Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Climate head steps down over e-mail leak

Click to play
Global warming scandal
  • E-mails cause controversy at hearing on global warming on Capitol Hill
  • Top U.K. climate research chief steps down after stolen e-mails are leaked online
  • Professor Phil Jones steps aside while investigation into leak is carried out
  • Jones apologizes for the tone of some e-mails but backs the findings of climate scientists

London, England (CNN) -- The director of a U.K. research unit that has been at the center of a row over climate change data has said he is standing down from his post while an independent review is conducted.

Professor Phil Jones, director of the U.K.'s University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit said he stands by the science produced at the center but while the investigation takes place it was important that the CRU "continues its world leading research with as little interruption and diversion as possible."

His decision, which has received the full backing of the University's Vice-Chancellor Professor Edward Acton, to stand down came after hundreds of private e-mails were published on the Internet when a computer hacker breached the security of the CRU database in November.

The stolen material has since made its way onto numerous Web sites that are skeptical about climate change. The leaks have led to claims that the files were stolen in an attempt to undermine the climate talks which start next week in Copenhagen, Denmark.

"One has to wonder if it is a coincidence that this e-mail correspondence has been stolen and published at this time. This may be a concerted attempt to put a question mark over the science of climate change in the run-up to the Copenhagen talks." Jones said in a statement on the University's Web site.

The e-mails also caused controversy on Capitol Hill where a congressional hearing on global warming was under way Wednesday.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin said the e-mails in question poke a hole in the conclusion that the question of human influence on climate change is settled. The Republican said the E-mails "read more like scientific fascism than scientific process."

Rep. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, called the focus on the e-mails a distraction from the "catastrophic threat to our planet."

Jones admitted that some of the emails that were published "do not read well" but he apologized for the "upset" and "confusion" they may have caused. But he remained confident of the data that the CRU and other climate institutions are collecting.

"That the world is warming is based on a range of sources: not only temperature records but other indicators such as sea level rise, glacier retreat and less Arctic sea ice," he said.

On Tuesday, Lord Stern, author of the U.K.'s 2006 Stern Report on the economics of climate change, said that the evidence of climate change was "overwhelming."

Speaking at the launch of two new reports that examine just how close the world is to avoiding a rise above two degrees Celsius based on current commitments, Stern said that it was important that all views were heard but was critical of many skeptics arguments which he claimed were "muddled and confused."