SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Leading climate scientists on Thursday welcomed a British report that cleared researchers of exaggerating the effects of global warming and said they hoped it would restore faith in the fight against climate change.
The University of East Anglia, in eastern England, launched an inquiry after more than 1,000 emails hacked from its climate research unit were put on the Internet.
Climate change skeptics leaped on the "climategate" emails as evidence scientists had exaggerated or lied about man's role in global warming, leading to a surge in cyber and media attacks on climate scientists.
The emails were leaked just before last December's major U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen and helped sour the public's belief in the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions blamed for heating up the planet.
Scientists said the emails, covering 13 years and more than 160 authors, were taken out of context by skeptics to boost their arguments that climate change was a hoax.
Many governments quickly stepped in to support the science of climate change because public sentiment about global warming is crucial to crafting policies that will lead to trillions of dollars being spent to green the global economy.
The third and most comprehensive investigation into the emails, led by former civil servant Muir Russell, defended the integrity of the university's Climatic Research Unit, or CRU.
It also said the emails contained nothing to overturn the case for manmade global warming put forward by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"In essence, the review found no evidence to support any of the vociferous claims by climate change deniers that challenge the honesty, rigor and professionalism of the CRU scientists," said Will Steffen, executive director of the ANU Climate Change Institute in Canberra, Australia.
The Muir inquiry did criticize the scientists for their lack of openness and said some of their data was misleading.
Two of the most contentious parts of the emails were the phrases "hide the decline" and "trick," seen as evidence by skeptics of an attempt to massage data.
This related to temperature data used in a graph for a 1999 World Meteorological Organization report. The inquiry found the figure supplied for the report was misleading because the scientists had not fully explained how some of the data had been used.
Overall, though, the honesty of the scientists was not in doubt, the report concluded.
"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," Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist at the UK Met Office, said in a statement.
But she also pointed to the need for climate science to be subject to the closest scrutiny given climate change's huge implications for society and economies.
Michael Mann, one of the main scientists attacked over the climategate emails, also welcomed the findings.
"It is my hope that we can now put this bogus, manufactured scandal behind us and move on to a more constructive conversation about climate change," said Mann, of Pennsylvania State University, in an email statement.
Additional reporting by Peter Griffiths in London; Editing by Nick Macfie