House of Commons exonerates Phil Jones

Based on their inquiry and evidence, “the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact. We have found no reason … to challenge the scientific consensus … that ‘global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity’.”

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 why Professor 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:

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.


39 Responses to House of Commons exonerates Phil Jones

  1. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    And thanks to you here at CP, the Associated Press, Columbia Journalism Review, ect. for your work in the meantime. It’s very sad that it played a role in Copenhagen, and with American lawmakers at that time — it’s true intention.

  2. David Gould says:

    Excellent work by the House of Commons committee. I hope that Dr Jones is reinstated as director of CRU asap. Thanks for posting this.

  3. Jeff Gazzard says:

    If the deniers so wish it, I would be very happy to send them all the particular hat of their choice and then sit back and listen to the sound of their worldwide chomping.

    A comprehensive and clear endorsement of the science and a welcome relief for Professor Jones no doubt – we owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his fortitude over the last few months and I look forward to his continuing contribution to climate science.

    I am also proud of the speed and thoroughness of the UK Parliament’s Select Comittee’s work in getting this report out.


    Jeff Gazzard

  4. dhogaza says:

    If the deniers so wish it, I would be very happy to send them all the particular hat of their choice and then sit back and listen to the sound of their worldwide chomping.

    Oh, they’re already calling it a “whitewash” of course. God could hit them over their heads with stone tablets engraved “you guys are full of it” and they’d be overnight converts to atheism …

  5. James Newberry says:

    And so a small ray of sunlight opened upon an age of darkness, greed and fraud. And God said “Speak it from the mountaintops, Coal and Uranium are not an energy resource. Follow my sun as its energy flows over all the earth, and preserve the earth’s climate for it is everything.”

  6. Irrational says:

    My condolences to the unfortunate scientists who have put up with the insults and innuendo. But lets not forget that all science is under attack by these fools. All scientists should take this and every opportunity they can to speak out against these ignorant and devious attacks on science. If the public loses trust in science, then all is lost.

  7. Barry says:

    How is that warming treating you? I guess you hand picked detectives weren’t able to see beyond the end of their bi focals?

  8. Paul K2 says:

    To continue in same vein as Newberry:

    And so arose a great caterwauling and gnashing of teeth from those assembled on the denier ship of fools, and the pretenders and charlatans lamented that their efforts and crimes had failed to damage their targets; and behold, the righteous had triumphed over the evildoers with their science not only intact, but strengthened by the strong fact and data driven defense against the false allegations and attacks.

    But below in the hold, the slaves began to question their masters, as the monthly UAH anomaly proclaimed and adored by their mighty leaders, ROSE to yet another record high for March, following the recent records and near records in UAH, such that 6 of the last 9 months represented either the hottest or 2nd hottest in the UAH dataset. The cries came loud and clear for the heads of Christy and Spencer, and many amongst the fools demanded an audit of their science by the august Climate Auditor. And so an inspection team was sent to review the UAH record, and quickly found that the UAH records had reported incorrect data several times in the past, and the horrible and despicable “ADJustments” were even worse for UAH than the GISS!! And lo, the fools who had bought into the lies, cried for more investigation.

    But as the great year 2010 wore on, by summer it was apparent that the UAH record would show the hottest consecutive 12 months on the planet according to their records, and a few months later, the GISS dataset confirmed the same… Now then, the cries from the multitude of the denier fools rose to a great crescendo as they denied the data, and turned on their masters. “The Earth is Cooling; It must be Cooling” they shouted and screamed to their deity FoX; and to the former ex-governor (who quit), they bowed down and sublimated themselves before her omniscient self, and asked for her to speak to the Almighty, and FIX the data again to conform to their beliefs.

    But no; instead the sea level hit new record highs, demonstrating the massive heating of the oceans, and the melting of mother Earth’s ice sheets. The Planet was heating, and the pleas of the misled and gullible went unheeded.

    Because in the end, humans are responsible for protecting and caring for our Earth.

  9. ZS says:

    It would be interesting to see how many media outlets that devoted multiple stories to the “scandal” will find the space to mention the exoneration of Professor Jones.

  10. paulm says:

    This is great stuff.

    I hope we see Inhofe now apologize and accept publicly that AGW is happening and has to be address immediately.

    In particular the US should lead the world in tackling the problem.

    Is it worth the US government formally reviewing the state of this like the UK Government and produce a formal report to drive home the message?

  11. MapleLeaf says:

    Outstanding news! So very sad that Jones and his family had to endure so much pain and suffering the last few months. We live in a very cruel world sometimes.

  12. Doug Bostrom says:

    Waiting to hear from George Monbiot.

    Paging Mr. Monbiot, Mr. Monbiot to the abject apology phone, please!

  13. David Gould says:


    I agree. George Monbiot’s calls for Dr Jones to resign were shameful.

  14. Doug Bostrom says:

    I might add, I see nothing in the Guardian about this. Well past the deadline for tomorrow’s edition in the UK. Perhaps it’s there, but they’re certainly not putting it above the fold…

    Whoops, here it is:


  15. Tim L. says:

    Good for CRU. Good for science. Joe, get a load of today’s amazing Greenpeace expose of Koch Industries, which has been the primary source of financing for climate disinformation groups.

    Any denier/disinformer who could read this and still rant about “hoaxes” or pick nits out of the IPCC studies is clearly little more than a Koch sucker.

  16. MapleLeaf says:

    BBC chose to focus on the negative:

    Their teaser:

    MPs investigating the climate change row at the UK’s University of East Anglia (UEA) have demanded greater transparency from climate scientists.

    How about the the fact that all of the bogus allegations (data fudging) against Jones and CRU were found to be bogus? Why not the more representative title “Climate scientists exonerated, but transparency needs to improve“?

    The reporting on this by the media is probably (and sadly) going to be as asymmetric as their distortions and dissemination of denier myths leading up to the inquiry.

  17. Doug Bostrom says:

    By the way, David (Gould) I read your post Why We Lost, at your blog. That’s a very interesting take and a perspective I’ve not thought of.

    I don’t think the debate has been lost by any means. Taking his CRU episode as an example, it was just another skirmish which has purchased an indefinite period of additional delay, perhaps a few months at best, likely much less. The opposition cannot manufacture ammunition of this kind in near infinite quantities like bullets can be; each weapon they deploy can only be fired once, producing noise and smoke followed by ricochets exhibiting an exponential decay of effectiveness. Meanwhile, scientific results while also not infinite in quantity have the wonderful property of durability, they don’t wear out, can be cited, repeated over and over, long after the “other side” has exhausted its credibility.

    So this is not as satisfying as watching the development of cosmology or evolution, certainly not, but the ultimate success of the journey is assured. Delays will happen but arrival is a certainty.

  18. paulm says:

    Mapleleaf, thats because the guys running that section on the web are totally skeptical and mischievous.

    I think they have been planted there by higher management who have an agenda to try to keep the ‘balance’ on AGW. You can see this on review of previous posts on the site.

    I have written to the BBC and to the Minister in charge pointing this out before. It is a public organization and is accountability to the UK government.

    I encourage you to write also.

  19. Will Greene says:

    Joe I know how much you admire our president, but please, he must be held accountable by climate experts for his drill baby drill policy. I don’t buy that it is part of a grand compromise. He’s opening up vast stretches of previously protected waters, and will make the announcement at an Air Force Base. And this guys is supposed to be progressive?? Not the man I voted for. I couldn’t care less about health care reform, climate policy is the world’s most effective health care reform. Your thoughts?

  20. climateprogressive says:

    This is certainly a step in the right direction, and I’m glad to see the nonsensical anti-science fantasies that got attached to the “trick” and “hide the decline” phrases have been conspicuously debunked (again).

    As dhogaza says, there’s bound to be agonised cries of “whitewash” just as there were with the Mann enquiry. If only the climate were as transparently predictable as the behavioural patterns of the denialists – you could start work at 9 this morning and be in the pub by six, having confidently predicted exactly what will happen out to 2200 A.D.!

  21. peter whitehead says:

    i’ve just put this on Stumble with tag ‘conservative politics’

  22. neon says:

    I think if you read the findings “exonerated” is a bit strong but no matter this post wont see the light of day here

  23. Dan Olner says:


    And Fred Pearce didn’t waste any time stoking the whitewash meme – what the *hell* happened to the Guardian???

    Doug Bostrom says:
    March 31, 2010 at 12:16 am

    I might add, I see nothing in the Guardian about this. Well past the deadline for tomorrow’s edition in the UK. Perhaps it’s there, but they’re certainly not putting it above the fold…

    Whoops, here it is: environment/ 2010/ mar/ 31/ climate-mails-inquiry-jones-cleared


  24. Berbalang says:

    What I see missing here is the fact that there have been multiple hacks, not just agains CRU. Based on that I would expect a constant barrage of “shocking new evidence” in the form of “leaked information” from other climate research groups that “supports” the claims that the CRU was up to no good. They can keep this up while the hacker’s planned storyline plays out or until the hacker gets unmasked.

  25. Wit's End says:

    Does anyone know why Pearce and Monbiot have been not just critical but sort of vicious? It completely mystifies me.

  26. Stuart says:

    Will @ 19, I think the drilling permits are a nod to the reality of peak oil. I don’t like it, but as cheap oil becomes more scarce it was politically bound to happen.

    I’m not sure why he did it now instead of attaching it to the energy and climate bill where he could have used it as a bone to throw to the Republicans.

  27. SecularAnimist says:

    The deniers will respond to this exactly the way then Alaska governor Sarah Palin responded to a report which found that she had abused the power of her office in violation of Alaska statutes: she held a press conference in which she proclaimed that the report had exonerated her.

    The so-called “right wing” media will simply tell the Ditto-Heads that this report found that global warming is a hoax, and they will slavishly, obediently, unquestioningly believe it — and call themselves “skeptics” for doing so.

  28. J Bowers says:

    The Guardian comments is resplendent with Global Warming Troofers criticising the inquiry’s findings, what a suprise.

    One article that can easily be missed, though, is a survey the Guardian made which I thought would be of interest.

    “Guardian readers say scientists the most trusted group to lead on climate change…

    …A survey of more than 900 readers and users of the Guardian and Observer shows that scientists are the most trusted group to take the lead on climate change, despite the recent high-profile controversy over leaked emails at the University of East Anglia and the discovery of a mistake about melting Himalyan glaciers in the IPCC report.

    …While 84% of those questioned felt that the news media is important to the understanding of climate change, only 1% had most trust in the media to take the lead on this issue.”

  29. Doug Bostrom says:

    Dan Olner says: March 31, 2010 at 9:07 am

    I’ve a horrible feeling Pearce went with a gut reaction to the original highly spun disclosure of the emails and now, just like any normal human, finds it very difficult to climb down from his original position.

    Lovelock’s opinion can be taken as an excellent example of a reflexive and naive response to second hand information. Why should Pearce do any better, or Monbiot?

  30. Tommy says:

    Ps. How will you explain away the arctic ice peaking so late in this ‘warmest ever’ year?

    [JR: Uhh, you ever hear of a thing called science? Try reading NSIDC website.]

  31. dhogaza says:

    Buried on page A11 of today’s NYT is a piece on the committee’s report that’s heavy on the relatively few criticisms, light on the acres of exoneration. Annoying.


    Ps. How will you explain away the arctic ice peaking so late in this ‘warmest ever’ year?

    How about “Congratulations on discovering weather, Tommy”. And, of course, this thin new ice that’s forming at the last minute has led us to an extent that’s *still* below the 1979-2000 average, and that will melt rapidly once the melt season gets underway.

    Also, cryosphere today shows ice area as being totally normal compared to the last two years, where in each case area hit the long-term average briefly in late March before starting to plunge to well below the long-term average… the fact that area is typical while extent appears to be growing might simply be an artifact of the 15% cutoff for “ice free”, i.e. the same area coverage is spread out but enough hasn’t fallen below the 15% cutoff used by NSIDC and IJIS to disappear from the “extent” figure.

  32. Doug Bostrom says:

    Tommy says: March 31, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    “How will you explain away the arctic ice peaking so late in this ‘warmest ever’ year?”

    Ignoring for just a moment that the temperature anomaly over much of the Arctic this year was ridiculously high thus delaying the speed of freezing, areal coverage is yesterday’s news. Try driving a truck across thin ice and you’ll get the picture: the story is in volume, not extent. Folks have already figured that out so you need a better rhetorical tactic, one that still works and even better has some iota of scientific merit and will stand up to more than the briefest scrutiny.

  33. Readers may be interested in this:

    Oral and written evidence

    Thanks to The Rabett for pointing to that one.

  34. Doug Bostrom says:

    Egad, I just read Pearce’s screed, pointed out by Dan Olner:

    Joe Romm, this really deserves its own treatment. Pearce is has assessed his chances for a climbdown, apparently, and has decided he may as well be hung as a wolf, no going back. What a mess:

    “UEA is rightly in deep doo-doo. The MPs find that its information officers colluded with CRU to subvert legitimate freedom of information requests, and “found ways to support” the culture of secrecy.”

    Collude? Subvert? Pearce has joined the impressionist school.

  35. caerbannog says:

    CBS (or is that “See BS”?) news deserves a spanking over this stupid poll:

    When is the mainstream media going to stop conferring false legitimacy on the tinfoil-hat crowd?

  36. Wit's End says:

    As far as ice goes, this young woman’s blog post is a real profile in courage – she and fellow members of the Catlin Arctic expedition team are risking their lives to survey the ice. Truly humbling.

  37. David Gould says:

    Doug Bostrom,

    I hope that you are correct. However, with what happened to the cap and trade legislation here in Australia and with what is happening in the US, I am not sure that there is a clear path to rapid and significant CO2 emission reduction at the moment. Even France has pulled back on legislating as well. Basically, I am a short-term pessimist, long-term optimist in this regard. Something is going to be done. But it will be too late to prevent a fair bit of human and animal suffering.

  38. Deep Climate says:

    Some more here on the exoneration of Phil Jones and CRU, focusing on maverick MP Graham Stringer, who voted against some of the report’s findings.

    “Contrarians took comfort in maverick Labour MP Graham Stringer’s objections to some of the findings. But even here, there is little for the contrarians to cheer about, as Stringer appeared at pains to avoid any appearance of endorsing the plausibility of any of the specific accusations of dishonesty. That’s just as well, because it turns out that Stringer appears to be relying for his understanding of the issues, not on the submitted evidence, but rather – wait for it – the “quickie” book on Climategate written by Steven Mosher and Thomas Fuller.”