Hackers Spur Global Warming Skeptics With Stolen E-mails

e-mail server

The e-mails were stolen from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, a high profile climate research center based in the U.K. The center, which has maintained a strong stance on global warming, attempts to determine the cause and path of climate change in this century as well as the future.

Altogether, the hacker stole more than 1,000 private e-mails and more than 3,000 documents from CRU, which were posted anonymously to a Russian FTP server. The hacker subsequently posted a link to the 61-MB file on the blog Air Vent.

The hacker said in a message accompanying the link, "We felt 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."

The published e-mails, which altogether cover about 10 years of communications, have elicited strong criticism by individuals, and have subsequently been used by global warming skeptics as contradictory evidence in the debate surrounding climate change. Among other things, critics maintain that the communications indicate that many high profile climate scientists colluded and manipulated scientific data to corroborate their own beliefs.

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CRU has since confirmed that the e-mails are legitimate. However, CRU scientists said that the e-mails were benign, representing honest dialogue between academics. They also maintained that in fact portions of the e-mails were taken out of context to make it appear that science surrounding global warming was fabricated.

The CRU e-mails surfaced in the weeks leading up to the December Climate Conference in Copenhagen, in which world leaders from 170 countries will gather to discuss copious environmental trends, including worldwide climate change.

Although scientists have defended their stance, the backlash from the leak could potentially jeopardize scientific arguments that support global warming and further hurt environmental efforts to mitigate a warming environment. It will also likely incur renewed scrutiny and oversight in the scientific community and further stoke debate about the legitimacy of global warming.