More hacked climate emails surface ahead of UN conference

What’s a United Nations climate conference without an email controversy?

A second trove of hacked emails among climate scientists has surfaced, marking the second time in three years that internal emails from a prominent U.K. research institute have been made public ahead of international global warming talks.

ADVERTISEMENT
A file with 5,000 emails that was anonymously posted on the Internet earlier Tuesday appears to have been hacked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia.

The documents include emails from Michael Mann, a prominent climatologist that currently works at Pennsylvania State University, and other scientists that were at the center of the 2009 email release, the BBC reported Tuesday.

A link to the emails went dead Tuesday afternoon.

Climate skeptics seized on the initial emails released in late 2009, alleging that prominent climate scientists were squelching data that undercut evidence of warming. Those messages were released ahead of the fractious United Nations climate talks in Denmark.

Several subsequent inquiries, however, cleared the researchers of the claims they had cooked the books.

The new release comes ahead of the next round of United Nations climate talks that begin Nov. 28 in Durban, South Africa.

The University of East Anglia, in a statement Tuesday, said the emails appear to be from the same batch hacked in 2009, but could not immediately confirm their authenticity. The school noted no evidence of a recent breach.

The research institute quickly sought to get ahead of new attacks by skeptics, alleging that more messages from the 2009 hacking are being released “at a time designed to cause maximum disruption to the imminent international climate talks.”

From the university:

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 number of studies — including, most recently, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group.

As in 2009, extracts from emails have been taken completely out of context. Following the previous release of emails scientists highlighted by the controversy have been vindicated by independent review, and claims that their science cannot or should not be trusted are entirely unsupported. They, the University and the wider research community have stood by the science throughout, and continue to do so.

Climate advocates are seeking to quickly limit fallout from the messages.

“The good news is that the perpetrators and their fellow deniers apparently think the international climate talks in Durban are actually important enough to try to trick the media once again into prematurely running stories on out-of-context excerpts from private emails from scientists, most of which were written years ago, discussing science that has long since been resolved,” said Joe Romm, a climate blogger with the liberal Center for American Progress.

ADVERTISEMENT
The vast majority of scientists say the planet is warming and that human activities — including burning coal and oil — are a major reason why.

While Mann and others quickly dismissed the emails, arguing they are being taken out of context, they are nonetheless likely to provide fuel for climate skeptics. 

The Hill has not been able to view the newly released emails, but excerpts were published elsewhere Tuesday.

One email — excerpted in The Telegraph and cited by The Washington Post — appears to shows an official with the U.K. Met Office, a weather and climate forecasting service, stating in an email to the CRU's Phil Jones that “Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere unless you accept one single study and approach and discount a wealth of others.”

The email cites the need to “communicate the uncertainty and be honest.”

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Capitol Hill’s most prominent climate skeptic, pounced on the messages, noting in a statement that “the apparent release of the Climategate 2.0 emails is just one more reason to halt the Obama EPA's job killing global warming agenda.”

But Mann and others said the emails show nothing that dents the evidence behind global warming. Indeed, the CRU statement cites the work of Richard Muller, the University of California physicist and former skeptic who led a team that published a major study this year that confirms warming trends.

Mann, in comments published in The Guardian, criticized the people behind the leaked emails, saying that “agents doing the dirty bidding of the fossil fuel industry know they can't contest the fundamental science of human-caused climate change.”

“So they have instead turned to smear, innuendo, criminal hacking of websites, and leaking out-of-context snippets of personal emails in their effort to try to confuse the public about the science and thereby forestall any action to combat this critical threat,” he said.

—Andrew Restuccia contributed.

More in Energy & Environment

NextGen to run climate ad ahead of SOTU

Read more »