University to probe possible climate data bias

A university in the U.K. said Thursday it would investigate whether researchers at the Climatic Research Unit suppressed data that didn't support climate change.

A university in the U.K. said Thursday it would investigate whether researchers at the Climatic Research Unit suppressed data that didn't support climate change.

Thousands of private emails of British and U.S. scientists were stolen from the unit's server at the University of East Anglia late last month.

The hackers posted some of the emails online and climate change skeptics say they show some of the scientists have overstated the threat of man-made global warming.

Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit, stepped down Tuesday pending an investigation into the emails.

The university promised an investigation Tuesday, but didn't say what it would entail. The announcement on Thursday was the first time the school acknowledged the data itself would be probed.

In a statement, the university said the review will examine the emails and data "to determine whether there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice."

The University of East Anglia has asked inquiry head Muir Russel to complete the review by the spring.

Those who deny that climate change exists or that it is the result of human activity have dubbed the scandal "Climategate."  

"What we see here is a complete breach of all scientific disciplines and honesty," said Christopher Booker, an author and newspaper columnist on climate change skepticism.

"I mean, they've been fiddling the data," he said. "It's a fraud."

Climate change researchers, like Bob Ward at the London School of Economics, say the emails have caused confusion among the public, but the basic science behind climate change is sound.

"You increase the concentration of greenhouse gases, the earth warms. That's basic physics, and nothing in these emails has changed that," said Ward.

Ward said the online publication of the stolen emails has created a problem for climate scientists and politicians.

"It's certainly created the impression that there might be some questions about research misconduct. And that's why we need an investigation to thoroughly look into this," said Ward.

Ward said the emails were likely posted online in anticipation of the Copenhagan climate talks next week.

Meanwhile, Canada's Environment Minister Jim Prentice told The Canadian Press that international researchers at the heart of the controversy might have been targeting Canada as a climate laggard.

"The counter-point to some of my positions had been offered by individuals from the University of East Anglia," Prentice said, "and it made me wonder after the fact just what has been going on at the University of East Anglia and what the motivations were in terms of offering positions on public policy here in Canada."

But the environment minister stressed that the controversy over the emails does not change his belief in the science of climate change.

"You can't start to gerrymander science, and you can't start to achieve science by consensus or it's no longer science. It becomes orthodoxy, or something else."

With files from The Associated Press