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article imageClimategate scientist admits emails were 'awful'

By Chris Dade     Mar 2, 2010 in Environment
The scientist at the center of the controversy over leaked emails that has become known as 'Climategate' told a committee in the British Parliament yesterday that the contents of some of his emails were "awful".
Appearing before the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on Monday, Professor Phil Jones, head of the of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Eastern England, acknowledged that emails he had sent that suggested he may be involved in manipulation of data supporting the existence of Anthropogenic (man-made) Global Warming (AGW) were "awful"
However Professor Jones, who stepped down from his post while an inquiry in to his actions is conducted by the UEA, is adamant that he will be cleared of any wrongdoing in the manner that he collected. He reported the data climate change skeptics believe does not prove the world is warmer now than it has been for 1,000 years.
The Guardian quotes Professor Jones as saying:I've obviously written some really awful emails
Nevertheless he asserted that the emails obtained by hackers last November were "a tenth of one per cent" of the emails he had sent to fellow scientists regarding the data related to the temperature of the earth.
He said:I was just commenting that those papers weren't very good. There is nothing that [shows] that me or the CRU were trying to pervert the peer review process in any way
According to the Independent Professor Jones' admission of writing some "awful" emails was reference in part to his response to a request for information from a person he knew to be a climate change skeptic in which he had written:why should I make data available to you when you're trying to find something wrong with it?
Labour MP Graham Stringer, to whom Professor Jones admitted the public release of climate data was not "standard practice" but perhaps should be, challenged that reply, asking:But scientists make a name by proving and disproving things, don't they? The statement seems to be anti-scientific. It is an absolutely clear denial of the man's attempt to get at what you were doing. He wanted your information and you refused to give it to him? Why?
The professor maintained that foreign weather stations had not authorized the release of information they had supplied to the CRU, although reportedly the information was available in the U.S. for those who wished to inspect it.
Asked to explain what exactly he meant when he wrote of "a trick" to "hide the decline" - which involved the alteration of a graph showing temperature measured by studying tree-ring growth - Professor Jones, whose research unit last July received 61 Freedom of Information requests when only two or three such requests had been received in the whole of 2008, cited a "divergence problem".
He added that the "problem" had been revealed in a scientific paper prior to his email that talked about the use of "a trick".
Others appearing before the House of Commons Committee on Monday included Professor Edward Acton, Vice-Chancellor at the UEA,, former Conservative Chancellor Nigel Lawson (The Rt Hon Lord Lawson of Blaby), and Dr Benny Peiser.
Described as leading climate change skeptics, the latter two men are Chairman and Director respectively of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). They are said by the Guardian to have observed on Monday that Professor Jones' emails were "nothing to do with the basic science, that's not the issue" but had "tarnished the image of British science around the world".
The London Times notes that Lord Lawson, Chancellor of the Exchequer for six years when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, commented:Proper scientists, scientists of integrity, wish to reveal all of their data and all of their methods. They don’t need freedom of information requests to force it out of them
Meanwhile Professor Acton confirmed the imminent appointment of a chair for the inquiry in to the CRU's actions. He denied that any Freedom of Information rules had been broken or that he had come across evidence of "the overall science of climate change" being "flawed".
In addition to hearing from leading government scientists the committee on Monday received a written submission from the Institute of Physics.
Both the London Times and Guardian indicate that the submission was critical of the emails written by Professor Jones, although the former publication implies that the Institute does not question the existence of AGW.
The submission spoke of :worrying implications .... for the integrity of scientific research in this field and for the credibility of the scientific method as practised in this context
prima facie evidence of determined and co-ordinated refusals to comply with honourable scientific traditions and freedom of information law
doubts as to the reliability of some of the [temperature] reconstructions and ..... questions as to the way in which they have been represented
and:reason for concern at the intolerance to challenge displayed in the emails. This impedes the process of scientific 'self correction', which is vital to the integrity of the scientific process as a whole, and not just to the research itself
Professor Jones told the Sunday Times in February that he was continuing to receive death threats as a result of 'Climategate' and had at one point considered suicide.
More about Climategate, Phil jones, Global warming
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