An online debate over global warming science has broken out after an unknown hacker broke into the e-mail server at a prominent climate-research center, stole more than a thousand e-mails about global warming and posted them online.The GOP wants to investigate the leaked emails:
Global warming skeptics are seizing on portions of the messages as evidence that scientists are colluding and warping data to fit the theory of global warming, but researchers say the e-mails are being taken out of context and just show scientists engaged in frank discussion.
The Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, is one of the United Kingdom's leading climate research centers and has been a strong proponent of the position that global warming is real and has human causes. The center confirmed the hack occurred in an e-mail statement to Wired.coml.
"We are aware that information from a server in one area of the university has been made available on public websites," the statement read. "We are extremely concerned that personal information about individuals may have been compromised. Because of the volume of this information we cannot currently confirm what proportion of this material is genuine."
The stolen cache includes more than 1,000 e-mails and more than 3,000 documents, some containing code. They were posted anonymously to an FTP server in Russia. The hacker then posted a link to the 61-MB file on the blog Air Vent.
An e-mail by one of the university's professors, Phil Jones, has been singled out by skeptics as proof that scientists have deliberately misled the public on the issue. In the 1999 e-mail, Jones wrote of using a "trick" to hide an apparent decline in recent global temperatures on a chart being prepared for use by a meteorological organization.Somewhere Al Gore is cringing.
But in a statement posted on the university's website Saturday, Jones said that the e-mail had been "taken completely out of context" and that there had been no misrepresentation of data. "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," Jones said. Skeptics of man-made global warming disagreed, trumpeting the e-mails online. "The Death Blow to Climate Science," one website headlined. Another hailed a "Warmist Conspiracy."
Last week, the leading Republican on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, declared 2009 "The Year of the Skeptic"; on Saturday, a spokesman for environment committee Republicans, Matt Dempsey, said the e-mails, if authentic, "would have a profound impact on the debate" over the climate bill.