Scientist at the heart of the ‘Climategate’ email scandal broke the law when they refused to give raw data to the public, the privacy watchdog has ruled.
The Information Commissioner’s office said University of East Anglia researchers breached the Freedom of Information Act when handling requests from climate change sceptics.
But the scientists will escape prosecution because the offences took place more than six months ago.
The London Times has more.
A spokesman for the ICO said: “The legislation prevents us from taking any action but from looking at the emails it’s clear to us a breach has occurred.” Breaches of the act are punishable by an unlimited fine.
The complaint to the ICO was made by David Holland, a retired engineer from Northampton. He had been seeking information to support his theory that the unit broke the IPCC’s rules to discredit sceptic scientists.
In a statement, Graham Smith, Deputy Commissioner at the ICO, said: “The e-mails which are now public reveal that Mr Holland’s requests under the Freedom of Information Act were not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation. Section 77 of the Act makes it an offence for public authorities to act so as to prevent intentionally the disclosure of requested information.”
He added: “The ICO is gathering evidence from this and other time-barred cases to support the case for a change in the law. We will be advising the university about the importance of effective records management and their legal obligations in respect of future requests for information.”
As these stories make clear, several of the scientists whose e-mail and other documents were disclosed engaged in both unethical and illegal conduct. As I’ve said many times, I do not believe this disproves global warming. I still believe the balance of evidence supports the theory that human activity is causing the climate to become warmer than it would otherwise be, and I still believe that the threat of warming justifies a policy response. But the ClimateGate revelations do provide further evidence that many prominent climate scientists have sought to suppress dissent and exaggerate certain warming-related claims.
In related news, new evidence has emerged of breakdowns in the IPCC drafting and review process that resulted in the inclusion of unsubstantiated claims in portions of the IPCC’s latest reports. More on that later.