Before this week, few New Zealanders knew who Phil Jones was.
Now the British scientist is at the centre of an email scandal after about 1000 emails spanning a decade were stolen from the Climate Research Unit he leads at the University of East Anglia.
Emails seen by the Herald, from New Zealand scientists, reveal little apart from some grumbling about a research paper they had already publicly panned, by Auckland University’s Chris de Freitas.
But some of the conduct hinted at in the emails is more difficult to explain.
In one of the stolen emails, Dr Jones appears to suggest he and his colleagues should delete emails lest they fall into the hands of climate-change deniers.
In another, he discusses blocking a research paper questioning global warming from being published in a scientific journal.
Climate experts in several countries went into damage control – stressing that while the emails were
But while the scientific questions were answered, the “delete the emails” message left questions which prompted Guardian columnist George Monbiot – a strong supporter of action to fight man-made global warming – to call for Dr Jones’ resignation.
“No one has been as badly let down by the revelations in these emails as those of us who have championed the science,” he wrote on Guardian.co.uk.
“There are some messages that require no spin to make them look bad.”
One of the hacking victims, Kevin Trenberth of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, pointed out that the timing of the attacks seemed calculated to create doubt ahead of the Copenhagen climate talks, which start in just over a week.
Bob Ward, director of policy and communications at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, told the Guardian newspaper that, while he was sorry for the scientists who had suffered years of attacks by “so-called sceptics”, there should be an independent investigation of their conduct. As for Dr Jones, he issued a statement on his unit’s website saying some of the emails were “clearly” written in the heat of the moment and he regretted any confusion. “My colleagues and I accept that some of the published emails do not read well.”
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