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“Climategate scientists cleared of wrongdoing” read the headline in yesterday’s Post. Who expected anything else? The two self-inquiries launched by the University of East Anglia into its Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were always destined to produce whitewashes, as did a recent UK parliamentary inquiry, and as will an “independent” review by the UN.

The first of the UEA reports, from a committee headed by ardent warmist and anti-carbon profiteer Lord Oxburgh, appeared this week. As Lawrence Solomon points out elsewhere on this page, the choice of Lord Oxburgh indicated that the fix was always in for an inquiry which fails to address, let alone probe, most of the major issues. And yet there is a mountain of condemnation-by-faint-exoneration between the lines of the report’s ridiculously slim five pages.

Its attempt to present CRU head Phil Jones, and his beleaguered band, as unworldly boffins who were blindsided by all this attention is ridiculous. The report claims that it found a “small group of dedicated if slightly disorganised researchers.” The key question is: dedicated to what? Certainly, they weren’t expecting to be outed quite so spectacularly, but to paint them as innocents in the big bad world of climate realpolitik is nonsense.

After reviewing a cherry-picked group of eleven CRU studies, the report gently raps the knuckles of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, for failing to note the reservations that CRU researchers so assiduously attached to their peer-reviewed work. “All of the published work was accompanied by detailed descriptions of uncertainties and accompanied by appropriate caveats,” notes the report.

Global warming alarmists relentlessly chant that there is scientific “consensus” that the “science is settled.” Yet now we are told that somehow the main body for promoting the climate change agenda “neglected” to tell the world that the science wasn’t settled. What we are not told is that the scientists who removed the caveats in the IPCC reports were lead IPCC authors Mr. Jones and his CRU colleague Keith Briffa!

The CRU is concerned with temperature data. Indeed it is one of the principal sources for claims that the earth warmed alarmingly in the 20th century after 900 years of alleged climatic calm (Medieval Warm Period? Little Ice Age? Never happened).

Data from the distant past is reconstructed from problematic “proxies” such as tree rings; but even assembling readings for more recent periods is difficult due to the thin coverage of weather stations and, more seriously, to the impact of the “urban heat island effect” on readings from stations where development has encroached. There, temperature increases may be due to traffic, tarmac and local barbecues rather than global climate.

The CRU’s data has appeared in two forms: raw and cooked. Much of the raw variety, unfortunately, has been “lost.” This is treated by the review as infinitely excusable due to the pressures of the academic life. You know, tedious admin meetings, the pressure to publish, the need to get in those applications for multi-million dollar grants attached to proving man-made global warming. But how can ditching the fundamental data on which your science depends be dubbed mere carelessness with “non-essential record keeping?”

As for the cooked data, the CRU has been accused of “manipulation” not in the legitimate statistical sense, so that different data sets may be comparable, but in support of the results required by government-funded, highly politicized science. Without data suggesting rising temperatures due to anthropogenic emissions, there would be no justification for massive global programs such as cap-and-trade, redistributionist “clean development,” or the hefty subsidization of alternative energy.

The CRU is also gently fingered for its lack of statistical sophistication. As the report admits, “It is regrettable that so few professional statisticians have been involved in this work because it is fundamentally statistical.”

But hang on. Draconian global policies have been made on the basis of dodgy data handled by those who are less than expert? This is surely a little more than “regrettable.” If statistics are so important, why didn’t the IPCC make sure the CRU, and itself, had the world’s greatest statistical minds on tap? Could that be because the data and science are there to support the political position rather than guiding it?

The report does dish out some harsh criticisms, but only to the unnamed CRU critics whose “tone” it “deplores.” They presumably refer to the likes of Canadians Steve McIntyre and Ross Mc-Kitrick, whom Lord Oxburgh and his team assiduously avoided. Meanwhile the emphasis on “tone” is farcical, particularly when compared with the kind of anti-skeptic vitriol exposed in the Climategate emails.

According to the report “some of these criticisms show a rather selective and uncharitable approach to information made available by CRU.” So skeptics such as Messrs. McIntyre and McKitrick might have been stonewalled, insulted, undermined and threatened by the CRU cabal, but apparently it was they who should have been more “charitable.”

Lord Oxburgh suggested this week that attacks on the CRU had come from people who do not like the “implications” of their conclusions. If by “implications” he means suicidal and pointless policies, then that might have been the one thing he got right. Otherwise, his report is a travesty.

Financial Post, 16 April 2010