In Chapter 3 of the Independent Climate Change E-mails Review (otherwise known as the Russell Report), which is entitled Terms of Reference and Method of Enquiry, the authors have this to say:

We recognise that natural justice requires that those in respect of whom findings will be made should have an opportunity to be heard: this does not apply to the authors of submissions and other parties, in respect of whom the Review has made no findings.

Report page 23, paragraph 6

This is, of course, complete rubbish. Perhaps the most fundamental requirement of natural justice is that all parties are given a fair hearing. It is inconceivable anywhere that a fair judicial system exists for only one side to be allowed to make written submissions while the other parties are permitted to give evidence in person as well.

In the case of the Russell Inquiry, sceptics who made submissions were not interviewed, while Professor Phil Jones and his colleagues were interviewed, along with other mainstream climate scientists close to the IPCC process like Sir Brian Hoskins and John Mitchell.

Without Steve McIntyre, Ross McKittrick, David Holland and Doug Keenan there would have been no Climategate. It was their persistence in requesting data from the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia that overshadows almost every email that makes up the Climategate files. Indeed they are the subject of many of them. Yet they were not invited to give evidence so that the inquiry panel could ensure that all their concerns were addressed. This must be the essential first step in any genuinely independent review process that could lay claim to independence, let alone the application of natural justice, for far more was at stake in this inquiry than just the reputations of the CRU and its scientists.

For the Russell Inquiry there would seem to have been a two level approach to concern about the reputations of those who would be affected by their report. On the one hand there were climate scientists, for whom adverse findings would have dire consequences in terms of their careers and the credibility of climate science, and on the other hand there were sceptics whose reputations would seem to have been of no concern to the inquiry whatsoever.

The validity of the sceptic’s work, and the allegations that they have made, are equally material to the deliberations of the inquiry as the activities at CRU and the defence offered by those implicated in Climategate. The Russell report’s findings, and the impact that they have, are not limited to the CRU staff who wrote the emails. Exonerating them implies that their accusers were at best wrong, and at worst that they have acted unreasonably or even maliciously. Yet they have not had an equal opportunity to present their case.

The effect of the Russell Inquiry report is to shift blame for a scandal that has had a devastating impact on the image of science from the accused to the accusers, while only giving one side a fair hearing.

Holland and Keenan were maligned in many of the emails, and their activities and integrity criticised, ridiculed, or disparaged. They, like McIntyre and McKittrick, were acting in a private capacity while their detractors were public employees writing emails in the course of their day-to-day work.  Was it really the intention of the Russell Inquiry, and the University of East Anglia who commissioned the report, to skew the proceedings in such a way that those who should be most accountable had an advantage? It certainly looks that way.

I have not finished a detailed examination of the report yet, but it is already clear to me the authors were far more concerned about the reputation of the CRU and its staff than they were about the reputations of those sceptics who have become part of the Climategate scandal.  It seems possible that the panel were following the well-worn line taken by climate alarmists that merely talking to sceptics gives them a prominence and credibility that they do not deserve. If this is the case then the Russell Inquiry was exhibiting a degree of prejudice that makes them unfit for their task, and any claim to have applied the standards of natural justice would be ludicrous. It is also possible that they were concerned that, if they came face to face with the sceptics, then there might be no choice about the issues they would have to consider and the questions that they would have to put to the CRU scientists. Such concerns would reveal a breathtaking degree of cynicism.

The Russell report does concede that, to some extent, the CRU brought the deluge of FOI requests that that they received on themselves. Had they responded willingly to the initial requests for data that they received from sceptics, then their suspicions would not have been aroused. This is a lesson that UEA and their inquiry panel seem not to have learned themselves. Russell’s failure to address the perfectly legitimate issues raised by sceptics will feed and perpetuate suspicions that coat after coat of whitewash is being applied to this problem without any genuine attempt to either establish exactly what was going on at CRU or why it matters.

Of course the Russell inquiry was not a judicial process, but if its organisers are going to lay claim to having applied the same rigorous standards of fairness that would be required if it had been, then they must justify their decision not to allow McIntyre, McKittrick, Holland and Keenan to play an equal part their deliberations in credible terms. It does not seem possible that they can do so. To imply in their report that they are making no findings against the sceptics is disingenuous. Their allegations about malpractice at CRU, and the evidence that they offered to back them up, have been largely rejected. That is a finding, ever bit as much as determining that the CRU’s ‘rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt’ or that ‘we did not find any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of he IPCC assessment’ is a finding.

The only difference between the two findings is that one side of the dispute had a very fair hearing, and the other side was very effectively gagged.

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