Incident of the Week: Hack of Researchers’ Email Triggers “Climategate”

Compared to security breaches that involve credit card and bank account information, other breaches in security often get somewhat shortchanged in the media, notwithstanding the occasional hack of a celebrity cell phone.  The same cannot be said of the purloined emails one hacker posted online that are alleged to the the back and forth between climate change researchers at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom which are at the center of new controversy in public debate over climate change.

In November, an anonymous user posted 160 MB of email, over 1000 pieces of correspondence from the University’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), to a Russian FTP site.  While it remains unclear whether all of the published emails are accurate, Phil Jones, the Director of the CRU at the time of the hack, has stated that at least one of the emails is genuine, but “has been taken completely out of context.”  Other emails appear in various forms on a number of websites (see sites here and here).  At the heart of the storm are comments deriding climate change skeptics and a reference to one statistical operation as a “trick.”

Climate change naysayers have seized on the opportunity to call into question whether global warming is in fact caused by human activities.  Republican Representative James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin recently stated that the leaked emails “read more like scientific fascism than scientific process.”  Others have described the leak as part of a smear campaign intended to undermine efforts to reform fossil fuel emissions and other environmental standards.  Also useful to note, if not humorous, is RealClimate’s observation that:

More interesting is what is not contained in the emails. There is no evidence of any worldwide conspiracy, no mention of George Soros nefariously funding climate research, no grand plan to ‘get rid of the MWP’, no admission that global warming is a hoax, no evidence of the falsifying of data, and no ‘marching orders’ from our socialist/communist/vegetarian overlords. The truly paranoid will put this down to the hackers also being in on the plot though.

The controversy, now dubbed “Climategate,” recently led to Phil Jones resignation as Director of the CRU.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *