U.K. Panel Mostly Vindicates Climate Scientists

A British parliamentary committee has released the first official report into the theft of e-mails from a leading climate research center last year. The panel said the unit had a culture of withholding information from global warming skeptics, but did not deliberately manipulate data to support its case.

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A British parliament committee has concluded that emails taken from a university research center do not undercut the science of global warming. But the inquiry did criticize the university for failing to respond to skeptics' Freedom of Information request. The inquiry is the first of three in the U.K. triggered by a furor that some have dubbed Climategate.

NPR's Richard Harris reports.

RICHARD HARRIS: Phil Jones ran the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia. Last fall, thousands of his emails were posted anonymously on the Internet. In these emails, we read how Jones and colleagues around the world circled their wagons against attacks by global warming skeptics, and those skeptics themselves read the emails as evidence of scientific fraud.

Not so, said an inquiry by the British parliament. The committee found Jones wasn't hiding or manipulating his data and found no reason to doubt the scientific consensus that humans are heating up the planet. But Committee Chairman Phil Willis was not pleased with how the university responded to skeptics' Freedom of Information request for the raw climate data.

Mr. PHIL WILLIS (Chairman, House of Commons Science and Technology Committee): To have a flood of Freedom of Information requests must have been annoying. Well, the way in which the unit handled them and the way in which the university handled them, which was in fact to really sort of obstruct those seeking information, I think was reprehensible.

HARRIS: The university's vice chancellor, Professor Edward Acton, accepted at least a share of that criticism.

Professor EDWARD ACTON (Vice Chancellor, University of East Anglia): I take it very seriously. I want to have the fuller picture that I hope will arise from the independent review I have set up. But I think there are things that could have been done better and we must insure we do them absolutely as they should be done in the future.

HARRIS: While that investigation continues, along with a third inquiry, Jones has stepped down from his position as the director of the climate research unit. He has previously acknowledged that he had written some, quote, "awful" emails, but his measurement of global temperature trend has been independently corroborated by researchers in the United States.

Richard Harris, NPR News.

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