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British report clears scientists in 'climategate' case cited by Cuccinelli in U.Va. probe

Rosalind Helderman

A new independent investigation commissioned in Britain of e-mails leaked from a climate change research department at one of the nation's universities - e-mails that form the basis of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's demand for documents related to the research from the University of Virginia -- largely vindicates the scientists whose work is described in the e-mails.

The inquiry criticized researchers at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit for being too opaque about their research and not sharing data with colleagues, including in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. However, the panel's head, former British government official Muir Russell, concluded that the "rigor and honesty" of the scientists was "not in doubt."

The report is the second in a week that has concluded that former University of Virginia scientist Michael Mann committed no wrongdoing in his research, which showed the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming. Cuccinelli has said he is investigating whether Mann committed fraud as he sought public grant money for his research. The university is fighting the subpoena and has asked a Charlottesville judge to set it aside.

A inquiry by a Penn State University panel convened to look at Mann's work after the leak of the British e-mails had concluded that he committed no fraud; the panel last week found that he also did not "seriously deviate from accepted practices within the academic community."

In interviews and court papers, Cuccinelli has cited the British e-mails -- which global-warming skeptics have dubbed "climategate" -- as a motivating factor behind his fraud investigation. In court papers, his attorneys noted that various panels investigating the work of scientists whose work is referenced in those e-mails did not have access to Mann's e-mails from his time in Virginia. The university has never before released them.

Last week, Cuccinelli's spokesman declined to comment on independent investigations into Mann's work and said the attorney general's office would answer relevant issues in court.

Meanwhile, the Union of Concerned Scientists is claiming victory, declaring in a statement that the "so-called 'climategate' scandal is over."

By Rosalind Helderman  |  July 7, 2010; 2:14 PM ET
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman  
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Ms. Helderman,

Both inquiries were whitewashes. The corruption at the Post is a national disgrace.

Posted by: jens151 | July 7, 2010 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Every inquiry has now cleared the scientists.
Their email were stolen (a serious felony by the standards applied to Sarah Palin's emails), their privacy invaded, their remarks distorted and taken out of context to the point of dishonesty. They were accused of fraud and deceit. No evidence has been found of either. If their accusers have any honesty, any decency and any honor, they would now apologize.

Aspects of their scientific work are still open to debate. Mann's work is controversial and will still be debated.

The controversy did point out some problems--scientists don't do nearly enough to educate the public on their work, scientists do act like an old boys' club, refusing to deal with people outside their own circle. Scientists do need to open up to the public and to talented outsiders such as Steve McIntyre. Scientists also need to be honest about uncertainties and to beware of simplifying complex results for the general public.

The standard for both sides now should be debate the science with passion but remember "it's business, it's not personal". Debate the science, not the other side's character.

The internet is a wonderful tool for communication and spreading data. Scientists need to take much better use of it.

We need to address several environmental problems, not only global warming. Our energy policy needs to be addressed. I don't trust liberals to do this on their own. Unfortunately most conservatives are AWOL from the debate, denying reality and convincing me they have become anti-science, anti-environment and anti-reality.

Posted by: Dadmeister | July 7, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Whitewash fades with time, but facts remain facts. To anyone who reads the actual e-mails it is obvious that MMGW was made up.


Posted by: jjdickson | July 8, 2010 6:29 AM | Report abuse

Whitewash fades with time, but facts remain facts. To anyone who reads the actual e-mails it is obvious that MMGW was made up.


Posted by: jjdickson | July 8, 2010 6:30 AM | Report abuse

Clearly, this article misses the point. Climategate is about science going down a specific path for a specific agenda and excluding others. The exoneration is actually part of the conspiracy. Just because a board decides that oswald acted alone doesn't mean that is the case. I really do want to trail into a rant about America's trust of the Media which should not be trusted but I will just leave it at that, So they are Guilty and I am actually correct.

Posted by: mattrosex | July 8, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

where is the link to the report?

Posted by: BruceFairfax | July 8, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

oh, I see why there is no link... Ms. Helderman tells us that the report "largely vindicates the scientists"
hummm... "largely" is an interesting qualifier.

Also itis telling that the researchers were 'too opaque about their research and not sharing data with colleagues"
Real scientists would say that if you can't or won't show your work then it is not science... it has to be repeatable and objective not opaque and private.

I suspect that someone on the other side of the issue reading the same report would write an entirely opposite concluding article and that is why the report link is not given.

Posted by: BruceFairfax | July 8, 2010 10:22 AM | Report abuse

The surface temperature record has been repeated by NASA and by NOAA and by at least one blogger who downloaded the data from NOAA on the inter net and reproduced the surface temperature record.

The scientists involved in climategate were not eager to share their data with people who had strongly criticized their work, unfairly in their opinion, and who were not well known colleagues. The climate field has been small enough so that the scientists could know everyone working in their own particular area. They were less interested in working with outsiders. It would have been much easier for them simply to share and talk with outsiders, as Judy Curry has said.

The scientists have explained the comments in their emails.

Another question raised is how good the scientists' statistics were. As undergraduates in physics, after partial differential equations, students in my class switched to mathematical physics courses for further math courses and were briefly taught statistics in lab courses.
We were not expected to take statistics courses; advanced math courses were deemed too theoretical. Thus scientists often do their own statistics without reference to professional statisticians. The question is is that good enough.

Posted by: Dadmeister | July 8, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Dadmeister, this very commission was able to independently download the temperature data, write a code in less than two days without any help, and produce results similar to other independent analyses (paragraph 33 of chapter 6 in final report from

Posted by: imback | July 8, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

"Ms. Helderman tells us that the report 'largely vindicates the scientists'
hummm... 'largely' is an interesting qualifier. "

You're right, it is a bit misleading.

"Throughly vindicates" would have been a better description than "largely vindicates."

Read the report (which you should be able to find in 10 seconds). Note item after item after item where no wrongdoing was found.

ALL that the panel criticized was that UEA should have been more attentive to FOI requests. That was it.

Posted by: chrisd3 | July 8, 2010 8:45 PM | Report abuse

"Climategate is about science going down a specific path for a specific agenda and excluding others."

A little evidence that tens of thousands of scientists all over the world are all in on this would be nice.

Posted by: chrisd3 | July 8, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse


"Climategate is about science going down a specific path for a specific agenda and excluding others."

What is the agenda? Why are tens of thousands of scientists all over the globe in on it? Why haven't any of them spilled the beans? What evidence do you have?

"The exoneration is actually part of the conspiracy."

Well, of course. That's Conspiracy Theory 101. Any investigation that exonerates the "conspirators" is, ipso facto, part of the conspiracy.

It would be far more convincing if you actually pointed out where the panel's report is wrong, and then backed that up with actual evidence.

Posted by: chrisd3 | July 8, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

No need to prove a conspiracy theory to debunk the certainty to global warming -- just look to the comments of Phil Jones, who headed the East Anglia CRU.

In a recent interview with BBC, Jones made four surprising admissions:

1. There has been no significant global warming in 15 years.

2. His own historic climate records were not well organized.

3. The Medieval Warm Period may have been hotter than the late 20th century (which would put the lie to the infamous "hockey stick" graph, making it look more like handlebars).

4. There is no scientific consensus on climate change.

Forget the skeptics -- when Global Warmers start backtracking on their own supposedly settled science, the burden is on the climate change movement to produce evidence that even its own apostles can believe.

Posted by: UponFurtherReview | July 9, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Phil Jones sounds quite honest to me in his remarks.

Temperatures peaked in 1998 partly due to a record El Nino.(Perhaps 2005 was a little warmer.) Since then they have more or less plateaued until the last few months,
when they are setting records. They did not go back down to previous levels.

Susan Solomon and others have published a paper stating that after the 1998 El Nino
water vapor in the lower stratosphere increased and acted to cool the atmosphere.
That may have played a role in the leveling off of global temperature.

There is a strong consensus that the earth has warmed over the past 100 years. There is also a strong consensus that greenhouse gases have increased over the same period.
There is a consensus not as strong that the two are related.

The National Aacdemy of Sciences, the Royal Society, the American Geophysical Society, the American Meteorological Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Physical Society and the leading scientific academies of the major industrial powers all agree that warming is occurring, that man's production of greenhouse gases is an important cause of that and that it is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. That's enough of a consensus to me.

If science didn't backtrack and reconsider its findings every so often, that would be of concern to me.

Posted by: Dadmeister | July 9, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Just a few notes: The CRU scientists were quite willing to share data with *colleagues*. They weren't so willing to cooperate with outside gadflies, though.

Also, the staffing level at the CRU was minimal. You had a couple of PI's (principal investigators), a small number of postdocs and grad students, and minimal support staff. So the nuisance FOI's (which for the most part demanded access to email messages instead of data) consumed a great deal of the scientists' time.

Although the FOI foot-dragging was improper, one must remember what provoked it. It was frustration with outside harassment, not the desire to "hide" anything that prompted the resistance to the FOI requests.

Now put yourself in the scientists' shoes. You have a job to do, deadlines to make, and in come a bunch of frivolous FOI requests *from a foreign country*.

You have to take time out to deal with them? Can you put your other work on hold? No.

Can you push back your publication deadlines, etc? No.

Is there a special overhead job order number that you can charge to for the time you spend on the nuisance FOI requests? No.

You are having to spend your own time dealing with outside pests who aren't even citizens of your own country.

Is it any wonder those scientists had a bad attitude regarding those FOI requests?

Posted by: caerbannog | July 9, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

The 'independent' investigation includes a guy who worked at the UEA for some 18 years. Maybe retired BP executives would be your idea of a commission to investigate BP?

The 'investigation' asked no hard questions and interviewed no complaining witnesses.

If the 'science' is so good, why do these 'scientists' feel the need to cover up their activities, refuse to hold open hearings, take no notes during interviews, and then speak of their independent investigation?

If you act like you are doing something wrong, and hide your behavior behind this kind of whitewash, reasonable people will conclude that you really are doing something wrong.

The 'science' is much more uncertain than the
man made disaster crowd want you to believe. There isn't a crisis, and probably most of the recent warming is natural climate variation. Natural variation that has happened many times before now, and likely will happen many times after now.

The crisis gravy train has worked for many years, but the tax and regulate crowd got too greedy. Some of them are going to have to find a real job.

Posted by: AGWsceptic99 | July 14, 2010 9:42 PM | Report abuse

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