Scientist at centre of leaked email dismisses conspiracy
Phil Jones of the University of East Anglia denies emails provide evidence of collusion by climatologists to fix data
The climatologist at the centre of the leaked emails row said today that he "absolutely" stands by his research and that any suggestion that the emails provide evidence of a conspiracy to manipulate or hide data that do not support the theory of man-made climate change was "complete rubbish".
Professor Phil Jones, director of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, said that the past week had been "the worst few days of my professional life". He added that since the emails were leaked he had received personal threats which have now been passed on to the police to investigate.
In his first full interview since last week's theft, which saw hundreds of emails and documents exchanged between some of the leading climatologists over the past 13 years stolen from the university's servers, Jones defended himself against accusations by climate sceptics that the emails provide evidence of collusion by climatologists to fix data.
"That the world is warming is based on a range of sources: not only temperature records but other indicators such as sea level rise, glacier retreat and less Arctic sea ice," he said. "Our global temperature series tallies with those of other, completely independent, groups of scientists working for Nasa and the National Climate Data Centre in the United States, among others. Even if you were to ignore our findings, theirs show the same results. The facts speak for themselves; there is no need for anyone to manipulate them."
Jones accepted, though, that the contents of some of the emails were cause for embarrassment: "Some of the emails probably had poorly chosen words and were sent in the heat of the moment, when I was frustrated. I do regret sending some of them. We've not deleted any emails or data here at CRU. I would never manipulate the data one bit - I would categorically deny that."
He confirmed that all of the leaked emails that had provoked heated debate - including the now infamous email from 1999 in which he discussed a "trick" to " hide the decline" in global temperatures - appeared to be genuine.
"The use of the term "hiding the decline" was in an email written in haste," he said. "CRU has not sought to hide the decline." (The University of East Anglia has now posted a detailed explanation of why this phrase was used on its website)
Jones said the timing of the theft suggested it was intended to cause maximum embarrassment ahead of the Copenhagen climate talks next month: "One has to wonder if it is a coincidence that this email correspondence has been stolen and published at this time. This may be a concerted attempt to put a question mark over the science of climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen talks."
But he stressed that he has never wished to get drawn into the political debate about climate change, saying: "I'm a very apolitical person, I don't want to get involved in the politics, I'm much happier doing the science and producing the papers. I'm a scientist, I let my science do the talking, along with all my scientific climate colleagues. It's up to governments to decide and climate science is just one thing they have to take into account with the decisions they have to make."
He added that he had long been under pressure from climate sceptics to further explain his research: "From about 2001/2002 I was getting emails from a number of people involved in the climate sceptic community. Initially at the beginning I did try to respond to them in the hope I might convince them but I soon realised it was a forlorn hope and broke off communication. Some of the emails I sent them subsequently appeared and were discussed on various sceptic websites."
Trevor Davies, the University of East Anglia's pro-vice-chancellor with responsibility for research, rejected calls - including from the Guardian commentator George Monbiot - for Jones to resign: "We see no reason for Professor Jones to resign and, indeed, we would not accept his resignation. He is a valued and important scientist."
Davies said the university had now decided to conduct an independent review which will "address the issue of data security, an assessment of how we responded to a deluge of Freedom of Information requests, and any other relevant issues which the independent reviewer advises should be addressed".
Yesterday, prominent members of both sides of the climate change debate, including the climate change sceptic Lord Lawson, had called for an independent review. Lawson said he believed this should be carried out by the Natural Environment Research Council (Nerc), a government science funding body.
But a spokesperson for Nerc said it was not a matter for them. "Nerc believes this is a matter for the University of East Anglia - their Climatic Research Unit is not a Nerc unit - so it is for them to decide if they call for an enquiry and if so who should conduct it. Should there be an enquiry we would of course be happy to contribute, if asked."
A spokesperson for the journal Nature said, "In line with our standard policy, if clear evidence were to arise that anything we've published is in question then we'll look into any action that may need to be taken."
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