scientists themselves did not do so well.  That, roughly, is the conclusion of a panel convened by the British House of Commons to investigate whether Prof. Phil Jones and his colleagues at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia — CRU for short — did wrong in the leaked e-mails last fall about their work on global climate change. You'll recall more than a thousand e-mails were hacked — and skeptics of the scientists' work pored over them, seeing them as evidence that researchers were hyping their findings on global warming and hiding contradictory evidence.

The report, by Parliament's Science and Technology Committee, is HERE, and in their conclusions (look HERE) they're pretty clear: "The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced."

"Within our limited inquiry and the evidence we took, the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact. We have found no reason in this unfortunate episode to challenge the scientific consensus as expressed by Professor Beddington [Prof. John Beddington, Chief Scientific Adviser to the British government], that 'global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity.'"

On the other hand, the panel comes down pretty hard on climate scientists for not being more open in their work.  Yes, it says, the scientists may have felt beleaguered by critics; there was even an apparent effort by one climate skeptic to pepper them with freedom-of-information requests and slow their work.  But the committee’s chairman, Phil Willis, said in an opening statement that the scientists' “culture of non-disclosure” was “reprehensible.”

This from the report itself: "A great responsibility rests on the shoulders of climate science: to provide the planet's decision makers with the knowledge they need to secure our future. The challenge that this poses is extensive and some of these decisions risk our standard of living. When the prices to pay are so large, the knowledge on which these kinds of decisions are taken had better be right. The science must be irreproachable."

Phil Jones temporarily stepped aside as the head of the CRU while the case was being investigated.  There are more investigations yet to be completed.  And in the meantime (see a previous post) public opinion on climate science has taken a hit: the Gallup organization reports that 30 percent of political conservatives think effects of global warming are already happening, down from 50 percent two years ago.  Self-described liberals have stood their ground at 74 percent.

Various reports from Britain say this investigation was a pretty big deal. But does it settle anything?  Not likely.

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