Climategate Is Dead, Long Live Climategate

British top-level inquiry clears East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, but damage is done

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The British House of Commons's Science and Technology Committee has issued a report largely clearing the East Anglia Research Unit and its suspended director, Phil Jones, of scientific wrong-doing. Though the development has been widely noted in the elite European press, from France's Le Monde to Britain's Independent, it's received less attention in the U.S. Press. That's regrettable, as the so-called "Climategate" scandal has had the greater impact on American public opinion.

To quote from The Independent's report, the Commons committee found no evidence that Jones had "deliberately withheld or manipulated data in order to support the idea that global warming was real and that it was influenced by human activities." Further, it found nothing "to suggest that the hallowed peer review process had been subverted by Professor Jones, and no reason to question the scientific consensus that global warming is happening and that it is influenced by human activities." In the committee's own words, the "scientific reputation" of Jones and the CRU is "intact."

The report  did take East Anglia to task for withholding information in response to Freedom of Information requests, but it put more of the blame on the university than on the climate unit or Jones, who it said had been "scapegoated" to some extent. It recommended that climate researchers be more open with data and methods in the future.

The parliamentary inquiry prompted by the hacked East Anglia e-mails is but one of several, and so the House of Commons report is not the last word or necessarily the most authoritative word in this matter. But it is surely the most high-level of the inquiries, and so on the face of it, the committee's report should lay Climategate to rest. But will it?

Actually, no. First of all, too much damage has been done by disclosure of messages in which all too many climate researchers are revealed to be suffering from a bunker mentality. If they're supposedly so confident of their assertions, why are they so defensive? Not for a long time will press or public be quite so ready to just accept the word of England's Hadley Center or the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change--and there will be all the more skepticism because of the IPCC's accursed Himalayan glacier errors.

Second, at a time the world is emerging from a recession that almost turned into a great depression, people are looking for reasons to put jobs and prosperity ahead of potentially costly carbon reduction measures. No wonder prospects for U.S. climate legislation are now being declared dead, despite Obama's huge health care victory. And no wonder oil companies are spearheading a California ballot initiative to suspend implementation of its 2006 climate law until until state unemployment drops below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters (from above 12 percent at present).

If the initiative wins the support of most California voters--and why wouldn't it?--that will further cement the state's growing reputation for being absolutely ungovernable. Will it also show that serious government action on climate is unachievable?

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