“Phil Jones has today announced that he will stand aside as Director of the Climatic Research Unit until the completion of an independent Review”

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"“Phil Jones has today announced that he will stand aside as Director of the Climatic Research Unit until the completion of an independent Review”"

Professor Phil Jones has today announced that he will stand aside as Director of the Climatic Research Unit until the completion of an independent Review resulting from allegations following the hacking and publication of emails from the Unit.

[mugshot]That is from the University of East Anglia’s new release today.  This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, particularly once UEA and CRU made the mistaken decision not to send Jones out to talk to the media in the past week.

Jones isn’t Tiger Woods, and the scandal called ClimateGate isn’t a personal matter (and yes, I think Woods is making a serious mistake, too).  Jones and UEA should have jumped at the chance to talk to the status quo media about a subject it is too-rarely interested in — climate science.

The AP at least got the headline right:

UK climate scientist to temporarily step down

No, he hasn’t quit or been fired, at least not yet.

The UEA news release continues

Professor Jones said: “What is most important is that CRU continues its world leading research with as little interruption and diversion as possible.  After a good deal of consideration I have decided that the best way to achieve this is by stepping aside from the Director’s role during the course of the independent review and am grateful to the University for agreeing to this.  The Review process will have my full  support.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Edward Acton said: “I have accepted Professor Jones’s offer to stand aside during this period. It is an important step to ensure that CRU can continue to operate normally and the independent review can conduct its work into the allegations.

“We will announce details of the Independent Review, including its terms of reference, timescale and the chair, within days. I am delighted that Professor Peter Liss, FRS, CBE, will become acting director.”

An Independent Review is a great idea.  Perhaps they could look at the Arctic warming data CRU is ignoring (see “Why are Hadley and CRU withholding vital climate data from the public?“).

The AP story’s lede mistakenly claims that Jones “is stepping down pending an investigation into allegations that he overstated the case for man-made climate change.”  Not! (see UK Guardian: “To stop a climate catastrophe “¦ Scientists must stop sanitising their message”).

Because of such confusion, I do hope this Review covers the underlying science and issues a strong statement as the Royal Society and Met Office did (see Climate science statement from the Met Office, NERC and the Royal Society: It’s the hottest decade on record and “even since the 2007 IPCC Assessment the evidence for dangerous, long-term and potentially irreversible climate change has strengthened”).

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25 Responses to “Phil Jones has today announced that he will stand aside as Director of the Climatic Research Unit until the completion of an independent Review”

  1. WAG says:

    The climate conspiracy theorists claim their first victim… I think they deserve their own term: I’d propose “climochondriac,” after reading this description of what an actual hypochondriac is:

    The small fraction (1-5%) of the general population afflicted with the disorder hypochondria are particularly predisposed to the emergence of unfounded concerns, especially since they are often undiscerning about the source of their medical information [Barsky and Klerman 1983]. Studies have shown that hypochondriacs express doubt and disbelief in their physicians’ diagnosis, report that doctors’ reassurance about an absence of a serious medical condition is unconvincing, and may pay particular attention to diseases with common or ambiguous symptoms.

    http://akwag.blogspot.com/2009/12/hackers-health-care-and-hot-air-do-we.html

  2. Helen says:

    This is just appalling; first they hound the man incessantly for every detail of his data and his analysis, apparently trying to prevent him from getting his work done, then this. It’s sick. If scientists stand by and allow this to go without comment, each will be responsible when it’s his turn to have his work attacked because it doesn’t fall into line with someone’s political or religious orthodoxy; watch out, evolutionary biologists, you could so very easily be next. Stand up for this man! He spent a significant amount of his own time trying to do education and public outreach on RealClimate, and many other dedicated scientists have given of their miniscule free time to do the same, drawing down the ire of the forces of repression, who want this problem, no matter how inevitable, to “go away” from a regulatory perspective while they make a bit more gold.

    The collected emails tell not only of scientists gossiping (and what group of researchers has no gossip?!), but of honest scientists engaged in discovery and the tussle of trying to develop models that match the existing measurements and even have predictive power. Taken as a corpus, it’s both entertaining and even a bit inspirational, not the sordid conspiracy that the right-wing press opinion-minions make it seem.

  3. Billy T says:

    1 down, 10,000 to go…

    Seriously though, the emerging parallels with the industry campaign against tobacco-harm scientists is very troubling. Including hounding scientists from their jobs because of what they had published http://lightbucket.wordpress.com/2009/10/10/tobacco-part-4-subpoenas-and-legal-chill/.

  4. Aunt Sally says:

    Hopefully the review will happen quickly and in a fully transparent manner. I suspect they’ll find Dr. Jones guilty of poor tact and poor choice of words, and not much else. (Not that one should have to choose one’s words so carefully in informal communications between colleagues.)

  5. Sable says:

    Agreed, Helen. What ought to be investigated are the person/s who stole the emails and uploaded them to the public.

  6. FredT34 says:

    Well, that’s real bad news. Comments start flourishing on the net that data are wrong, codes are hiding or tricking things, that IPCC report relies on Jones and Mann figures, as well as Copenhagen… They’ve already turned a virtual thing (a hack and gossips) into reality : Jones set aside… and now they’re all going to shout “look, he resigned because he cheated ! We told so!”

    I wonder this episode will come back soon in Copenhagen, just long enough for “the independent research to take place”. And it might also impact the Senators or Representatives votes on US laws… Delaying in an effective strategy… Joe, the lines may well move fast!

  7. MarkB says:

    Back to the science…the new SCAR report is revealing. A good summary here:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/11/091130192921.htm

    It’s a good read in full, but implications for sea level rise are discussed in bullet points 8 and 9:

    8. Antarctica predicted to warm by around 3°C over this century

    Over this century the ozone hole is expected to heal, allowing the full effects of greenhouse gas increases to be felt across the Antarctic. Models suggest that the net effect will be continued slow strengthening of winds across the Southern Ocean, while sea ice will decrease by a third, resulting in increased phytoplankton productivity. The predicted warming of about 3°C across the continent is not enough to melt the main ice sheet and an increase in snowfall there should offset sea level rise by a few centimetres.

    9. West Antarctic ice loss could contribute to 1.4 m sea level rise

    Loss of ice from the West Antarctic ice sheet is likely to contribute some tens of centimetres to global sea level by 2100. This will contribute to a projected total sea level rise of up to 1.4 metres (and possibly higher) by 2100.

    So West Antarctic will contribute up to 1.4 meters by 2100 (or more in presumably a less likely worst-case scenario), or 140 cm, offset only by “a few centimeters” from slight gains in the main ice sheet. Add that to already observed glacier depletion and Greenland loss.

    And as Joe reported on earlier, there have been unexpected losses in the East Antarctic. Although the trend there is relatively short-term, this would be another massive game-changer.

    Also recommended this week is the following study indicating weakening observed ocean sinks:

    Park et al. A re-evaluation of the coherence between global-average atmospheric CO2 and temperatures at interannual time scales. Geophysical Research Letters

  8. Leif says:

    And lets not forget about OCEAN ACIDIFICATION…

  9. Cugel says:

    Sickening, but at least while the deniers are Macarthying Professor Jones they’ve taken their eyes off all the other balls. Such as loss of ice-mass in East Antarctica, which they seem to be letting go by default.

  10. Link says:

    Tell me where this wrong:

    Everything Michael Mann & Co have done is based on their 1,000 year temperature data bank. If this data is bad, their science is bad. It’s that simple. This data is mostly based on tree rings.

    [snip]

    [JR: That is wrong. Try again.]

  11. David Fisher says:

    are you people serious? You still think man-made global warming is REAL? LMAO at you ass-clowns!!!

    [JR: Well argued.]

  12. Mark Shapiro says:

    Billy T.’s point about tobacco companies hounding scientists is well taken. A blogger named Tim F. made a very important point at John Cole’s Balloon Juice: that scientists are amateurs at PR (at best) up against well-funded professionals from the oil companies and their cohort.

    John Tierney got it 100% wrong at the NYT again today. His headline “Email fracas shows peril of trying to spin science” should read “Decades of oil company spin pays big dividends”. Tierney agonizes over a comment on RealClimate from 2004(!) about “grafting the thermometer record onto a proxy record . . .” Every version of that graph that I’ve ever seen labels each source very clearly.

    David Fisher, #10, is also wrong.

  13. Mark Shapiro says:

    Tim F.’s excellent blog post is at

    http://www.balloon-juice.com/?p=30588

  14. Dan B says:

    Joe;

    I agree 110% that the CRU was wrong to duck the controversy. Every single time I’ve been involved in a controversy I’ve used it to get acquainted with the people who were shocked and angry at me. Every time there has been an uptick in my fame and respect.

    There is no such thing as bad publicity, unless you’ve committed a heinous crime – and even then we’ve seen how even that can prove to be beneficial to the criminal. The only thing that’s a pitfall is if you act like you’re guilty or try to dodge the issue. Then you become a wimp in the public eye.

    Who believes wimpy climate scientists?

    Who believes James Hansen? Even his critics treat him with kid gloves in case they get their due.

    Fortunately even many conservatives believe Climategate is a fabrication. It’s interesting that many skeptics are more supportive of Professor Jones.

    How about starting a writing campaign to CRU to urge them to strongly and rapidly address the criticisms!

    [JR: You can find Jones’ email online, but I wouldn’t want to pester him right now. Scientists tend to be reticent about publicity, Brits maybe even more so. My guess is he’ll feel doubly inclined not to speak while he’s under this independent review. I do think U.S. climate scientists should go out and speak more. Fortunately, 3 of the best have books out right now — Mann, Hansen, and Schneider.]

  15. caerbannog says:

    Michael Mann just put on a gangbuster performance on the Diane Rehm show.

    After he was done taking apart Kenneth Green (AEI hack), there weren’t any big pieces left!

    Link to podcast here: http://podcastdownload.npr.org/anon.npr-podcasts/podcast/305/510071/120972018/WAMU_120972018.mp3

    It’s about an hour long — put it on your iWhatever and listen to it while you are at the gym.

  16. Jeffrey Davis says:

    re: 10 and 11

    The science is based on physics not statistics. It depends upon the fact that gases absorb certain wavelengths of light.

    The belief that it is based upon statistics is lunacy.

    I don’t believe people actually believe that it is based on statistics. It’s just what deniers say. Surely, by now, even gerbils have heard the news about gases and wavelengths. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

    Add in vanity and you’ve covered the board.

  17. Wonhyo says:

    I can’t help but think that legitimate climate scientists are allowing themselves to be bullied into submission to climate denial/delay/doubt. Dr. Judith Curry is praised for her call for open dialogue, but climate denialists like Andy Watts are presenting her letter as a call for legitimate climate scientists to compromise their scientific conclusions. Phil Jones (and his CRU colleagues) is limply surrendering at this time when the most spirited self-defense is called for.

    The consequence of this surrender may not be tangible now, but the reality is that it is far-reaching. The so-called ClimateGate scandal is dramatically increasing doubts about climate science in the minds of the general public (non-CP readers) and there is no mainstream opposition to speak of (again, excluding the CP circle). If climate scientists allow this scandal to pass without raising a defense, it will be hard to undo the damage to public understanding of climate science. What’s the point of doing the science if you’re not going to defend it?

    I’ve noticed some very weird behaviours. Even among many of my acquaintances who are scientifically intelligent and who acknowledge the core conclusions of climate change (changing, human driven, bad, needs to be mitigated), they raise far greater outrage against the climate scientists for what is (perceived to be) in the emails than they do against the climate denialist/delayer/doubter.

    Where is the outrage against the act of the email hacking? Why isn’t anyone asking who is behind the hacking and why?

    This is all unfolding very much like our entry into the Iraq War, except the information on climate science is neither classified nor hidden. The reality is in plain sight for all to see, yet there is no mainstream public defense of it.

  18. Ian Forrester says:

    Deep Climate (http://deepclimate.org/2009/12/02/in-the-beginning-friends-of-science-talisman-energy-and-the-de-freitas-brothers/) has just put up a post which shows that all the “climate frauds” that the deniers claim the climate scientists are guilty of were in fact committed by the deniers themselves. I especially like the part of the post describing how the deniers rigged the peer review system at several climate journals.

    I hope that the MSM and the people conducting the investigation at UEA are aware of this information.

    Well done DC.

  19. Thomas says:

    Leif (#8)

    There was an interesting study over at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution that came out 12- 1 on that in relation to shelled species: “News Release : In CO2-rich Environment, Some Ocean Dwellers Increase Shell Production”. It was actually an improvement for 7 of the 18 species in the study. I can’t post links, but it is under their press releases. Their basic conclusion is they are no longer confident they fully understand the systems used in shell creation and need to work more on it (and regardless, elevated levels of CO2 are likely more harmful overall then good and should thus be reduced).

    Jeffrey (#16)

    While obviously those two posts show some confusion (a lot of confusion), I think people get confused because they see that for some data interpretation (sediments, tree rings for example) statistics are used, while other data (actual temperatures, how the gasses interact, the way the Earths tilt affects the energy equation and solar energy inputs for example) are physics with the models using some statistical methods for prediction and smoothing.

    And yes, stats are very difficult for a lot of people to understand – that does not make them (them here being the general populous) stupid, they are likely highly competent and far more knowledgeable in their own area then the snarkiness often thrown at them gives them credit for being. In my Masters program almost no one in my classes had taken any stats before (liberal arts – I was in Education, as I said before) and I actually pretty much ended up carrying my whole group through that one. And social science stats are VERY different then scientific\math stats (I still have a hard time thinking of the social stats as “real” stats – there honestly wasn’t much math involved…). So even some of those who have had stats had a very different flavor then what you get in the science fields. Could be a lot of why you all find their understanding of such so “out there”.

    I’m actually thankful I had the more mathematical kind in my undergraduate work – not that I ever use it, but at least I have some comprehension of what is going on in it.

    Wonhyo (#17)

    I’ve been trying to get that message through here. For most of us out there in the “real” world (outside the “Ivory Towers”), such behavior would be the end of us in a heartbeat. For such a scandal to come out from one in our field would put everyone in our field at risk of serious erosion of the trust we need to have a job. And think about all the other scams that have been swirling around and being uncovered (especially in the financial world), and think about how little any of us trust the government anymore to begin with, and you should be able to see this one isn’t going away anytime soon – it is a HUGE mess out here in the every day world, and this is, to most of us, “just another example of why you can’t trust any of ‘em”.

  20. Jim Eager says:

    Re David Fisher @11: Fools are so easily amused.

  21. Leland Palmer says:

    This is appalling.

    We need to fight back.

    We need to each spend time on the denier sites, arguing the case for climate change. Even people in denial, on those sites, rude as they are, are secretly anxious for information, I think.

    The data should be enough, but apparently it’s not.

    Mostly, maybe we need to understand that we are winning, and continue on our present course without much deviation. That’s why the Phil Jones thing is appalling – like the loss of Van Jones, this was a targeted objective of the climate deniers, and should be denied.

  22. caerbannog says:


    I’ve been trying to get that message through here. For most of us out there in the “real” world (outside the “Ivory Towers”), such behavior would be the end of us in a heartbeat.

    Not if you work in the climate/tobacco/whatever “denial” industry. Then such behavior is rewarded (more than that — it’s expected of you).

  23. Thomas says:

    Caerbannog (#22)

    Yes, but then I think you’ll find almost everyone out there in the “everyday world” takes whatever the “oil companies” say with a rather large grain of salt – we don’t really expect them to be fully honest and upfront. Science is one of the last areas where, in general, we expect the people practicing it to be 100% honest – especially the ones in Academia.

    I doubt taking a course of action out of the oil industries play book is going to do anyone in the “purely scientific” areas any good – just make it even more of a mud wrestling match (which will result in loosing even more of the public as they simply start tuning out).

    There are other issues outside AGW that indicate the world, and especially the industrialized world, are going to have to change how they view and use the oil reserves that remain that would be easy to incorporate into your message and are likely easier for the public to wrap their minds around. You have to step outside the single issue to reach “the masses” – and in fact I think that’s part of what has really freaked everyone out – the isolationist mentality in this area that we see is surprising. “Rightly” or “wrongly”, I think we have grown accustomed to the sciences incorporating many other fields in their presentation to the public and work.

  24. Andy Bauer says:

    caerbannog #15

    Thanks, a most useful link!

  25. Leif says:

    Thomas # 19: Thank you for the link. While some shell fish might benefit from increased CO2 in the near term the prospect of pulling the pins out of a large portion of the ecosystem does not bode well for humanity. I have an old adage: Even the bottom of a s***house is utopia to some life forms and perhaps your gene pool will be able to say that this is indeed heaven on earth but that does not mean I want to live there. Or even can. Nothing personal, please. Trying to look at the big picture here. It might be my gene pool for all I know.