Did $16 Stand in the Way of Climate Science?
The head of a key British climate lab, a central figure in the 2009 "Climategate" scandal, thought requests made under Great Britain's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) were a nuisance that should be stonewalled while crucial correspondence is deleted -- unless someone pays up first, that is.
"I wasted a part of a day deleting numerous emails and exchanges with almost all the skeptics. So I have virtually nothing. I even deleted the email that I inadvertently sent," wrote Phil Jones, the head of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, according to a December 2008 email leaked to a Russian website Tuesday.
"There might be some bits of pieces of paper, but I'm not wasting my time going through these," the email reads.
The correspondence was one of 5,000 emails stolen from the servers at the University of East Anglia's climate research facility in England and posted online Tuesday. Along with the day-to-day work of science, the emails reveal internal debates, anger at skeptics and even deception from scientists investigation whether man's actions are warming the planet.
The newly leaked emails span from 2000 to 2009 and fill in correspondence first seen in December 2009, when a batch of emails from the data breach dubbed "Climategate" turned the world's attention to East Anglia. University spokesman Simon Dunford told the Associated Press that a small sample examined by the university "appears to be genuine."
According to the December 2008 email exchange, Jones wrote to David Palmer, the information policy and compliance manager for East Anglia's research unit at the time, arguing that unless a fee accompanied a FOIA request for information, he didn't need to bother going to the trouble of replying.
"Dave, do I understand it correctly -- if he doesn't pay the £10 we don't have to respond?" Jones asked. The sum he requested, £10, is worth about $16 U.S. dollars.
"No, we don't have to respond unless we get the £10," Palmer told Jones -- before reading him the riot act over deleting emails, a direct violation of Britain's Data Protection Act of 1998, he said.
Neither Jones nor Palmer responded to FoxNews.com requests to confirm the validity of the email correspondence, although Jones said Wednesday morning in a press conference that the emails were being "cherry-picked" and explained away many of the messages.
The email echoes other correspondence from Jones discovered in 2009. Jones admitted to the House of Commons in 2010 that he had "written some very awful emails," including one in which he rejected a request for information on the ground that the person receiving it might criticize his work.
Lisa Horton, a spokeswoman with the university, pointed to a website statement attacking the timing of the release.
"This appears to be a carefully-timed attempt to reignite controversy over the science behind climate change when that science has been vindicated by three separate independent inquiries and [a] number of studies – including, most recently, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group."
Steven McIntyre, a noted climate skeptic and author of the blog Climate Audit, disputed those vindications vehemently.
"Unfortunately none of the 'inquiries' did even a reasonable job," he told FoxNews.com. "None of them interviewed any of the critics … there were no transcripts. The inquiries made erroneous findings on facts known to thousands."
"In my opinion, the 'inquiries' have actually made matters worse," McIntyre told FoxNews.com.
The newly released emails come less than a week before the Nov. 28 opening of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 17) in Durban, South Africa, which is intended to control carbon emissions and monitor the world's climate -- a fact underscored in a document that accompanied the leaked emails.