Climate Change Conspiracies: Stolen Emails Used to Ridicule Global Warming

Published on
by
the Independent/UK

Climate Change Conspiracies: Stolen Emails Used to Ridicule Global Warming

Climate sceptics are blamed for disrupting crucial negotiations, say scientists.

by
Michael McCarthy in Copenhagen and Jonathan Owen

A young girl holds a placard as she participates in "The Wave" demonstration supporting action on climate change as the march begins through central London. Tens of thousands have demonstrated in European capitals, two days ahead of the vital Copenhagen summit on tackling climate change. (AFP/Leon Neal)

Russian computer hackers are suspected of being
behind the stolen emails used by climate skeptics to discredit the
science of global warming in advance of tomorrow's Copenhagen climate
negotiations, the United Nations' deputy climate chief said yesterday.

"This was not a job for amateurs," said Professor Jean-Pascal van
Ypersele, vice-chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change
(IPCC), referring to the theft of the emails from the Climatic
Research Unit
of the University of East Anglia (UEA).

The allegation comes amid a series of rows that have overshadowed the
start of
the Copenhagen talks, where 192 nations will attempt to negotiate a
new and
comprehensive treaty to counter the advance of global warming, and
hold the
coming rise in temperatures to C, which is regarded as the limit of
what the
world can safely cope with.

The conference, described by the economist Lord Stern last week as "the
most important international meeting since the Second World War", is
being attended by more than 100 heads of state and government.

But expectations have nosedived in recent weeks, with the outcome
predicted to
be little more than a political statement of intent.

Professor van Ypersele said the timing of the "Climategate" row, in
the final build-up to the Copenhagen negotiations, showed that it has
been
deliberately engineered.

The first website posting of the emails came from a Russian computer, he

added: "It's a scandal. It was probably ordered, maybe by Russian
hackers receiving money for doing it."

Some of the messages stolen from the research unit's files, which date
back 13
years, appear to show the head of the unit, Professor Phil Jones,
obstructing attempts by climate change skeptics to obtain information.

The most damaging, from 1999, refers to his attempt to "hide the
decline"
shown in a record of temperatures indicated by tree-ring growth after
1960,
when that diverged from the actual observed air temperatures.

With Professor Jones temporarily standing down from his position while
an
inquiry is carried out, the old "hide the decline" phrase has been
seized on by the skeptics to imply that current world temperatures are

declining. This is rejected by the scientific community, with 2009
likely to
be at least the fifth hottest year ever recorded. The 10 hottest years
on
record have all been since 1997.

But climate skeptics, seeking anything to break the scientific
consensus, have
seen the stolen emails as manna from heaven. On Friday, Saudi Arabia's

leading climate negotiator, Mohammad al-Sabban, said the emails
suggested
climate change does not have a human cause. He said the issue would
have a "huge
impact" on the negotiations.

Tempers are getting frayed. Ed Miliband, the Secretary of State for
Climate
Change, has branded senior Tory politicians Lord Lawson and David
Davis as "climate
saboteurs". And Gordon Brown referred on Friday to "behind-the-times,
anti-science, flat-Earth climate skeptics". This week the Met Office
will begin releasing of climate data records in a bid to draw a line
under
the matter.

It also emerged yesterday that computer hackers have repeatedly tried to
steal
files from a prominent climate change expert in Canada. Professor
Andrew
Weaver, a climatologist at the University of Victoria, said: "One of
the sad realities of being a scientist working in this area is you get

targeted. I have had no end of nasty emails and phone calls." His
office has been broken into twice and hackers have tried to break into
his
computer system several times during the past year. "They were trying
to find any dirt they could, as they have done in the UK," said
Professor Weaver, a member of the IPCC. "If they can't find 'dirt',
they manufacture it from out-of-context emails or skewed statistics,"
he added.

Despite years spent by scientists warning of the consequences of climate

change, numerous summits and massive public pressure from a growing
army of
campaigners, global emissions of carbon dioxide are growing so fast
that the
earth is on a course for a 6C increase by the end of the century,
which
would be disastrous for humans.

Professor Bob Watson, former head of the IPCC and Defra's chief
scientific
adviser, warned that a 6C rise is a realistic possibility: "If we
stayed on the road of the last decade or two, we would be much more on
the
high emissions scenario of the IPCC and that plausibly could take us
up by
6C."

He dismissed Britain's goal of getting a C deal as a pipe dream: "I
think
unless we've got incredibly strong action almost immediately, it is
going to
get close to virtually impossible to meet a C target. We cannot stop
climate
change. Our challenge now is to what degree we can limit it."

The eve of the summit saw Britain's biggest protest against climate
change
yesterday, with an estimated 40,000 taking part in "The Wave", a
march organized by the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition - representing 11
million people from 100 organizations. The marchers rallied at
Parliament
and demanded that the Prime Minister commit to cutting emissions by 40
per
cent by 2020 and to push for a deal that will see rich nations provide
a
$150bn annual pot to help poor countries move to low-carbon economies.

Rich and poor nations remain divided over the carbon cuts required and
the
funding that developing countries need to help them cope with global
warming. Once again there are arguments about the commitment of
leading
Western nations: an impressive-sounding US offer of 17 per cent cuts
was criticized this weekend as a fraction of the 40 per cent cuts from
1990
levels that scientists claim will give humanity a chance.

On Friday, President Obama announced he would attend the last two days
of the
conference.

The conference at a glance

Aims

To come up with a treaty to cut carbon emissions and decide mutually
agreed
targets; develop low-carbon economies; preserve what is left of
earth's
forests; and fund costs of preparing for climate change.

Ambitions

To have a 50/50 chance of stopping temperatures from rising beyond C
will
require all emissions to start dropping by 2015 and a 40 per cent cut
in
emissions, against 1990 levels, by 2020.

Obstacles

Money - developing countries want richer nations to give billions
in
climate change aid annually.

Emissions - developed countries reluctant to make big cuts unless

developing countries do too.

Next steps

Any climate agreement will have to be formalized in a legal treaty
before
being adopted by the world's national governments in a complicated
process
that could take years.

 

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