House of Commons exonerates Phil Jones
We believe that the focus on CRU and Professor Phil Jones, Director of CRU, in particular, has largely been misplaced….
In the context of the sharing of data and methodologies, we consider that Professor Jones’s actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community….
Likewise the evidence that we have seen does not suggest that Professor Jones was trying to subvert the peer review process. Academics should not be criticised for making informal comments on academic papers.
These are quotes from the British House of Commons Science and Technology Committee must-read report on Phil Jones and “the disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia.”
Climatologist Michael Mann called the report an “exoneration” of Jones and said:
Those of us who know Phil personally never had any doubt about this. I’m very pleased to hear that this distinguished panel saw through the dishonest attacks against Phil Jones, and made the correct determination.
The committee’s chair, Phil Willis, Member of Parliament (MP), said in a press conference:
We do believe that Prof Jones has in many ways been scapegoated as a result of what really was a frustration on his part that people were asking for information purely to undermine his research.
The CBS/AP story headlines, “Climategate Researchers Largely Cleared: Investigation Finds No Evidence Supporting Allegations of Tampering with Data or Peer Review Process.
The UK’s Times Online story opens: “The climate scientist at the centre of the row over stolen e-mails has no case to answer and should be reinstated, a crossparty group of MPs says..”
Here are the central findings of the report, The disclosure of climate data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia:
Conclusion 1: The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. On the accusations relating to Professor Jones’s refusal to share raw data and computer codes, we consider that his actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community. We have suggested that the community consider becoming more transparent by publishing raw data and detailed methodologies. On accusations relating to Freedom of Information, we consider that much of the responsibility should lie with UEA, not CRU.
Conclusion 2: In addition, insofar as we have been able to consider accusations of dishonesty—for example, Professor Jones’s alleged attempt to “hide the decline”—we consider that there is no case to answer. 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, that “global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity” It was not our purpose to examine, nor did we seek evidence on, the science produced by CRU. It will be for the Scientific Appraisal Panel to look in detail into all the evidence to determine whether or not the consensus view remains valid.
Conclusion 3: 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.
Many other important findings are highlighted throughout the report.
The report expressed concern about how CRU dealt with the Freedom of Information requests and urged more openness and a change in scientific practice:
It is not standard practice in climate science and many other fields to publish the raw data and the computer code in academic papers. We think that this is problematic because climate science is a matter of global importance and of public interest, and therefore the quality and transparency of the science should be irreproachable. We therefore consider that climate scientists should take steps to make available all the data used to generate their published work, including raw data; and it should also be made clear and referenced where data has been used but, because of commercial or national security reasons is not available. Scientists are also, under Freedom of Information laws and under the rules of normal scientific conduct, entitled to withhold data which is due to be published under the peer-review process. In addition, scientists should take steps to make available in full their methodological workings, including the computer codes. Data and methodological workings should be provided via the internet. There should be enough information published to allow verification.
The report was quite tough on the culture that had begun to pervade CRU:
However, a culture of withholding information—from those perceived by CRU to be hostile to global warming—appears to have pervaded CRU’s approach to FOIA requests from the outset. We consider this to be unacceptable.
The Guardian notes that:
The MPs expressed regret that the UK’s deputy information commissioner had made a statement saying, in their words, that “at least some of the requested information should have been disclosed” without his office having conducted a formal investigation. However, they agreed that there was a prima facie case for the university to answer and that the Information Commissioner’s Office should conduct an investigation.
On the matter of the “repeatability and verification” of CRU’s temperature work, the Committee found:
We therefore conclude that there is independent verification, through the use of other methodologies and other sources of data, of the results and conclusions of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
The fact that all the datasets show broadly the same sort of course of instrumental temperature change since the nineteenth century compared to today was whyProfessor John Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, had the confidence to say that human-induced global warming was, in terms of the evidence to support that hypothesis, “unchallengeable”:
“I think in terms of datasets, of the way in which data is analysed, there will always be some degree of uncertainty but when you get a series of fundamentally different analyses on the basic data and they come up with similar conclusions, you get a […] great deal of certainty coming out of it.”
Even if the data that CRU used were not publicly available—which they mostly are—or the methods not
published—which they have been—its published results would still be credible: the results from CRU agree with those drawn from other international data sets; in other words, the analyses have been repeated and the conclusions have been verified.
On Jones’ use of the word “trick” in an email about Mann’s Hockey Stick, the Committee found:
“Critics of CRU have suggested that Professor Jones’s use of the word “trick” is evidence that he was part of a conspiracy to hide evidence that did not fit his view that recent global warming is predominately caused by human activity. The balance of evidence patently fails to support this view. It appears to be a colloquialism for a “neat” method of handling data.”
On Jones’ use of the phrase “hide the decline”, the Committee found:
“Critics of CRU have suggested that Professor Jones’s use of the words “hide the decline” is evidence that he was part of a conspiracy to hide evidence that did not fit his view that recent global warming is predominantly caused by human activity.That he has published papers—including a paper in Nature—dealing with this aspect of the science clearly refutes this allegation. In our view, it was shorthand for the practice of discarding data known to be erroneous.”
Kudos to the MPs for their solid report.
No doubt virtually all of the core findings will be ignored by the anti-science crowd, who will continue to push their while conspiracy theories about climate scientists. For CP readers, however, the findings simply reinforce what scientists have been saying about these e-mails from the beginning:
- Nature editorial: “Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific case that global warming is real — or that human activities are almost certainly the cause.”
- Debunking Misinformation About Stolen Climate Emails
- Here’s what we know so far: CRU’s emails were hacked, the 2000s will easily be the hottest decade on record, and the planet keeps warming thanks to us!
- Michael Mann updates the world on the latest climate science and responds to the illegally hacked emails
- Select Committee Staff Analysis debunks stolen climate email myths
I’ll end with the final paragraph of the Nature editorial from back in December:
In the end, what the UEA e-mails really show is that scientists are human beings — and that unrelenting opposition to their work can goad them to the limits of tolerance, and tempt them to act in ways that undermine scientific values. Yet it is precisely in such circumstances that researchers should strive to act and communicate professionally, and make their data and methods available to others, lest they provide their worst critics with ammunition. After all, the pressures the UEA e-mailers experienced may be nothing compared with what will emerge as the United States debates a climate bill next year, and denialists use every means at their disposal to undermine trust in scientists and science.