Climategate – the human cost

It is now a year since the release of a thousand emails and other documents stolen by a hacker from the server of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. This gave rise to the manufactured scandal known as “Climategate”.

The political fallout from the affair continues, including with the election this month to the US Congress of tea-potty representatives who insist that the leaked information reveals corruption at the heart of the climate science community. This, despite a number of inquiries clearing those involved of all but trivial offences of bad taste and uncalled for arsiness.

The head of the Climatic Research Unit, Phil Jones, was at the epicentre of a blogospheric shit storm unleashed by the forces of reaction. Jones received hundreds of abusive and threatening emails, and as a result suffered a nervous breakdown from which he is slowly recovering.

In an interview published in this week’s edition of Nature, Jones talks about how he considered taking his own life, in much the same way that the Iraq weapons inspector David Kelly met his end after being sacrificed by the state he served.

Jones may have committed a few minor transgressions, born largely of frustration with political obstructionists and time wasters, but this respected scientist did not deserve being hounded to the edge of his grave. The climate denialists responsible for Jones’ near demise are scum, and for them the writing is on the wall. But it will be scientific evidence that does for them, not threatened knocks at the door in the middle of the night.