Commerce Dept. report clears U.S. scientists in 'climategate'
An independent review of thousands of emails stolen from climate researchers has found that scientists at the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration did not manipulate data or otherwise engage in wrongdoing.
The report, issued by the Inspector General of the Department of Commerce, is at least the fifth report by various bodies in the United States and Britain to clear researchers at the heart of the so-called "Climategate" incident that galvanized vocal skeptics of the science of global warming.
In November 2009, someone stole and distributed thousands of emails from a computer at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England. The individual or individuals who stole the emails have not been identified.
The emails contained frank, even hostile, discussions among climate researchers about a handful of opponents who repeatedly questioned the huge body of research that confirms that the Earth has been warming.
The Inspector General's report found that NOAA researchers did not manipulate data, as has been widely claimed by climate change skeptics. The researchers involved also properly adhered to the agency's data review policies, the report concluded.
Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a constant outspoken critic of climate science, requested the review.
Of the 1,073 email messages looked at, eight warranted detailed examination, the report said.
In one of the messages, Inhofe himself was the target of lampooning. The message contained "a photographic image, titled, 'marooned,' which depicted Senator Inhofe and five other persons -- several as characters from the television program Gilligan's Island -- as stranded on a melting ice cap at the North Pole or floating nearby in the ocean," the report said.
In reponse, the report said, "NOAA management recently took action to address the scientists' conduct." A spokeswoman for NOAA said that the agency would provide no further information on what action was taken.
Inhofe released a statement thanking the Inspector General and highlighting the eight messages singled out for detailed review. In the statement, Inhofe says, "This report shows that some NOAA employees potentially violated federal contract law and engaged in data manipulation."
However, the Inspector General concluded that there was no evidence of any such manipulation.
"We're highlighting emails that deserve further investigation," said David Lungren, a spokesman for Inhofe on the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, when asked to explain.
The Inspector General did find that NOAA provided unclear answers to a question of whether NOAA funds were properly distributed to the Climatic Research Unit.
"Auditing NOAA's contracting with CRU was not within the scope of our inquiry, but in light of these circumstances it is important for NOAA to be assured that CRU fully complied with the applicable U.S. contracting rules and requirements. Moreover, NOAA could not tell us the universe of climate-related contracts it has issued over the past ten years to parties and institutions such as CRU," the report said.
| February 24, 2011; 4:50 PM ET
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