Senators release Climategate report

By Erin Voegele and Kris Bevill | February 09, 2010
Posted March 1, 2010

The minority staff of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, led by Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., released a report Feb. 23 exploring the controversy surrounding the climate change-related emails and documents leaked from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU). The report, titled "‘Consensus' Exposed: The CRU Controversy," examines the extent to which the CRU documents and emails affected the work of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as how errors in the IPCC's science impacted the U.S. EPA's GHG endangerment finding.

According to the report, some of the scientists involved in the CRU Climategate controversy violated ethical principles and, possibly, federal laws. Information released by the committee states that the minority staff believes the CRU documents and emails "seriously compromise the IPCC-based ‘consensus' and its central conclusion that anthropogenic emissions are inexorably leading to environmental catastrophes."

More specifically, the report claims that scientists involved in Climategate obstructed the release of damaging data and information, manipulated data to reach preconceived conclusions, pressured journal editors who published work questioning the consensus on climate change, and assumed activist roles with the goal of influencing the political process.

According to the report, the CRU emails prove that the science surrounding climate change is not settled and illustrates that leading climate scientists continue to debate many issues, question the methods and statistical techniques used by their peers, have concerns over historical periods of warming and cooling, and ultimately doubt whether there is currently and consensus on the cause or extend of climate change.

"The EPA accepted the IPCC's erroneous claims wholesale without doing its own independent review," Inhofe said. "So, EPA's endangerment finding rests on bad science. The EPW minority report provides further proof that the EPA needs to scrap the endangerment finding and start over again."

Separate independent reviews are being conducted to examine CRU policies and IPCC procedures in response to criticism as a result of Climategate. IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri announced Feb. 27 that an "independent committee of distinguished experts" will be evaluating IPCC procedures and will examine any procedural changes that may be required as a result. Details on the mechanism for setting up the review are expected sometime in early March. In the meantime, Pachauri continues to defend the IPCC's most critical report - the 4th Assessment Report, which concluded that the warming of the climate system is unequivocal. "We stand firmly behind the rigor and robustness of the 4th Assessment Report's conclusions and are encouraged by the support demonstrated recently by scientists and governments around the world," Pachauri stated. "The 4th Assessment Report's key conclusions are based on an overwhelming body of evidence from thousands of peer-reviewed and independent scientific studies."

In December, the University of East Anglia began a review of allegations made against the CRU shortly after Climategate was made public. The independent review, led by Sir Muir Russell, consists of an examination of CRU's policies and practices as related to acquiring, assembling and disseminating data for peer review; a review of CRU's compliance with the British Freedom of Information Act and Environmental Information Regulations, and an examination of CRU's security structures and leaked email exchanges in an attempt to determine whether evidence exists to suggest manipulation or suppression of data that would call into question any of the research outcomes. The review is expected to be finished this spring and will be made public by the university upon completion.

Professor Phil Jones, embattled head scientist at the CRU, notably took a leave from his position at CRU prior to the start of the investigation. However, prior to exiting CRU, Jones asserted that the leaked emails were taken out of context and apologized for any confusion that erupted as a result. "Some were clearly written in the heat of the moment, others use colloquialisms frequently used between close colleagues," he explained. He specifically addressed the criticism of one email authored by himself in which he mentions a "trick" used to insert temperature data into a diagram. "The first thing to point out is that this refers to one diagram - not a scientific paper - which was used in the World Meteorological Organization's statement on the status of the global climate in 1999," he said. "The word ‘trick' was used here colloquially as in a clever thing to do. It is ludicrous to suggest that it refers to anything untoward."

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson testified at the Feb. 23 Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing that while she doesn't defend the conduct of the scientists who sent the criticized emails, she doesn't believe that the emails discredit the IPCC findings. She stressed in her comments that the EPA has no plans to review its endangerment finding based on the Climategate emails and will continue to move forward with its intentions to regulate GHG emissions.