Penn State professor exonerated in climate-change scandal

| Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011

NEW YORK -- Michael Mann, the Pennsylvania climate-change researcher caught in the flap surrounding e-mails hacked from a U.K. university server, was cleared of wrongdoing by an agency that promotes science.

Finding no "evidence of research misconduct," the Arlington, Va.-based National Science Foundation closed its inquiry into Mann, according to an Aug. 15 report from its inspector general. In February, Penn State University, where Mann is a professor of meteorology, exonerated him of suppressing or falsifying data, deleting e-mails and misusing privileged information.

Skeptics of climate change pointed to the stolen U.K. e-mails, which surfaced in blogs in 2009, as proof that researchers conspired to suppress studies questioning the link between warming and human activity. Last week, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, repeated the charge 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., United States and Switzerland. The University of East Anglia announced the committee and Ron Oxburgh, former head of Shell Transport & Trading Plc and a member of the U.K. House of Lords, was chairman.

"It certainly closes the books on Michael Mann and the e-mails," said Joe Romm, a blogger for the Center for American Progress, an advocacy group with ties to President Obama's administration. "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 discussing his work spoke of a "trick" to "hide the decline," and others suggested deleting correspondence.

NOAA's report, released in February, was requested by U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who called the theory of manmade climate change a hoax. The report found no evidence of "manipulation of data."

Mann was lead author of the first reconstruction of North American 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."

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