Climate scientists on Wednesday reacted with relief to the results of a six-month inquiry into the “climategate” e-mails scandal, which found the scientists not guilty of wrongdoing.

The scandal erupted last November when hundreds of emails were leaked from the University of East Anglia’s climatic research unit, some of which were seized on as appearing to show scientists planning to distort certain findings and conceal key data.

The inquiry, headed by Sir Muir Russell, a former civil servant, cleared the scientists who sent the e-mails of any wrongdoing but said they had operated in a culture of secrecy that was harmful to the reputation of climate science.

Julia Slingo, chief scientist at the UK’s Met Office, said: “What is quite clear from this, and earlier inquiries, is that the integrity of the fundamental science of climate change is unquestioned – our climate is changing and we have shown beyond reasonable doubt that humans are in part responsible.”

She added that scientists at the Met Office, which operates one of the world’s leading centres of climate science, were already committed to opening up their data, workings and conclusions to the wider research community and the public.

“We are making data and codes available and we have led an international proposal for a new global daily land surface temperature data set, which has the backing of the World Meteorological Organisation and has open access as its key element,” she said.

Chris Huntingford, of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, added: “While the process following on from the [UEA] e-mail leak has been painful, it is absolutely clear that this new level of accountability should be very much welcomed.”

Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics, attacked the bloggers and climate sceptics who had held up the e-mails as examples of a lack of integrity among climate scientists.

“The reputation of the whole of climate research has been tarnished by speculation over the e-mails, but the inquiry’s findings demonstrate that the integrity of climate science is intact.

“It is now very apparent that many so-called ‘sceptics’ owe a huge apology to the public for having wrongly presented the e-mail messages as evidence that climate change is a hoax carried out by a conspiracy of dishonest scientists,” he said.

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