Hackers leak e-mails, stoke climate debate

(AP) -- Computer hackers have broken into a server at a well-respected climate change research center in Britain and posted hundreds of private e-mails and documents online - stoking debate over whether some scientists have overstated the case for man-made climate change.

The University of East Anglia, in eastern England, said in a statement Saturday that the hackers had entered the server and stolen data at its Climatic Research Unit, a leading global research center on . The university said police are investigating the theft of the information, but could not confirm if all the materials posted online are genuine.

More than a decade of correspondence between leading British and U.S. scientists is included in about 1,000 e-mails and 3,000 documents posted on Web sites following the security breach last week.

Some climate change skeptics and bloggers claim the information shows scientists have overstated the case for global warming, and allege the documents contain proof that some researchers have attempted to manipulate data.

The furor over the leaked data comes weeks before the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen, when 192 nations will seek to reach a binding treaty to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases worldwide. Many officials - including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - regard the prospects of a pact being sealed at the meeting as bleak.

In one leaked e-mail, the research center's director, Phil Jones, writes to colleagues about graphs showing climate statistics over the last millennium. He alludes to a technique used by a fellow scientist to "hide the decline" in recent global temperatures. Some evidence appears to show a halt in a rise of from about 1960, but is contradicted by other evidence which appears to show a rise in temperatures is continuing.

Jones wrote that, in compiling new data, he had "just completed Mike's Nature 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," according to a leaked e-mail, which the author confirmed was genuine.

One of the colleague referred to by Jones - Michael Mann, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University - did not immediately respond to requests for comment via telephone and e-mail.

The use of the word "trick" by Jones has been seized on by skeptics - who say his e-mail offers proof of collusion between scientists to distort evidence to support their assertion that human activity is influencing climate change.

"Words fail me," Stephen McIntyre - a blogger whose climateaudit.org Web site challenges popular thinking on climate change - wrote on the site following the leak of the messages.

However, Jones denied manipulating evidence and insisted his comment had been taken out of context. "The word 'trick' was used here colloquially, as in a clever thing to do. It is ludicrous to suggest that it refers to anything untoward," he said in a statement Saturday.

Jones did not indicate who "Keith" was in his e-mail.

Two other American scientists named in leaked e-mails - Gavin Schmidt of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, and Kevin Trenberth, of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Colorado - did not immediately return requests for comment.

The University of East Anglica said that information published on the Internet had been selected deliberately to undermine "the strong consensus that human activity is affecting the world's climate in ways that are potentially dangerous."

"The selective publication of some stolen e-mails and other papers taken out of context is mischievous and cannot be considered a genuine attempt to engage with this issue in a responsible way," the university said in a statement.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further

Conclusive proof that polar warming is being caused by humans

Citation: Hackers leak e-mails, stoke climate debate (2009, November 21) retrieved 18 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2009-11-hackers-leak-e-mails-stoke-climate.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Nov 21, 2009
Climate change has both been overstated and understated depending on who is funding the reports and the genuine concern that without imminent doomscenarios the general public cannot be motivated to take preventive action for something that might not happen the day after tomorrow, but 10 years from now. It strikes me as non coincidental that in the prelude to the Copenhagen climate convention we suddenly see a string downplaying reports appear.

Nov 21, 2009

So you are claiming that scientists are deliberately going down a dead end research path in order to garner research grants.

Isn't that rather stupid?

Why would a research scientist do that?

Research money provides no personal benefits.

Therefore it makes sense to apply for grants to work on projects.

Your comments strike me as those of a conspiracy theorist.

Nov 21, 2009
"Research money provides no personal benefits."

I would love to have their salary, i even would not mind to make up stories for it.

No thats not true, i'm to honest for that.

Nov 21, 2009

I would love to have their salary, i even would not mind to make up stories for it.

No thats not true, i'm to honest for that.

You have no idea what most scientific researcher's salaries are, nor how much peer-reviewed work they have to do to become the top-paid researchers in their field. The majority make less than $100k a year, and it's virtually unheard of to break through $250k.

But no, it's the multi-million dollar Oil and Automobile CEOs who are virtuous here. Those wo blatantly pay to have "research" performed that calls into question AGW, which would otherwise justify tighter regulations and a rearrangement of subsidies and taxes that would hurt their industries that is. All those dirty, poorly paid scientists are the one's who can't be trusted. It's not like they've devoted their lives to some noble cause, like finding the Truth or anything. They're clearly just trying to take the poor rich CEO's money that he worked so hard for.

Nov 21, 2009
It seems likely that these revelations are the result, not of a hacker, but a whistle blower seeking to expose what appears to be routine data manipulation, destruction, and suppression.

The unit should come clean and release all the data and emails excepting private personnel matters as a step in restoring some modicum of confidence. Hopefully law enforcement will be looking into potential charges for conspiracy to commit fraud using public funding. Let's get to the bottom of the whole tawdry mess; what people are paid is irrelevent if they are corrupt.

Nov 22, 2009
I would guess their motivation to manipulate the data has more to do with advancing their political beliefs than getting research funding.

Nov 22, 2009
We all know that Hackers are a reliable source of information.
Let me send you some applications to install :)

Nov 22, 2009
Here's a conspiracy theory:
Certain corporations who harvest energy from coal or oil decide to protect their hides. They know that through peer reviewed research, the scientific community has demonstrated that man made global warming is real. They also know that most of the technology to cut co2 emissions already exists. Their only hope is to minimize the political will to enact these technologies by using enough misdirection and misguided debate to create the illusion that there really is no scientific consensus. Senators and congressmen won't be forced by their constituencies to reign in co2 emissions. How do they create misdirection? They make commercials plugging their new oil drilling technology that has minimal impact on the environment. They invest a miniscule portion (millions) of their record profits (billions) on renewables to greenwash themselves. They pay think-tanks to plant doubt, and grad students to attack all the new research when it comes out in the media.

Nov 22, 2009
The fact that the word "trick" in a scientist's private e-mail is enough to stir things up is ample proof of just how political all this has become. Now, for all the corporation bashers, here's a little quote:

"Mr. Burns:I don't understand. Pigs need food, engines need coolant, dynamiters need dynamite…and not a single sea creature was wasted."

A corporation is as evil as a shark, or a plant. Its sole purpose is survival and expansion, and the big ones are pretty damn good at it. They didn't get to the top of the food chain by acting impulsively and without strategy.

What do you think happens with all those record profits? Billionaires don't carry sacks of money with them. All that money is reinvested in the company, to make it even more profitable. As the resources dry up, that'll mean investing in renewable and sustainable profit sources.

Resource needs grow with the size of an enterprise. Megacorps depend on the whole planet. It's in their interest to keep it safe.

Nov 22, 2009
interesting that illegally obtained (hacked) information is reported as news this time when that was not done when presidential candidate Sarah Palin was hacked. Politics =!? Science

Nov 22, 2009
Despite there best efforts to hide the truth the Alarmist know that this is the news story of the decade. Once all of this gets out to the wider public, heads will roll at CRU and the wind will be blown out of the catastrophic AGW sails.

Nov 22, 2009
It's not the word trick. It's the word "hide".
Scientists would not need to HIDE anything at any time.

Than again, as others have states, a lot of science is starting to look like a parliament rather than a university hall.

Regardless of whether this turns out to be a real thing or just set-up, I doubt it'll have much effect on the AGW view, at least in the common public. The ball is rolling. Some of the effect is good, but the premise and the final result may be false and worse than the good it does.

Reminds me of religion.

Nov 22, 2009

The scientist [and I use that term losely)at CRU have admited that the hacked emails are their's.

Nov 22, 2009
I've followed this story a bit and have to say the emails are really appalling.

Those scientists go to extreme lengths to silence dissent and hide data from the public, they even urge themselves and their collaborators to delete data and emails to prevent them from being accessed under freedom of information act this is potentially a criminal offense.

I certainly cannot trust any scientist who actively frustrates any attempts to replicate his results especially when those results where funded by public money and are so important to our economic policy.

The trick mentioned is explained here

Nov 22, 2009
Here is a summary of the emails with links BTW:

Here is one particularly interesting bit from Kevin E. Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and lead author of the 2001 and 2007 IPCC Scientific Assessment of Climate Change:

From: Kevin Trenberth (...)
To: Michael Mann (...)
Subject: Re: BBC U-turn on climate
Date: Mon, 12 Oct 2009 08:57:37 -0600
The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a
travesty that we can't. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008
shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing
system is inadequate.(...)


Nov 22, 2009
It's up to everyday people to get the truth out. The MSM won't do it. Thanks to Physorg.com for even mentioning it. Google news links 1691 stories on an astronauts wife having a baby only 337 on this most important development. I believe this was an inside job not the work of a hacker in the classic sense. These people who did it said " 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." If we ever find out who they are, they should be given Al Gore's Nobel prize.

Nov 22, 2009
"Jones wrote that, in compiling new data, he had "just completed Mike's Nature 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," according to a leaked e-mail, which the author confirmed was genuine....."

"However, Jones denied manipulating evidence and insisted his comment had been taken out of context. "The word 'trick' was used here colloquially, as in a clever thing to do. It is ludicrous to suggest that it refers to anything untoward," he said in a statement Saturday."

Yes, "trick" IS taken out of context BUT when combined w/ "to hide the decline" is all telling. These eco-marxists are only interested in manipulating the data to ensure that they will sponge more grant money from the system.

Nov 22, 2009
Follow the money.. Doesn't Al Gore stand to make a lot of money (billions) on global warming resulting on how he positioned his investments. This sounds like a consiperacy. However, the definition of a conspiracy is when 2 or more people work together to do something illegal. That never happens....

Nov 22, 2009
Doesn't Al Gore stand to make billions on global warming on how he positioned his investments.

Nov 22, 2009
After reading these comments, I'm sad to bear witness to the decline of a once great science news community. When illegal and unethical activities such as these are celebrated then we are indeed at a dour point. I'm afraid that the deniers will see only what they want from these emails, interpreting every word in its alternate meaning, believing it's more likely thousands of scientists could be colluding against them rather than a couple very rich oil companies, a handful of their paid cronies, or even a mere hacker.

For those who are still on the fence about this, per usual RealClimate explains a lot: http://www.realcl...ru-hack/

Nov 22, 2009
Wait, so because some comments disagree with your world view, suddenly the whole site is wicked? And what is it with all this "deniers" BS? Time and time again I, among others, have explained this stand on the issue: the science is insufficiently conclusive(just read some damn papers, instead of quoting them) for socio-economical changes of such magnitude as are currently being suggested to be based on it. We're not denying or confirming anything, we're just being conservative and pleading for lucidity.

And since when is hacking such a taboo for the environmentalist crowd? It's OK for corp/gov sites to be defaced, both online and offline, but it's "unethical" to see how public-funded scientists talk about their work? If they have nothing to hide and the science is rock-solid, why adopt this "leave Britney alone!" attitude?

Nov 22, 2009
The information disclosed is bad for the 'peer-reviewed' AGW lobby. They really thought that would be able to get away with all their underhand tricks, fortunately mother Gaia did not play along, as the cold weather proved that 'there is something that is just not right'.

So next week we will be back to the new 'Ice Age' also caused by carbon dioxide, the product of full, clean, and efficient combustion!

Nov 22, 2009
I don't usually consider myself a conspiricy theorist, but I get the feel that Copenhagen is not only a fight about climate (over- understated) but above all of corporate interest, who will pay and who will gain with green. If the latest string reports and leaked hacks were indeed an organised campaign I was to point the finger at the British corporations as they got to lot of CO2 to sequester with North Sea oil etc, also Brittain had to be dragged by the feet in the EU and does all it can to frustrate anything that gives the EU more power in general. There is a garlic smell to this and it aint from France, Remember Bush in Kyoto? But this time but the English jockey that has to much money riding on the transatlantic horse to go with the mainland. I don't mean to turn this comment into an all political debate on a science site, but my guts tells me that a lot of these sciencereports are practising partypolitics as well.

Nov 22, 2009
The big money here is not the scientists altering and hiding data to get more research grants. Those are the self-interested pawns.

It's the literally trillions of dollars in wealth transfer from the industrial world to the Zimbabwe's of the world, under the newly established jurisdiction of the UN. Those countries that have led the world by the application of advanced technology will be forced to pay for their 'guilt' by turning over power to UN bureacrats, who will take a sizable cut and turn it over to failed nations.

The AGW "scientists" are just some of the hired hands. Which is why they don't sound much like actual scientists in their emails.

Nov 22, 2009
It's not so much the politicization of the issue; it's that these scientists have invested so much of their life into trying to prove something that they desperately WANT to be true, that it's become close to a religious experience for them; and they're willing to cut corners and accept margins of error without carefully trying to reproduce the results previously reported. There's little to no "science" in their method. It's sad really, because now that they've been caught crying "wolf", nobody will believe them the next time, when it might really matter.

Nov 23, 2009
you must all realise that once paranoia takes hold of the general population trying to convince them otherwise is quite difficult. Just look at the way Canada`s prime minister Stephen Harper(of conservatives) successfuly promotes himself against others... "If you elect Ignatieff, he`ll do this & that! its gonna be the end of the world" and so on and on... and it gets him the votes! same tactics with global warming issue.

Nov 23, 2009
Took a look at the actual files that were leaked last night and the whole lot looks pretty genuine. There's a lot of research data, and a few confidential files (DEFRA application, budgets, etc) as well, some older some newer. There's a lot of interesting emails other than the ones mentioned. For those interested in the subject and debate, I would definitely take the time to skim through.

It appears that Keith Briffa's machine was the one that was hacked, if it was indeed hacked, although
smells more like an inside job to me.

Nov 23, 2009
"Give me six lines written by the most honest man in the world, and I will find enough in them to hang him." Attributed to Cardinal Richelieu .

Nov 23, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Nov 23, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Nov 23, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Nov 23, 2009
A note found in some code:

"Uses “corrected” MXD – but shouldn’t usually plot past 1960 because these will be artificially adjusted to look closer to the real temperatures."

I believe this refers to tree ring proxies, which apparently don't match actual measured temps when those are included in the modern historical proxy record. That tells me that the proxies are not properly "calibrated" Good science would dictate that the ring proxies should be calibrated to equate to known measured temps, then use that data to estimate past temps. Unless you're trying to create an artificial "hockey stick".

What a boon for the petro-chemical industry for folks to be distracted, from all the actual toxic crap industry spews into the environment, by focusing on the relatively easy to deal with CO2.

My concern all along, as an environmentalist myself, has been that the eventual discrediting of AGW alarmism will discredit the enviro scene entirely.

This Michael Mann is an egotistical hack, imo.

Nov 23, 2009
Having read a load of horrifying emails it is clear to me that the facts are as bad as claimed by McIntyre and Co. The vast majority of true scientists are going to suffer for a generation, if not longer, for this global warming fiasco unless we can pin it on demagogues and mass hysteria.

Nov 28, 2009
all I know is this, its november 28th 2009 and it has yet to snow in the metro detroit area this year.

Nov 28, 2009
Scientific findings were supposed to be free of politics. Turns out that science is science and politics. Climate data not consistent with political views were suppressed. Too bad about integrity.

Nov 29, 2009
I suggest to all of you AGW deniers to give it up. Too many people see too many real changes happening around them, from sea ice changes, animal range changes, glacier retreats, changes in the length and starts of the seasons, etc. There are a lot self-important and relatively uneducated conspiracy theorists grabbing ahold of fake data sourced by big oil to spread confusion on the issue.

It simply doesn't matter if a few data points are out of whack or do not agree with the rest. It doesn't matter that the British scientists quoted in the hacked emails are narrow minded individuals who don't understand how science is supposed to work.

There is simply too much data from too many sources to ignore. It is not enough to claim global warming isn't real. You must come up with an alternate theory that also explains all of the data.

Dec 05, 2009
In the last several hundred years, volcanic explosions have been seen to throw particulate into the atmosphere which causes global cooling not warming. Of course volcanic eruptions that put a lot of CO2 into the atmosphere could cause global warming. I meant an alternate theory to CO2 forcing of the climate. I am interested in some mechanism that would tie volcanic eruptions to warming WITHOUT introducing the concept of greenhouse gas forcing.

If you are suggesting that man hasn't raised CO2 levels you argue badly. CO2 concentrations are really easy to measure with considerable accuracy. They are also easy to pin down to a source because burning organics show a different isotope composition than volcanism (the proportion of C13 is much reduced in organic materials).

Dec 08, 2009

This AP columnist David Stringer, is just another in long line liberal CYA apologists in this current Climategate "bruhaha". No matter what is discovered about the climate fraudsters, they will gleefully try to convince us that the darkness outside is really daylight...Really? Well this time fewer are buying it. .We "knowNothings Flatearthers" (REALISTS) have known for a long time that phony demagogues on the left will stop at nothing to lead the naive, the ill-informed, the un-informed and the mis-informed down this disastrous superhighway of deceit, whether it be single payer health care, cap/trade, or CAFE standards for cars. If they really cared about greenhouse gasses, they would shut their traps and include nuclear power and NatGas on the menu. But they don't so, we REALISTS must conclude it's money and control they are after...With the latter being the main dish..HPD out....

Dec 13, 2009
It appears that Keith Briffa's machine was the one that was hacked, if it was indeed hacked, although smells more like an inside job to me.

Looks like an inside job with outside help to me. At least, that is what the format of the files seems to show. I only wish that more had been released. What has been released is turning out to be pretty damning, in my opinion. And, I am not talking about just the emails. The documents are even more so when compared to the emails.

The format of many of the files, however, require the use of Unix or Linux based filesystems and so forth to properly format them for reading as they were created. It is much easier to go through the data and takes less effort because carriage returns and end of line characters are displayed differently in Windows and Unix/Linux applications.

Dec 14, 2009
I love this from the Telegraph article cited above:
He added: "Our global temperature series tallies with those of other, completely independent, groups of scientists working for NASA and the National Climate Data Centre in the United States, among others. Even if you were to ignore our findings, theirs show the same results. The facts speak for themselves; there is no need for anyone to manipulate them."

That is all well and good but the raw data was manipulated the same way in the NOAA datasets. The raw data was removed and data averaged into 50-year blocks was put up in its place. The CRU did it to "attenuate the signal." I have little doubt that the NOAA did the very same thing now that I see that all their and the CRU's datasets match.

The rest of us in the community want to see the raw data for ourselves! We no longer can trust any climatologists who manipulate the data and remove all the raw data from public view at their "word."

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more