Controversial Delaware state climatologist steps down

University of Delaware professor David Legates has stepped down as State Climatologist in a flurry of speculation.

But Legates says rumors he was fired for his contentious views that people do not cause global warming couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Legates became State Climatologist in 2005, when his predecessor, Dan Leathers, left to serve as Deputy Dean of UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

“When Dan became Chair of the Department, we agreed that we would swap hats and at some point in the future, when he stepped down from administration, we would swap them back,” said Legates in a letter to his climatology colleagues in the hopes of clearing up any confusion. “On July 1, Dan resigned as Deputy Dean of our College. In June, he had asked me if I would honor the Gentleman’s agreement that we had made about seven years ago and I said I would.”

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Legates will now serve as Associate State Climatologist and continue on as a faculty member in UD’s Department of Geography, according to the university’s David Brond, VP for Communications and Marketing.

Setting the record straight

Back in February 2007, then Governor Ruth Ann Minner sent Legates a letter concerning his role as State Climatologist. The letter addressed his views on climate change, as she understood them, based on media coverage. She wrote, “I understand that you have not provided your opinions as such,” but asked him not to speak on behalf of the Governor’s office, since his views did not align with those of her administration. A policy Governor Jack Markell has continued in the State Climate Office.

Furthermore, in an email sent to WHYY, Legates says reports claiming he denies people contribute to global warming are “false.” He writes, “I believe that climate change has and will occur, for a variety of reasons; that humans can and do affect our climate, sometimes in adverse ways; and that carbon dioxide is only a minor player in climate change. Minor to the point that very little evidence of climate change in the recent past can be attributed to rising carbon dioxide concentrations.”

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