Climate-Change Scientist Cleared in Closing of U.S. Data-Altering Inquiry

Michael Mann, a Pennsylvania researcher who’s been a target of climate-change skeptics, was cleared of wrongdoing by U.S. investigators in the flap surrounding e-mails hacked from a U.K. university.

Finding no “evidence of research misconduct,” the Arlington, Virginia-based National Science Foundation closed its inquiry into Mann, according to an Aug. 15 report from the inspector general for the U.S. agency. Pennsylvania State University, where Mann is a professor of meteorology, exonerated him in February of suppressing or falsifying data, deleting e- mails and misusing privileged information.

Climate-change doubters pointed to the stolen U.K. e-mails, which surfaced in blogs in 2009, as proof that researchers conspired to quash studies questioning the link between human activity and warming. Last week, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, renewed the assertion that scientists have “manipulated” data on climate change.

“It was a pretty definitive finding” that the charges “swirling around for over a year” were baseless, Mann said in an interview. “I was very pleased.”

The report confirms findings from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s inspector general and a separate panel of seven scientists based at universities in the U.K., U.S. and Switzerland. The University of East Anglia announced the committee. Ron Oxburgh, the former head of Shell Transport & Trading Plc and a member of the U.K. House of Lords, was chairman.

‘Closes the Books’

“It certainly closes the books on Michael Mann and the e- mails,” Joe Romm, a blogger for the Center for American Progress, an advocacy group with ties to President Barack Obama’s administration, said in an interview. “They found nothing wrong with the science, or any evidence that there was anything wrong with how the scientists went about their work.”

The inquiries focused on the University of East Anglia’s climate-research unit, which stored the poached e-mails on its computer server. The university’s work contributed to some of the key findings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has issued reports that blame rising temperatures on human activity.

E-mails to and from Mann were in the pilfered cache. One message by another scientist discussing Mann’s work spoke of a “trick” used in presenting data to smooth out year-to-year anomalies in climate-change information.

NOAA’s report, released in February, was requested by U.S. Senator James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who called the theory of man-made climate change a hoax. The report found no evidence of “manipulation of data.”

‘Deeply Troubling’

“To say that the scientists have been vindicated is oversimplifying the situation,” Matt Dempsey, a spokesman for Inhofe, said in an interview yesterday. “What was revealed as part of the Climategate scandal was deeply troubling and certainly a setback for climate science.”

A report on the dispute commissioned by the University of East Anglia found that while the honesty and rigor of U.K. scientists weren’t in doubt, they may have deleted e-mails to avoid having to make them public.

“There has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness,” the panel said in July 2010.

Mann was lead author of the first reconstruction of northern-hemisphere warming going back 1,000 years, which showed recent temperatures increasing sharply. The 1998 findings have been confirmed by several studies, Mann said.

“The way you get ahead in science is by proving the other guys wrong,” Mann said. “There is literally no study in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that contradicts our original conclusion.”

Presidential Campaign

Climate change has emerged as an issue in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

“There are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects,” Perry said last week. “I think we’re seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists that are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

Another Republican candidate, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, has said he believes human activity is causing climate change.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jim Efstathiou Jr. in New York at jefstathiou@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net

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