Climatologist Phil Jones Steps Down as “ClimateGate” Furor Continues
SwiftHack, ClimateGate—whatever you want to call the response to hackers stealing and releasing a bevy of e-mails from the Hadley Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in the U.K., the furor simmers still. Now, as the university begins its official inquiry into the incident, unit director and climatologist Phil Jones has stepped aside pending the result.
In addition, Penn State University said it would review the papers of Michael Mann, the RealClimate blogger and Penn State researcher whose name appears in many of the East Anglia e-mails. Mann responded to the criticisms of his words here.
Climate skeptics have seized on several e-mails from Phil Jones to other researchers as evidence that prominent scientists have sought to silence their voices in the debate over global warming [Washington Post]. Among the alleged infractions are e-mails that suggest trying to keep the work of climate skeptics out of peer-reviewed journals, avoiding journals that published skeptics’ articles, or hoarding information and keeping it away from global warming deniers.
Scientists and science writers like DISCOVER bloggers Phil Plait and Chris Mooney have entered the fray, arguing that although the hacked scientists’ correspondence is less than angelic (and makes them look pretty bad with their words now in the light of day), the controversy is a non-issue because the body of climate change science remains strong. Or, to pull a metaphor from Columbia University geochemist Peter Kelemen, climate science is more a deck of cards than the flimsy house of cards skeptics claim. Some data and interpretations of those data are more certain than others, of course. But pulling out one or two interpretations, or the results of a few scientists, does not change the overall picture. Take away two or three cards, and there are still 49 or 50 cards facing you [Popular Mechanics].
The timing with which the e-mails reached the public may not be a coincidence, either. Some argue that the timing, just before next week’s major climate talks in Copenhagen, seems meant to undermine the negotiations [The Guardian].