Climate Row: Backing for Scientists

By Connor, Steve | The Independent (London, England), April 15, 2010 | Go to article overview
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Climate Row: Backing for Scientists


Connor, Steve, The Independent (London, England)


Panel finds no evidence of impropriety in East Anglia unit after integrity of researchers was questioned. By Steve Connor

A DISTINGUISHED panel of independent scientists has given a resounding vote of confidence in the credibility and integrity of the key studies into climate change that have emerged over the past 20 years from the embattled Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia.

The panel, chaired by Lord Oxburgh, a geologist and former rector of Imperial College London, was asked to review the scientific papers and methodology of the CRU following the theft of university emails, the leaking of which suggested a possible conspiracy to subvert data in order to support the case for man-made climate change.

Lord Oxburgh's investigation found no evidence to suggest that the CRU scientists had acted improperly or dishonestly. It found the unit's overall conclusions were sound but it criticised the CRU for not using the best statistical tools to analyse the data - although this misjudgement did not alter the overall results and conclusions.

Questions about the integrity of the CRU emerged after the theft of internal emails last year, which were released on the internet just before the Copenhagen climate summit in December. Climate "sceptics" argued that the emails demonstrated that Professor Phil Jones, the CRU's director, was prepared to fiddle the data in order to prove that the world was warming at an unprecedented rate.

Lord Oxburgh and his six co-panellists reviewed 11 representative studies going back 20 years as part of their independent investigation, ordered by the University of East Anglia. It is the second of three inquiries into what became known as "climategate", and it concentrated on the scientific integrity of the research in question.

"We found absolutely no evidence of any impropriety whatsoever. That doesn't necessarily mean that we agree with all of their conclusions but that was not the point. We were absolutely satisfied that these people were doing their job fairly and honestly," Lord Oxburgh said.

"As far as we could see all of the conclusions were honestly and sensibly arrived at. We had no reason to question the conclusions, we had no reason to believe that they were reached by dishonest means," he said.

The panel, composed of leading professors in Britain, the United States and Switzerland, investigated two broad areas of CRU research. One was the interpretation of tree-rings - dendrochronology - extending over 1,000 years, and the other involved direct temperature measurements over the past few centuries from weather stations around the world.

The panel's seven-page report, prepared in one month, found that the CRU had made every effort to ensure that the work was carried out properly and that appropriate caveats and uncertainties were included in the published work.

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