What a difference two years makes. Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, UK, has been quick to respond to the new batch of 5,000 e-mails from CRU that were anonymously posted on the internet yesterday.
In stark contrast to UEA’s lengthy silence in November 2009 — when a first set of 1,000 e-mails was released just before the Copenhagen climate conference — both Jones and UEA’s vice-chancellor Edward Acton talked to journalists this morning, within 24 hours of the posting.
As in 2009, most of the quotes currently being picked up on blogs were cherry-picked from much longer e-mails that in general reflected “frank and honest discussions between scientists”, Jones said, spending a few minutes providing context for each quote. UEA has since posted Jones’ explanations online. (In a separate statement, Andrew Watson, a carbon-cycle scientist at UEA, said: “What comes across to me is that climate scientists are a diverse, complex and argumentative bunch, much like any other group of people.”)
Jones admitted again that he had deleted e-mails as part of annual clear-outs, and agreed that he had also suggested to other scientists that they do so, because he had been told that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was above national FOI (freedom of information) acts. “We have had our knuckles rapped over FOI and openness,” Acton said, referring to the numerous inquiries since 2009 that have called for more transparency in handling and sharing climate data.
But with Jones and other climate scientists already cleared of wrongdoing by those inquiries, the new e-mails were likely to throw more light on who was responsible for the release than on climate scientists, Acton said. He said the university would investigate if it found anything new and serious in the documents, but that it hadn’t so far.
The new release is “another effort to manufacture a false controversy, once again, on the eve of a key international climate change summit,” Michael Mann, a climate researcher at the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, said in an e-mail.
“As for e-mails that in some way involve me, I hardly see anything damning at all, despite these snippets all being taken out of context. I guess they had very little left to work with, having culled in the first round the e-mails that could most easily be taken out of context to try to make me look bad.”
For a round-up of Nature‘s previous coverage of ‘Climategate’, see our news special.