by Leo Hickman and James Randerson
20 November 2009
Hundreds of Emails
and Documents Exchanged Between World's Leading Climate
Scientists Stolen by Hackers and Leaked Online
A researcher collects
data from an electronic device to monitor climate change.
Photograph: Vo Trung
Hundreds of private emails and documents
allegedly exchanged between some of the world's leading climate
scientists during the past 13 years have been stolen by hackers and
leaked online, it emerged today.
The computer files were apparently accessed earlier this week from
servers at the University of East Anglia's
Climate Research Unit, a
world-renowned centre focused on the study of natural and
anthropogenic climate change.
Climate change skeptics who have studied the emails allege they
provide "smoking gun" evidence that some of the climatologists
colluded in manipulating data to support the widely held view that
climate change is real, and is being largely caused by the actions
The veracity of the emails has not been confirmed and the scientists
involved have declined to comment on the story, which broke on a
The Air Vent.
The files, which in total amount to 160MbB of data, were first
uploaded on to a Russian server, before being widely mirrored across
The emails were accompanied by the
"We feel that climate science is, in
the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps. We
hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code and
documents. Hopefully it will give some insight into the science
and the people behind it."
A spokesperson for the University of
East Anglia said:
"We are aware that information from
a server used for research information in one area of the
university has been made available on public websites. Because
of the volume of this information we cannot currently confirm
that all this material is genuine. This information has been
obtained and published without our permission and we took
immediate action to remove the server in question from
operation. We are undertaking a thorough internal investigation
and have involved the police in this inquiry."
In one email, dated November 1999, one
"I've just completed Mike's Nature
[the science journal] trick of adding in the real temps to each
series for the last 20 years (i.e., from 1981 onwards) and from
1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."
This sentence, in particular, has been
leapt upon by skeptics as evidence of manipulating data, but the
credibility of the email has not been verified.
The scientists who allegedly sent it
declined to comment on the email.
"It does look incriminating on the
surface, but there are lots of single sentences that taken out
of context can appear incriminating," said Bob Ward, director of
policy and communications at the Grantham Research Institute on
Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of
"You can't tell what they are
talking about. Scientists say 'trick' not just to mean
deception. They mean it as a clever way of doing something - a
short cut can be a trick."
In another alleged email, one of the
scientists apparently refers to the death of a prominent climate
change skeptic by saying "in an odd way this is cheering news".
Ward said that if the emails are correct, they,
"might highlight behavior that those
individuals might not like to have made public." But he added,
"Let's separate out [the climate scientists] reacting badly to
the personal attacks [from skeptics] to the idea that their work
has been carried out in an inappropriate way."
The revelations did not alter the huge
body of evidence from a variety of scientific fields that supports
the conclusion that modern climate change is caused largely by human
activity, Ward said.
The emails refer largely to work on
so-called paleoclimate data - reconstructing past climate scenarios
using data such as ice cores and tree rings.
"Climate change is based on several
lines of evidence, not just paleoclimate data," he said. "At the
heart of this is basic physics."
Ward pointed out that the individuals
named in the alleged emails had numerous publications in
peer-reviewed scientific journals.
"It would be very surprising if
after all this time, suddenly they were found out doing
something as wrong as that."
Michael Mann, director
of Pennsylvania State University's Earth System Science Centre and a
regular contributor to the popular
climate science blog Real
Climate, features in many of the email exchanges.
"I'm not going to comment on the
content of illegally obtained emails. However, I will say this:
both their theft and, I believe, any reproduction of the emails
that were obtained on public websites, etc, constitutes serious
criminal activity. I'm hoping the perpetrators and their
facilitators will be tracked down and prosecuted to the fullest
extent the law allows."
When the Guardian asked Prof Phil
Jones at UEA, who features in the correspondence, to verify
whether the emails were genuine, he refused to comment.
The alleged emails illustrate the persistent pressure some
climatologists have been under from skeptics in recent years.
There have been repeated calls,
including Freedom of Information requests, for the Climate Research
Unit to make public a confidential dataset of land and sea
temperature recordings that is "value added" by the unit before
being used by the Met Office. The emails show the frustration some
climatologists have had at having to operate under such intense,
often politically motivated, scrutiny.
Prof Bob Watson, the chief scientific advisor at the
Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said,
"Evidence for climate change is
irrefutable. The world's leading scientists overwhelmingly agree
what we're experiencing is not down to natural variation."
"With this overwhelming scientific body of evidence failing to
take action to tackle climate change would be the wrong thing to
do - the impacts here in Britain and across the world will
worsen and the economic consequences will be catastrophic."
A spokesman for Greenpeace said:
"If you looked through any
organization's emails from the last 10 years you'd find
something that would raise a few eyebrows. Contrary to what the
skeptics claim, the Royal Society, the US National Academy of
Sciences, NASA and the world's leading atmospheric scientists
are not the agents of a clandestine global movement against the
truth. This stuff might drive some web traffic, but so does
Climate Change Advocate Calls E-Mail Hacking
November 22, 2009
documents stolen from a British research institute may
be aimed at undermining talks at next month's Copenhagen
global climate summit.
LONDON -- A leading climate change scientist says the leak of
documents stolen from a British research institute may be aimed at
undermining talks at next month's Copenhagen global climate summit.
Kevin Trenberth - of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric
Research, in Colorado - said in an interview Sunday that hackers
cherry-picked from the stolen data and distributed selected
documents to try to undermine scientific consensus on man-made
Britain's University of East Anglia said hackers last week stole
data from its Climatic Research Unit, a leading global research
center on climate change.
Skeptics claim correspondence shows collusion between scientists to
overstate the case for global warming.
Trenberth says the hackers took data out of context.
Climatologist Blasts Breach of
His E-mail Account
Defends Science Behind Global Warming
November 27, 2009