However, the review into the “climategate” affair, led by Sir Muir Russell, found the scientists at the University of East Anglia’s world-renowned climatic research unit (CRU) had not been sufficiently open about their studies.
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The row was sparked when 13 years’ worth of e-mails were hacked from the server at the university and posted online. These were seized upon by climate change sceptics, who claimed they provided evidence of scientists manipulating and suppressing data to back up a theory of man-made climate change.
The review also found that a graph referred to in a now infamous e-mail from the centre’s head, Professor Phil Jones, in which he described a “trick” to “hide the decline” in data on temperatures, was misleading because it did not make plain what the scientists had done.
The graph, which showed global temperature rises and was used in a report published in 1999 by the World Meteorological Organisation, did not show temperature data from tree rings once they diverged from actual measurements in the 1960s, falling while real temperatures rose.
The review said it was not misleading to omit part of the tree-ring temperature series but the process should have been made plain in the graph, caption or text.
The investigation cleared the researchers of other allegations levelled at the CRU by sceptics.
These included the suggestion that the e-mails showed researchers were subverting the scientific peer review process to ensure papers with which they disagreed were not published.
The scientists did not misuse the process by which the key international body on climate change prepares its reports on the impacts of global warming for governments, the review found. However, Sir Muir’s inquiry found there was unhelpfulness in the CRU’s response to freedom-of-information requests, and evidence e-mails might have been deleted to make them unavailable for subsequent requests.
The CRU was unhelpful and defensive in response to reasonable requests for information about the weather stations it used to gather the temperature records, the review found.
However, it also found the raw data frequently requested by sceptics from which global land temperatures were calculated was directly available from other sources.
It also found that the “code” to make the calculations could be worked out independently.