Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

Scientist defends refusal to send data to sceptics

climate change ostrichFirst published: March 3, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

A British researcher at the centre of a row over global warming science has admitted he wrote some “pretty awful” e-mails to sceptics when he was refusing their requests for data.

But Phil Jones, of the University of East Anglia‘s Climatic Research Unit, defended his decision not to release the data about temperatures from around the world, telling a parliamentary hearing it was not “standard practice” to do so.

“I have obviously written some pretty awful e-mails,” Jones told lawmakers on Monday in response to a question about a message he sent to a sceptic in which he refused to release data for fear it would be misused. The admission by Jones, who has stood aside as director of the unit while investigations take place, came at a parliamentary hearing into the scandal.

The leading research centre came under fire ahead of the Copenhagen climate talks in December after more than 1,000 e-mails and 3,000 documents were hacked from the university’s server and posted online. Sceptics said they were evidence scientists were manipulating data to exaggerate global warming as world leaders met to try to strike a new accord on climate change.

Jones, who said the affair prompted him to consider suicide, referred in one e-mail to a “trick” being used in the depiction of temperature data to “hide the decline”. He has since insisted the e-mails were taken out of context and described as “complete rubbish” allegations that he sought to exaggerate warming evidence.

Jones said on Monday that the data he refused to release was publicly available in the United States, adding that the scientific journals that published his papers had never asked to see it. He also said the unit was struggling under a “deluge” of requests for data last July, made under freedom of information legislation.

He said 80 per cent of the data used to create a series of average global temperatures showing the world was getting warmer had been released. Jones also insisted the scientific findings on climate change were robust and verifiable.

Edward Acton, the university’s vice-chancellor, said the e-mails did not undermine the science of global warming. “There’s absolutely nothing hidden … It’s so overly endorsed by scientists, I’m puzzled we should be working on a savouring of doubt when in fact there is no doubt.”

The scientific community appears to agree with Acton – more than 1,700 researchers signed a statement defending the evidence for climate change late last year. But some scientists said they were concerned the e-mails showed the research centre was intolerant to challenges and raised questions about its integrity.

“The e-mails reveal doubts as to the reliability of some of the [temperature] reconstructions,” the Institute of Physics said.

The parliamentary hearing is just one of the investigations into the scandal, and it looked specifically at the disclosure of data from the unit. A different independent probe is looking at allegations that researchers manipulated data; another will examine the unit’s science.

The university has meanwhile launched two parallel investigations into the climate centre and its work, and police are still working to trace the source of the leak.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *