A series of international investigations into recent climate science controversies are now publishing their findings, and so far, they have cleared climate scientists of manipulating the evidence, and reaffirmed the integrity of the basic science. The investigations arose from two separate incidents that both occurred in late 2009, one involving stolen emails at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU), and the other involving queries regarding the evidence for regional impacts of climate change in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report.
Here is a quick summary of the investigations and their findings to date:
The University of East Anglia (UEA) investigations were prompted by the leak of private emails between climate scientists that were stolen from the University’s server and posted publicly. The emails raised concerns that scientific data on climate change had been manipulated. Four independent reviews are now complete, and collectively they have exonerated the scientists in question, leaving their major research findings intact.
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee review focused on the accuracy, access to, and availability of CRU’s data and programming. The Committee published its findings in March, concluding:
The UEA’s Scientific Assessment Panel was established in consultation with the Royal Society and chaired by Lord Oxburgh. The Panel investigated the integrity of CRU’s research and publications and conducted interviews with the scientists. The findings, published in April, conclude:
The Independent Climate Change Email Review, chaired by Sir Muir Russell, examined the emails to assess whether manipulation or suppression of data occurred, and reviewed CRU’s policies and practices for peer review and dissemination of data and findings. It also examined CRU’s compliance with requests to release data. The Review’s findings, released in July, state:
The Pennsylvania State University Reviews arose out of allegations of research impropriety on the part of the University’s Dr. Michael Mann, based on the stolen CRU emails. The Dean of the Graduate School launched an investigation in November into whether Dr. Mann’s actions may have: (1) suppressed or falsified data; (2) deleted emails and information; (3) misused confidential information; and/or (4) deviated from accepted research practices. An Inquiry Committee reviewed emails and related documents, and conducted interviews. In February 2010, the Inquiry Committee concluded that there was “no substance” to the first three allegations. The University’s investigatory phase began in March to assess the fourth allegation. In June, the Investigatory Committee released its report concluding that:
In closing, the Committee concluded unanimously that there is “no substance” to the fourth allegation that he engaged in actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices.
The IPCC investigations were prompted by a controversy over certain conclusions in the Fourth Assessment Report—especially regarding Himalayan glacier melt—and the evidence to support those conclusions. (The IPCC has acknowledged that its evidence procedures “were not applied properly” concerning the glacier data in question, but maintains that the underlying conclusions are robust. Read the IPCC statement here.)
The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) Review began in January after the Dutch Parliament passed a resolution mandating the Agency to assess the perceived errors in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report. Their analysis is focused on the chapters assessing the future regional consequences of climate change. The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences oversaw the review and PBL released its findings in July.
The InterAcademy Council Review was launched in response to the IPCC Secretariat’s call for an independent committee to review its procedures. A few weeks later in March 2010, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon charged the InterAcademy Council, which represents twenty national academies and other scientific organizations, to perform an independent review of the IPCC’s procedures. The purpose of the review is to develop recommendations for IPCC’s processes and procedures on data quality, acceptable literature for citation, review procedures, and error corrections. The Panel is being led by former Princeton University President Harold T. Shapiro. A progress report is expected in August and final recommendations will be presented at the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report meeting in October.