Memorandum submitted by the Public Interest
Research Centre (CRU 45)
The Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC) is
a research group, focusing on climate and energy policy. We serve
as a resource for policymakers and the public, drawing on scientific
and technical materials to provide a clear analysis of their public
PIRC welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence.
In particular, we will focus on the implications of the CRU leak
for the integrity of scientific research.
Established in 1972, the Public Interest Research
Centre is an independent charity (Registered No 266446). Our funding
is provided by charitable foundations and individual donations.
We do not receive any corporate or government funding.
1. Phil Jones' frequently cited proposal
to employ "Mike's nature trick" to "hide the decline"
does not refer to any attempt to literally conceal information,
or decline in the established temperature record.
2. This decline refers not to the temperature
record, but to one paleo-climate record derived from tree-rings
beyond the 1960s, universally recognized as divergent from established,
directly observed late-20th century temperature records. Jones
was preparing a reliable long-term temperature reconstruction
for the World Meteorological Organisation, combining earlier tree-ring
data with late 20th century temperature records. As the Pew Centre
on Global Climate Change note,
"It cannot be said that Jones was literally
hiding this fact because two years before he wrote this email
he was a co-author on the first paper to document this "divergence"
issue. That paper, published in Nature in February of 1998,
concluded publicly that these post-1960 tree ring data produce
inaccurate temperature estimates".
3. This background information is referenced
in the WMO reconstruction to which Jones was contributing.
It is thus clear that none of this information was hidden. The
word "trick" occurs frequently across the scientific
literature, employed to mean essentially a statistical device,
mechanism or "clever thing to do" in handling data.
4. Remarks concerning our inability to explain
the apparent recent slowdown in rising temperatures refer to the
details and complexities of tracking energy flows in the earth
system, not whether climate change has stopped.
5. In another much-cited email, Dr Kevin
Trenberth notes the "travesty" of being unable to explain
very recent, short-term variabilities in the overall global temperature
This opinion is not simply privately expressed here, but offered
alongside a reference to a publicly available, published paper
on the issue.
The idea that "private doubts" have been concealed from
the public is therefore entirely without foundation.
6. In this paper Trenberth "unequivocally"
backs the scientific consensus on climate change.
The issue he raises concerns nuancesin particular, short-term
temperature variabilitiesin this overall picture. Trenberth's
area of study centres around the tracking of energy flows into
and out of the climate system. His comment concerns the fact that,
in his words "[t]he observing system we have is inadequate"
in the difficult and important task of accounting for the complexities
in the various mechanisms by which the earth system absorbs and
releases heatwithin the overall context of man-made climate
7. Trenberth wrote in a public statement:
"It is amazing to see this particular quote
lambasted so often. It stems from a paper I published this year
bemoaning our inability to effectively monitor the energy flows
associated with short-term climate variability. It is quite clear
from the paper that I was not questioning the link between anthropogenic
greenhouse gas emissions and warming, or even suggesting that
recent temperatures are unusual in the context of short-term natural
8. The structure of the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) precludes individual scientists'
"keep[ing] out" material or "redefine[ing] peer-review"
in preparing reportsand the IPCC process was demonstrably
not manipulated in this way.
9. In one email, Phil Jones appears to suggest
that he and another scientist will endeavour to deliberately "keep
out" two papers from the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report.
This is undoubtedly an ill-advised remark, but must be considered
in context. The comment was made in private correspondence, in
which frivolous or semi-serious comments can be made in haste.
Climate scientist Michael Mann comments, "No-one gets to
redefine what peer reviewed" means, and the exclamation point
underlines the fact that this was hyperbole."
10. The exclusion of these papers demonstrably
did not happen: these (highly contentious) papers were discussed
in the IPCC report, the IPCC process precluding any such attempt
at manipulation by individual scientists. As the Pew Centre note:
"when writing their individual research
papers, scientists are free to choose which published papers to
cite based on their own judgment, and it is not standard practice
to cite all relevant publications, since many are redundant and
some lack credibility. In this case, the authors were contemplating
the refusal to cite two discredited papers in the IPCC Fourth
Assessment Report. In the end, since IPCC reports are more inclusive
and comprehensive than individual research papers, both of the
suspect papers were cited and discussed (p 466 of the Working
Group I report cites Soon and Baliunas, 2003 and McIntyre &
McKitrick, 2003; http://www.ipcc.ch/ pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter6.pdf)."
11. In considering this remark, the Committee
must take into account these relevant mitigating factors. Its
context raises doubts as to the seriousness with which it was
made. These doubts are reinforced by the IPCC processes themselves,
which are not susceptible to such manipulation, and by the fact
that no evidence of wrongdoing was revealed.
12. Proposals by senior scientistsdiscussed
as an optionto exclude flawed material from peer-reviewed
journals represent a legitimate extension of the peer-review process
in extraordinary circumstances.
13. As Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt note,
despite its importance as an authenticating and legitimating mechanism
for scientific material, peer-review is not infallible, and can
"Put simply, peer review is supposed to
weed out poor science. However, it is not foolproofa deeply
flawed paper can end up being published under a number of different
potential circumstances: (i) the work is submitted to a journal
outside the relevant field (eg a paper on paleoclimate submitted
to a social science journal) where the reviewers are likely to
be chosen from a pool of individuals lacking the expertise to
properly review the paper, (ii) too few or too unqualified a set
of reviewers are chosen by the editor, (iii) the reviewers or
editor (or both) have agendas, and overlook flaws that invalidate
the paper's conclusions, and (iv) the journal may process and
publish so many papers that individual manuscripts occasionally
do not get the editorial attention they deserve.
"Thus, while un-peer-reviewed claims should
not be given much credence, just because a particular paper has
passed through peer review does not absolutely insure that the
conclusions are correct or scientifically valid."
14. It is clear that the concern discussed
in the emails is that two journalsClimate Research and
Geophysical Research Lettersare publishing material
that is "deeply flawed", "crap"; "crap
science", in each case apparently on account of an editorial
The scientists discuss various solutions: writing rebuttals in
the journals; sending a letter of protest, signed by a large number
of distinguished scientists, to the publishers, expressing their
loss of faith in the journal's conduct; bypassing the publication
altogether; or gathering and presenting "a clear body of
evidence" of the editorial agenda compromising the publication.
As the Pew Centre note:
"To interpret this correspondence in proper
context, one must recognize that science is a community-based
professional enterprise. It is expected and appropriate that investigators
choose in which journals to publish and recommend to their peers
in which journals to publish or not publish. The notion of organizing
a boycott against any journal that repeatedly departs from accepted
scientific standards is both reasonable and ethical."
15. Any attempt to exclude material evidently
held to be flawed from leading journals must be compared with
routine decisions by editors and reviewers to reject publication
of material. Rather than an attempt at "suppression",
this seems simply to have been an attempt to uphold the integrity
of peer-reviewan important but not infallible processin
16. Guardian journalist Fred Pearce
raises concerns that the putative independence and anonymity of
the peer-review process was compromised in some cases.
Mann suggests this is misleading:
"An editor often asks the scientists being
criticised to review a new submission critical of their work.
This is in fact expected behaviour since it often allows any misunderstandings
or misinterpretations to be resolved ahead of time. It does not
imply that the criticised authors have veto power over criticism.
The role of the editor is explicitly there to adjudicate these
issues and obviously will take into account potential conflicts
before making decisions based on *all* of the reviews. The problems
most often arisesuch as in Soon and Baliunas (2003) or
McIntryre and McKitirck (2003;2005) when the criticised authors
are not involved at all."
17. Unjustifiable attempts appear to have
been made to withhold or prevent the release of information, in
the context of: (a) a campaign of harassment, misrepresentation
and vilification by a major industry-backed lobby; (b) CRU's contractual
obligations to keep some data out of the public domain.
18. Some emails suggest attempts to keep
scientific data out of the public domain, and possibly to delete
emails either in anticipation of or response to FOI requests.
While such behaviour is unjustifiable, the emails concerned contain
evidence of the overarching context of these remarks: the concerted
campaign of harassment, misrepresentation and vilification to
which the scientists were exposed. As Phil Jones says in one of
the emails concerned, "As an aside and just between us, it
seems that Brian Hoskins has withdrawn himself from the WG1 [Working
Group 1 of the IPCC] Lead nominations. It seems he doesn't want
to have to deal with this hassle."
NCAR's Caspar Amman wrote in one email: "Oh MAN! will this
crap ever end??"
Gavin Schmidt writes in one email of the way FOI requests were
used to harass scientists:
"The contrarians have found that there is
actually no limit to what you can ask people for (raw data, intermediate
steps, additional calculations, residuals, sensitivity calculations,
all the code, a workable version of the code on any platform etc),
and like Somali pirates they have found that once someone has
paid up, they can always shake them down again."
19. One FOI submission to the UEA by Climate
Audit contained the following paragraph:
"I hereby make a EIR/FOI request in respect
to any confidentiality agreements) restricting transmission of
CRUTEM data to non-academics involing the following countries:
[insert five or so countries that are different from ones already
requested 1]" (emphasis added).
20. The request, clearly designed to generate
repeated FOI submissions, was treated as vexatious and turned
21. Nature blogger Olive Heffernan
"Between 24 July and 29 July of this year,
CRU received 58 freedom of information act requests from McIntyre
and people affiliated with Climate Audit. In the past month, the
UK Met Office, which receives a cleaned-up version of the raw
data from CRU, has received ten requests of its own."
22. John Houghton, former co-chair of the
IPCC told the BBC that information was routinely leaked and manipulated
in the public domain by a critical fossil fuel industry lobby
to undermine the IPCC:
"Professor Houghton said that in future
it would be wise to offer the IPCC protection from harassment
in its work. `IPCC meetings were open to allincluding (representatives)
from organisations such as [fossil fuel industry lobbying coalition]
the Global Climate Coalition whose clear agenda was to weaken
our work and our conclusions.
A particular way they continually did this was
to publish selected provisional material from the IPCC process,
for example draft chapters or contributions not meant for publication,
and used this to discredit the IPCC and the process.
For people being targeted, it is very difficult
to be completely open when provisional material emerging during
the process is being used as stick to beat the scientists with'."
23. This does not excuse failures to adhere
to the openness that robust scientific practice demands, or apparent
attempts to circumvent FOI requests, but helps explain whyabsent
malicious or conspiratorial motivesinformation was withheld.
24. As the Pew Centre note, the CRU had
contractual obligations to keep some data privateproblematic
in terms of transparency, but fundamentally an institutional problem:
"The CRU is barred by non-publication agreements
with some countries' meteorological services from releasing to
the public a small amount (less than 5%) of the weather station
data the CRU uses to estimate landp-surface temperature trends.
The university has confirmed that the CRU is legally barred from
releasing these data. A few commentators have used this situation
as a basis for accusing the CRU of suppressing data."
25. Gavin Schmidt notes:
"From the date of the first FOI request
to CRU (in 2007), it has been made abundantly clear that the main
impediment to releasing the whole CRU archive is the small % of
it that was given to CRU on the understanding it wouldn't be passed
on to third parties. Those restrictions are in place because of
the originating organisations (the various National Met Services)
around the world and are not CRU's to break. As of 13 November,
the response to the umpteenth FOI request for the same data met
with exactly the same response. This is an unfortunate situation,
and pressure should be brought to bear on the National Met Services
to release CRU from that obligation. It is not however the fault
26. In investigating CRU's responses to
FOI requests, the Committee must determine whether such requests
represented a pernicious form of harassment through unreasonable,
time-consuming requests for extraordinary quantities of data;
and whether information was withheld due to contractual obligations.
27. No relevant evidence or data has had
to undergo a correction or been found to be wrong as a result
of the affair.
28. As Myles Allen, head of the Climate
Dynamics group at Oxford, has commented, the CRU leak leaves us
"without any evidence that any number, anywhere, is actually
"If it could be proved that figures had
been deliberately altered to give a specific result then it would
be very serious, but so far no evidence has emerged from these
Climatic Research Unit (CRU) emails of any error in the HadCRUT
instrumental temperature record at the centre of the row, never
mind proof of deliberate intent to mislead ..."
29. Fred Pearce's investigation for the
Guardian has substantiated this: none of the emails indicates
extant erroneous information in the scientific literature requires
30. The data sets and scientific literature
the emails discuss represent a small portion of the scientific
evidence supporting anthropogenic climate change. The flaws and
compromises widely alleged are insufficient to seriously undermine
31. As Nature note:
"Nothing in the e-mails undermines the scientific
case that global warming is realor that human activities
are almost certainly the cause. That case is supported by multiple,
robust lines of evidence, including several that are completely
independent of the climate reconstructions debated in the e-mails."
32. The Pew Centre explain:
"The two data sets highlighted in accusations
of misconduct are very limited and consist of:
High-latitude tree ring data that inaccurately
suggest that local temperatures declined after 1960; thermometer
readings from the same locations demonstrate that the tree rings
accurately reflected local temperatures prior to, but not after
A small fraction of the weather station
data used by the CRU to estimate global surface temperature change
"The key point is that those data that comprise
the most important evidence for human-induced climate change are
not in play in the emails, including those documenting:
surface temperature records maintained
in the U.S. (NASA, NOAA);
upper and lower atmospheric temperatures
monitored by satellites;
atmospheric water vapor;
"As a result, the evidence for rapid warming
of the Earth in recent decades remains unequivocal, including:
Worldwide loss of snow and ice.
Records of rising global surface temperatures
maintained in the U.S. by NASA and NOAA.
"Further, the evidence for human dominance
of recent warming remains very strong, including:
Concomitant warming of the troposphere
and cooling of the stratosphere (a greenhouse effect signature).
Without the strong warming effect of
human-induced rise in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations,
the observed changes in solar activity over the past several decades
would have led to a slight cooling of the Earth's surface.
Climate models only reproduce the warming
of the past 50 years when they include the observed rise in atmospheric
greenhouse gas concentrations."
33. In conclusion, whilst this affair certainly
merits further investigation, the media's allegations of wrongdoing
have been decontextualised and seriously exaggerated.
Email from Tom Wigley to colleagues, 24 April 2003.
60 Email from Phil Jones to colleagues, 16 November
1999. Available at: Back
Analysis of the Emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic
Research Unit, Pew Centre on Global Climate Change report, December
2009. Available at: http://www.pewclimate.org/science/university-east-anglia-cru-hacked-emails-analysis. Back
"CRU update 2", 24 November 2009. Available at Back
Email from Kevin Trenberth to colleagues, 12 October 2009. Available
Kevin Trenberth, "An imperative for climate change planning:
tracking Earth's global energy", Current Opinion in Environmental
Sustainability, Vol 1, pp 19-27; doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2009.06.001.
Available at: http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/Trenberth/trenberth.papers/EnergyDiagnostics09final2.pdf Back
Peter Sinclair, "Climate Crock Sacks Hack Attack Part 1".
Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P70SlEqX7oY Back
Kevin Trenberth, "Statement: Kevin Trenberth on Hacking of
Climate Files". Available at: http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/Trenberth/statement.html Back
Email from Phil Jones to colleagues, July 8 2004. Available at: Back
Correspondence with Michael Mann, February 2010. Back
Pew Centre, op cit. Back
"Peer review: a necessary but not sufficient condition",
Realclimate, 20 January 2005. Available at: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/01/peer-review-a-necessary-but-not-sufficient-condition/ Back
Email from Michael Mann to colleagues. Available at: Back
Pew Centre, op cit. Back
Fred Pearce, "Emails reveal strenuous efforts by climate
scientists to `censor' their critics", Guardian, 9
February 2010. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/09/peer-review-block-scientific-papers Back
Correspondence with Michael Mann, February 2010. Back
Email from Phil Jones to colleagues, 20 August 2008. Available
at: http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=914 Back
Email from Caspar Amman to colleagues. Available at: http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=887 Back
Email from Gavin Schmidt to colleagues. Available at: http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?eid=939 Back
"McIntyre versus Jones: climate data row escalates",
Climate Feedback, 12 August 2009. Available at: Back
"Harrabin's Notes: Debating the IPCC", BBC Online. Available
at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8387365.stm Back
Pew Centre, op cit. Back
Gavin Schmidt, "The CRU Hack: Context", Realclimate,
23 November 2009. Available online at: Back
Myles Allen, "Science forgotten in climate emails fuss",
Guardian, 11 December 2009. Available online at: Back
"Climatologists Under Pressure", op cit. Back
Pew Centre, op cit. Back