1. On Friday 20 November 2009 it was reported across
the world that hackers had targeted a "leading climate research
unit" and that
e-mails from the University of East Anglia's (UEA) Climatic Research
Unit (CRU), one of the world's foremost centres of climate science,
had been published in the internet.
The story of the substantial file of private e-mails, documents
and data that had been leaked helped ignite the global warming
debate in the run up to the Copenhagen climate change conference
in December 2009. As reported by the press, exchanges on the internet
alleged that data had been manipulated or deleted, in order to
support evidence on global warming.
The Climatic Research Unit at
2. UEA was founded in 1963 and in 1972 UEA established
CRU. CRU's website describes
the Unit as being "widely
recognised as one of the world's leading institutions concerned
with the study of natural and anthropogenic [human caused] climate
change". CRU has
a staff of around thirty research scientists and students.
But as we heard in oral evidence, it is in fact "a very small
Unit [with only] three full-time members of academic staff".
3. CRU has developed a number of the datasets widely
used in climate research, including the global temperature record
used to monitor the state of the climate system, as well as statistical
software packages and climate models. In its written submission
to the inquiry UEA outlined CRU's "pioneering role"
in the science of understanding the world's changing climate.
CRU's contributions included the compilation of a global land
temperature record and the development of increasingly sophisticated
methods by which to represent the average temperature of the globe
and changes in that average over time.
Professor Edward Acton, the Vice-Chancellor of UEA, indicated
that he was "immensely proud of what they have done; [as]
without them humanity would be vastly less able to understand
THE DISCLOSURE OF CLIMATE DATA
4. In mid November 2009 it appeared that a server
used by CRU had been accessed with 160 MB of data containing more
than 1,000 e-mails and 3,000 other documents being copied.
A UEA spokeswoman confirmed that the information was not available
on a server that could be easily accessed and could not have been
It is not known exactly when the breach occurred; the RealClimate
website, "a commentary site on climate science by working
climate scientists for the interested public and journalists",
indicated that UEA had been notified of the possible security
breach on 17 November.
The following was posted anonymously on the climate-sceptic blog,
The Air Vent:
November 17, 2009 at 9:57 pm
We feel that climate science is, in the current
situation, too important to be kept under wraps.
We hereby release a random selection of correspondence,
code, and documents.
Hopefully it will give some insight into the science and the people
From here the debate was "blown wide open".
The Guardian ran the story on 20 November with the headline:
"Climate sceptics claim leaked e-mails are evidence of collusion
5. UEA issued a statement on 20 November: "This
information has been obtained and published without our permission
and we took immediate action to remove the server in question
from operation. We are undertaking a thorough internal investigation
and we have involved the police in this inquiry."
The e-mails contained technical and routine aspects of climate
research, including data analysis and details of scientific conferences.
The controversy has focused on a small number of e-mails, particularly
those sent to, or written by, climatologist Professor Phil Jones,
the Director of CRU.
6. Condemnation of alleged malpractices found within
the leaked CRU e-mails was quickly disseminated on the internet.
Contributors to climate change debate websites and written submissions
to us claimed that these e-mails showed a deliberate and systematic
attempt by leading climate scientists to manipulate climate data,
arbitrarily adjusting and "cherry-picking" data that
supported their global warming claims and deleting adverse data
that questioned their theories.
It was alleged that UEA may not have complied with the requirements
of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, that inappropriate statistical
methods and defective computer programmes may have been used to
analyse data and that CRU may have attempted to abuse the process
of peer review to prevent the publication of research papers with
conflicting opinions about climate change.
7. In a statement released on 24 November, Professor
Trevor Davies, UEA pro-Vice-Chancellor with responsibility for
research, rejected calls for Professor Jones's resignation: "We
see no reason for Professor Jones to resign and, indeed, we would
not accept his resignation. He is a valued and important scientist."
He also contested several of the claims of malpractice: "It
is well known within the scientific community and particularly
those who are sceptical of climate change that over 95% of the
raw station data has been accessible through the Global Historical
Climatology Network for several years. We are quite clearly not
hiding information which seems to be the speculation on some blogs
and by some media commentators". He added:
There is nothing in the stolen material which indicates
that peer-reviewed publications by CRU, and others, on the nature
of global warming and related climate change are not of the highest-quality
of scientific investigation and interpretation. CRU's peer-reviewed
publications are consistent with, and have contributed to, the
overwhelming scientific consensus that the climate is being strongly
influenced by human activity.
8. On 1 December, Professor Jones announced that
he would step aside from the Director's role during the course
of the independent review.
THE INDEPENDENT INQUIRIES SET UP
9. On 3 December UEA announced that an independent
reviewthe Independent Climate Change Email Reviewinto
the allegations made against CRU would be carried out by Sir Muir
Acton explained in a letter to us why Sir Muir was chosen to head
Sir Muir is extremely experienced in public life,
has an understanding of the conduct of universities and research,
and is entirely independent of any association with this University
and with the climate change debate.
10. Alongside the Independent Climate Change E-Mails
Review, UEA decided on a separate scientific assessment of CRU's
key scientific publications; an external reappraisal of the science
itself. The Royal Society agreed to assist UEA in identifying
assessors with the requisite experience, standing and independence.
UEA announced on 22 March that Lord Oxburgh FRS would "chair
an independent Scientific Assessment Panel to examine important
elements of the published science of the Climatic Research Unit
(CRU) at the University of East Anglia".
11. We were concerned by the press reports and on
1 December 2009 the Chair of the Committee wrote to the Vice-Chancellor
of UEA. The letter explained that we took a close interest in
academic integrity and the systems in place to ensure the quality
of evidence from research and evidence-based policy making. The
letter requested a note on the recent events setting out:
a) what had taken place;
b) the steps that had been taken to investigate
the allegations and to test the integrity of the data held and
used by CRU;
c) how CRU justified its commitment to academic
d) how the Vice-Chancellor proposed to restore
confidence in CRU and its handling of data.
We also asked for an assurance that none of the data
referred to in the e-mails that had been publicised had been destroyed.
12. UEA replied on 10 December 2009. It explained
that "a significant amount of material including emails and
documents appears to have been accessed illegally from a back-up
server in CRU and downloaded in whole, or possibly in part, on
to the RealClimate website."
This incident was the subject of a police enquiry and the Norfolk
Constabulary investigation was expected to take some time. UEA
was keen to stress that this "episode is being treated very
seriously" and announced that it had set up the independent
inquiry, headed by Sir Muir Russell, to investigate the allegations
against CRU. UEA said that "none of the adjusted station
data referred to in the emails that have been published has been
13. In the light of the gravity of the allegations
against CRU, the growing weight of damaging press coverage, on-going
concerns about the deletion of data and the serious implications
for UK science we decided to hold an inquiry into the disclosure
of the data at CRU. On 22 January 2010 we therefore announced
the inquiry inviting submissions on three key issues:
were the implications of the disclosures for the integrity of
· Were the terms
of reference and scope of the Independent Review announced on
3 December 2009 by UEA adequate?
· How independent
were the other two international data sets (see paragraph 23)?
14. If there had been more time available before
the end of this Parliament we would have preferred to carry out
a wider inquiry into the science of global warming itself. In
response to enquiries we issued a statement on 1 February making
it clear that the inquiry would focus on the terms of reference
announced on 22 January and that this was not an inquiry into
15. We set a deadline of 10 February for the submission
of memoranda and we have received 58 submissions, not including
supplementary memoranda. We held one oral evidence session on
1 March, when we took evidence from five panels:
a) Rt Hon Lord Lawson of Blaby, Chairman, and
Dr Benny Peiser, Director, Global Warming Policy Foundation;
b) Richard Thomas CBE, former Information Commissioner;
c) Professor Edward Acton, Vice-Chancellor, UEA
and Professor Phil Jones, Director of CRU;
d) Sir Muir Russell, Head of the Independent
Climate Change E-Mails Review; and
e) Professor John Beddington, Government Chief
Scientific Adviser, Professor Julia Slingo OBE, Chief Scientist,
Met Office, and Professor Bob Watson, Chief Scientist, Department
for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
16. We would like to thank everyone who contributed
to the inquiry through written submissions or oral evidence. We
also received unsolicited copies of a number of books challenging
anthropogenic global warming and reviewing events at CRU and the
17. In the time left before the end of this Parliament
we will not be able to cover all the issues raised by the events
at UEA, nor cover all the ground that would be covered by the
Independent Climate Change Email Review and the Scientific Appraisal
Panel. We have therefore concentrated on what we believe to be
key issues. Of central concern is the accuracy and availability
of CRU's data, datasets and computer programming, which we address
in Chapter 2 of this Report; and related to the data and methodology
is the question of access, or the withholding of access, under
the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which we cover in Chapter
3. Finally, in Chapter 4 we comment on the independent reviews
that UEA has announced.
1 "Hackers target leading climate research unit",
BBC News website, 20 November 2009 news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8370282.stm Back
For example: "Hacked E-Mail Is New Fodder for Climate Dispute",
New York Times website, 21 November 2009 www.nytimes.com/2009/11/21/science/earth/21climate.html?_r=4
and "Hackers leak emails, stoking climate debate", Sydney
Morning Herald website, 23 November 2009, www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/hackers-leak-emails-stoking-climate-debate-20091123-iu6u.html Back
Ev 17, paras 1.2 and 1.5 Back
"About the Climatic Research Unit", CRU website, www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/about/ Back
As above Back
Q 92 Back
Ev 17, paras 1.5-1.6 Back
Q 152 Back
RealClimate website archive, November 2009, www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack Back
"Scotland Yard call in to probe climate data leak from UEA
in Norwich", Norwich Evening News, 1 December 2009
RealClimate website 'about' page, www.realclimate.org Back
RealClimate website archive, November 2009, www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/11/the-cru-hack;
the data may have been downloaded on to the RealClimate-see paragraph
The Air Vent website, November 2009 archive, noconsensus.wordpress.com/2009/11/page/3/
As above Back
"Climate sceptics claim leaked emails are evidence of collusion
among scientists", The Guardian, 20 November 2009
"Sceptics publish climate e-mails 'stolen from East Anglia
University'", The Times, 21 November 2009 Back
For examples see Ev 85 [Roger Helmer MEP], Ev 92 [Godfrey Bloom
MEP], and Ev 144 [Stephen McIntyre] Back
For examples see Ev 90 [Phillip Bratby]; Ev 115 [David Holland],
para 2; Ev 144 [Stephen McIntyre]; Ev 194 [Peabody Energy Company],
para 24. Back
"Climate scientist at centre of leaked email row dismisses
conspiracy claims", The Guardian, 24 November 2009 Back
UEA, "CRU update 2", 24 November 2009, www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/2009/nov/CRUupdate Back
UEA, "CRU update 3", 1 December 2009, www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/2009/nov/CRUupdate Back
"Sir Muir Russell to head the Independent Review into the
allegations against the Climatic Research Unit (CRU)", UEA
Press Release, 3 December 2009, www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/2009/dec/CRUreview Back
Ev 16 Back
Ev 18, para 2.3 Back
"CRU Scientific Assessment Panel announced", UEA Press
Release, 22 March 2010, www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/CRUstatements/SAPannounce Back
House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Press Notice
04, 7 December 2009, Session 2009-10 Back
Ev 16 Back
Ev 17 Back
House of Commons Science and Technology Committee Press Notice
11, 1 February 2010, Session 2009-10 Back
The Committee received the following books:
Christopher Booker, The Real Global Warming Disaster, Continuum,
A.W. Montford, The Hockey Stick Illusion, Stacey International,
Steven Mosher and Tom Fuller, Climategate, St Matthew Publishing,
Ian Plimer, Heaven and Earth, Quartet Books Limited, 2009 Back