The Climatic Research Unit email controversy (also known as “Climategate”) began in November 2009 with the hacking of a server at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) by an external attacker. Several weeks before the Copenhagen Summit on climate change, an unknown individual or group breached CRU’s server and copied thousands of emails and computer files to various locations on the Internet.
Eight committees investigated the allegations and published reports, finding no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct. However, the reports called on the scientists to avoid any such allegations in the future by taking steps to regain public confidence in their work, for example by opening up access to their supporting data, processing methods and software, and by promptly honouring freedom of information requests. The scientific consensus that global warming is occurring as a result of human activity remained unchanged throughout the investigations.
The intense media coverage of the documents stolen from climate researchers at the University of East Anglia created public confusion about the scientific consensus on climate change, leading several publications to comment on the propagation of the controversy in the media in the wake of a series of investigations that cleared the scientists of any wrongdoing. In an editorial, the New York Times described the coverage as a “manufactured controversy,” and expressed hope that the investigations clearing the scientists “will receive as much circulation as the original, diversionary controversies”. Writing for Newsweek, journalist Sharon Begley called the controversy a “highly orchestrated, manufactured scandal”, noting that the public was unlikely to change their mind. Regardless of the reports exonerating the scientists, Begley noted that “one of the strongest, most-repeated findings in the psychology of belief is that once people have been told X, especially if X is shocking, if they are later told, ‘No, we were wrong about X,’ most people still believe X.”
Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and science historian Naomi Oreskes said that the “attacks on climate science that were made ahead of the Copenhagen climate change summit were ‘organised’ to undermine efforts to tackle global warming and mirror the earlier tactics of the tobacco industry”. Noting the media circus that occurred when the story first broke, Oreskes and Erik Conway writing about climate change denial, said that following the investigations “the vindication of the climate scientists has received very little coverage at all.
The American Geophysical Union issued a statement that they found “it offensive that these emails were obtained by illegal cyber attacks and they are being exploited to distort the scientific debate about the urgent issue of climate change.”
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) reaffirmed its position on global warming and “expressed grave concerns that the illegal release of private emails stolen from the University of East Anglia should not cause policy-makers and the public to become confused about the scientific basis of global climate change.
For others who may be new to climate change, please see not only the article: http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/solutions/fight-misinformation/debunking-misinformation-stolen-emails-climategate.html#.VU0H3flViko but the links where these scientists have been cleared of wrongdoing.