Hackers broke into the electronic files of one of the world’s foremost climate research centers this week and posted an array of e-mails in which prominent scientists engaged in a blunt discussion of global warming research and disparaged climate-change skeptics.
The skeptics have seized upon e-mails stolen from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in Britain as evidence that scientific data have been rigged to make it appear as if humans are causing global warming. The researchers, however, say the e-mails have been taken out of context and merely reflect an honest exchange of ideas.
University officials confirmed the data breach, which involves more than 1,000 e-mails and 3,000 documents, but said they could not say how many of the stolen items were authentic.
“We are aware that information from a server in one area of the university has been made available on public websites,” the statement says. “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.”
Michael E. Mann, who directs the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, said in a telephone interview from Paris that skeptics are “taking these words totally out of context to make something trivial appear nefarious.”
In one e-mail from 1999, the center’s director, Phil Jones, alludes to one of Mann’s articles in the journal Nature and writes, “I’ve 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.”