Climategate Investigation Results In . . .

. . . and nothing bad was going on. Surprised? Yeah, me neither.

A UK parliamentary Science and Technology Committee investigated the whole East Anglia CRU thing, and their results have been released.

On the much cited phrases in the leaked e-mails—”trick” and “hiding the decline”—the Committee considers that they were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead.

Insofar as the Committee was able to consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU, the Committee considers that there is no case to answer.

The Committee found no reason in this inquiry to challenge the scientific consensus as expressed by Professor Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, that “global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity”. But this was not an inquiry into the science produced by CRU and it will be for the Scientific Appraisal Panel, announced by the University on 22 March, to determine whether the work of CRU has been soundly built.

(Bolding added)

The committee had one mild criticism and recommendation, which I think is a good idea.

The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. On the accusations relating to Professor Jones’ refusal to share raw data and computer codes, the Committee considers that his actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community but that those practices need to change.

Professor Jones’ refusal to share data is not grounds for complaint and is in line with common practice (as it is in fields other than climate science), but that practice should probably change.

That settles that, right? Everyone’s going to stop citing this as an example of When Science Goes Wrong™, aren’t they? Pleeease? Or is this another piece of evidence supporting the massive global conspiracy?

That link above contains further links to other common claims that have been found to be baseless, such as that the IPCC overstated the impact of climate change on the Amazon rain forest.


Edit: As I do some more looking around, it seems the committee may not have understood some of the nuances around the data requests when they made that recommendation above. CRU had already released all the data they had a legal right to, mostly in scientific papers. The only raw data not released belongs to national weather services–not CRU’s to give out. That it shared all the data it could is simply fact. The FOIA requests were in many cases simply attempts to obstruct and delay work–those making them having neither the desire nor the knowledge to make scientific use of them; and many were demands for computer code – not algorithms – often code written to be used only once. Making these public is not standard practice in any branch of science, nor is it obviously useful: if you want to check someone’s analysis, the usual practice is to reimplement the algorithm.

I’m all for sharing data, but I’m dead set against sharing code. Running the same code over the same data and getting the same answer is worthless. Independent verification using an independent analysis not only verifies the methodology, it many even improve upon it. Sharing code is a recipe for sharing bugs and slowing progress. Reimplement the algorithms if you’re trying to reproduce results.

On the other hand, re-implementing the same algorithm independently is a good way to check the correctness of a piece of research code. Interestingly, NASA GISS has made their GISSTEMP surface temperature analysis source code available for quite some time. Because the source is available, there is an effort to produce a ground-up rewrite of the code (in Python, no less), in the interest of both transparency and correctness. Results to date? Nothing of significance wrong with GISSTEMP. I’m sure that will satisfy the denialosphere.

Bottom line: CRU had done nothing wrong and the committee’s openness recommendation is nice but unnecessary.

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About James Patton

I'm a computer science senior at Utah State, graduating in December 2010, becoming a first-generation university graduate. I'm a co-founder of SHAFT and am off-again on-again active in USU's Linux Club and the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery, a professional organization for computer science). I'm getting increasingly nervous about what to do after graduation, but I'd like to start a software company, and my dream job is making video games for my own studio. I suppose I could say I was "raised atheist", but it honestly never occurred to me until around high school. I grew up in Cache Valley and so am of course familiar with the Mormon church, but my mom never took me to a church, and encouraged me to explore different ideas and make up my own mind. What ended up happening was that I discovered Asimov and Clarke and Sagan, and that was that. My hobbies include voracious reading, gaming (digital, tabletop, whatever), programming, and at one point playing jazz and rock tenor sax (buying a new sax is one of the biggest reasons I need to finish college).

8 thoughts on “Climategate Investigation Results In . . .

  1. I’d go with the global conspiracy angle, mainly because its a matter of mentality. When your views are affirmed by something, it makes your views true, when they are denied, its because of a conspiracy against you. This goes in every direction with every agendic group. People accuse a certain country of cheating in the Olympics and demand a test. The test is passed, and the people say “well I don’t care what a test says, they cheated!” In empirical matters this is common, and why I tend to stay away from the global warming issue. Its become extremely political and I think there is more to do locally to properly take care of the environment.

    Regarding the change in behavior (of providing found data) I do think that needs to change. You can never satisfy lunatics (the incurable evils, as Plato called them, those who could see the Good and reject it) but if the findings and information were to be made a sort of public intellectual property I think it would solve a lot.

    For example, someone (I don’t recall who) was claiming to be persecuted for his scientific findings regarding genetically modified foods, that he was being shut up and oppressed. The scientific community finally told him to put his money where his mouth was and write for an esteemed journal, which he did. One of the more esteemed journals in Britain published it, and it turned out to be almost wall to wall bullshit.

    The journal was asked why they published, and the reasons were a) to prove they didn’t in fact oppress anyone, and b) so that everyone could see his work for what it was. With the global warming crowd I think this will only help the reputation as people can see and analyze for themselves the findings, to sniff out any rats, which will return honor to the process. I also think (maybe I’m wrong about this) it will improve the science as we are able to find the fat and cut it away and get more precise on what’s going on.

    Regarding the actual topic of what this may mean, I think its a good thing overall because there a number of good scientific people who are trying to work honestly with what they have and have been painted as political sellouts, and maybe this redeems them a bit. That goes for opponents as well, who have been long accused of being puppets or silencers of the debate or whatnot. I don’t know if public perception will change at all with this, since I know too many on both sides of the fence, and neither are going to move no matter what. I’m just glad some names were cleared of wrong doing, and hopefully they were not a small part of this equation.

  2. Doesn’t matter. Everyone knows global warming is a UN plot to subvert national sovereignty and create a nanny-state one-world gubmint ruled by Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi and take our guns away from us. Wait, I forgot to say “sheeple.” The sheeple won’t do anything about it because they’re too fattened on the welfare state.

  3. Ha ha! I like how “Watching the Deniers” decides that Climategate is “officially no longer a scandal.” Why? Well, because a special committee designed by the House of Commons decided so (to put things into context for those of us who are Yankees, such committees are similar to Congressional hearings). So now Climategate is no longer a controversy, all the scientists involved are now exonerated and are impervious to future claims against them… all because a political body says so.

    I’m surprised to find that a “scientific” blog like “Watching the Deniers” would place so much confidence in politicians (sure, most have scientific backgrounds, but they are still politicians).

    I have worked on a Congressional Committee, and from my experience, Committee findings are mostly worthless. Why? Because objectivity is something entirely foreign to politics (both here and abroad). While the “truth” may exist, politicians are always going to prioritize their interests and the interests of their constituencies above all else, including the truth. That’s the world of politics we live in, folks.

    Personally, I haven’t been following Climategate closely, as of late. And I have no problem believing that the scientists from East Anglia are innocent. Nevertheless, I think it’s funny that “Watching the Deniers” begins this post extolling the findings of a Parliamentary Committee, as if that political body had the ultimate ability to discern truth.

  4. Of course the scientists are innocent of wrong-doing. “Climategate” was a manufactroversy to begin with. The edit I made tried to spell out some of the problems with having a political committee investigate a scientific issue. As I said, there was never really anything to investigate, aside from the initial computer crime.

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