The head of the climate research unit that had its emails hacked and
posted online will step down from his post while an inquiry into the
affair is carried out.
Messages between scientists at the University of East Anglia's
Climatic Research Unit (CRU) were posted on the web last week, and
climate-change deniers seized on them as alleged evidence that
scientists have been hiding and manipulating data to support the idea
that the world is warming up.
Professor Phil Jones, the director
of the CRU, said he stood by the science produced by his researchers
and suggestions of a conspiracy to alter evidence to support a theory
of man-made global warming were "complete rubbish". But he said today
that he would stand aside as director of the unit until an independent
review into the hacked emails had been completed.
"What is most
important is that CRU continues its world-leading research with as
little interruption and diversion as possible," he said. "After a good
deal of consideration I have decided that the best way to achieve this
is by stepping aside from the director's role during the course of the
independent review and am grateful to the university for agreeing to
this. The review process will have my full support."
between researchers at the centre were obtained by hackers and then
published on websites run by climate sceptics. Some argue that the
timing, just before next week's major climate talks in Copenhagen,
seems meant to undermine the negotiations.
Critics of the
argument that global warming is human-induced say the emails show
evidence of collusion by scientists. Some claimed that the contents of
some emails suggested scientists prevented work they did not agree with
from being included in the fourth assessment report of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(IPCC), published in 2007. But earlier this week, Rajendra Pachauri,
the chair of the IPCC, said there was "virtually no possibility" of a
few climate scientists biasing the advice given to governments by the
UN. He said that the large number of contributors and rigorous peer
review mechanism adopted by the IPCC meant that any bias would be
He was responding in particular to one email
from 2004 in which Phil Jones said of two papers he regarded as flawed:
"I can't see either … being in the next [IPCC] report. Kevin
[Trenberth] and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to
redefine what the peer-review literature is!"
"People should be discreet … in this day and age anything you write,
even privately, could become public and to put anything down in writing
is, to say the least, indiscreet … It is another matter to talk about
this to your friends on the telephone or person to person, but to put
it down in writing was indiscreet. If someone was to say something like
this in an IPCC authors' meeting then there are others who would chew
Peter Liss, a specialist in interaction between the
oceans and atmosphere at UEA, will stand in as acting director of the
CRU while the review is conducted. The university's vice-chancellor,
Edward Acton, said: "I have accepted Professor Jones's offer to stand
aside during this period. It is an important step to ensure that CRU
can continue to operate normally and the independent review can conduct
its work into the allegations."
The economist Nick Stern said the
views of those who doubted the scientific consensus that humans are
causing global warming were "muddled and unscientific". He admitted
that all views should be heard, but said the degree of scepticism among
"real scientists" was very small. The evidence for global warming
stretches back more than 800,000 years, he said. "This is evidence that
is overwhelming, from all sources, that's the kind of climate science
we're talking about. I think it is very important that those with any
kind of views on the science or economics have their say - that does
not mean that unscientific muddle also has the right to be recognised
as searing insight."
He added: "If they are muddled and confused,
they do not have the right to be described as anything other than
muddled and confused."
The move received a welcome from many involved in environmental non-government organisations.
leading environmental campaigner said: "It seems like a sensible course
of action – finally, the CRU seem to be getting their public response
in order. But any reading of the emails in context would lead to the
conclusion that nothing untoward happened here at all."