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Today's Top News
Climate Scientists at East Anglia University Cleared by Inquiry
Climate scientists at the centre of the row over stolen e-mails acted with integrity and made no attempt to manipulate their research on global temperatures, an external inquiry has found.
Their research was, however, misrepresented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which failed to reflect uncertainties the scientists had reported concerning the raw temperature data.
An inquiry panel of leading scientists, nominated by the Royal Society, said that the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit may not have used the best methods for analysing temperature records.
The unit had also failed to store all its data and keep full records of exactly what it had done, preventing other scientists from checking all its findings.
But after interviewing the unit's scientists and studying 11 of their reports, the panel concluded: "We found them to be objective and dispassionate in their view of the data and their results, and there was no hint of tailoring results to a particular agenda.
"Their sole aim was to establish as robust a record of temperatures in recent centuries as possible."
Professor Phil Jones has stood down from his post as director of the unit while investigations take place into issues raised by a thousand e-mails he sent or received.
A separate inquiry, chaired by Sir Muir Russell, is continuing into the contents of the e-mails and apparent attempts by Professor Jones to suppress data.
His research underpins the claim made by the IPCC that it is highly likely that rising temperatures since the mid-20th century have been caused by human activities.
The panel was not asked to consider whether the unit's findings were correct but to judge whether the scientists had conducted their research in an honest and robust manner.
The panel said it was "regrettable" that the IPCC, in its advice to governments on climate change, had failed to reflect uncertainties that had been clearly stated in the unit's reports.
"Recent public discussion of climate change and summaries and popularisations of the work of CRU and others often contain oversimplifications that omit serious discussion of uncertainties emphasized by the original authors.
"For example, CRU publications repeatedly emphasise the discrepancy between instrumental and tree-based proxy reconstructions of temperature during the late 20th century, but presentations of this work by the IPCC and others have sometimes neglected to highlight this issue."
The panel also criticised the Government for "impeding the flow of processed and raw data to and between researchers" by adopting a policy of charging for access to environmental data collected by publicly funded researchers.
"This is unfortunate and seems inconsistent with policies of open access to data promoted elsewhere in government."
The panel said the unit's findings would have been more robust if they had worked with experts on interpreting statistics.
However, the panel reserved its strongest criticism for the climate sceptics who had accused the unit of manipulating its findings.
It said the attacks on the unit's work had been "selective and uncharitable".
It added: "Although we deplore the tone of much of the criticism that has been directed at CRU, we believe that this questioning of the methods and data used... will ultimately have a beneficial effect and improve working practices."
The panel, whose members were appointed by the university on the recommendation of the Royal Society, has been accused of lacking independence.
Lord Oxburgh, the panel's chairman, has links to low-carbon energy companies that stand to profit from efforts to cut greenhouse gases.
He is chairman of wind energy firm Falck Renewables and president of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association.
Edward Acton, vice chancellor of UEA, described the panel's report as "hugely positive".
He said: "UEA has already put on record its deep regret and anger that the theft of e-mails from the University, and the blatant misrepresentation of their contents as revealed both in this report and the previous one by the Science and Technology Select Committee, damaged the reputation of UK climate science.
"We would like to express our gratitude to Lord Oxburgh and his selfless group of scientists for producing this important report."
The university accepted the criticisms of the unit's statistical techniques and data storage and said these issues would be rectified.