Scientists Criticise End Of Climategate Hack Investigation

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Email theft is unsolved, but global warming science is vindicated

Scientists have expressed disappointment that the investigation into the theft of the so-called “Climategate” emails from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in 2009 has closed with no arrests.

Norfolk police announced yesterday that their two-and-a-half year probe was being wound up as it had no “realistic prospect” of identifying who stole 6000 private emails and other files from the Climate Research Unit at UEA in late 2009. Cimate change deniers posted the emails online, making bitter – and ultimately unsupported – claims that they exposed the science of man-made global warming as fraudulent.

Release of hot air

“I am obviously disappointed that no-one has been prosecuted for this crime but hope today’s announcement will draw a line under the stressful events of the last two and half years,” said Professor Phil Jones (pictured), research director of the CRU, who was at the centre of the Climategate storm.

Jones and other scientists were cleared of any bias, but climate change deniers created a furore around the private emails, which may have contributed to the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit in 2010, and slow political progress on the reduction of carbon emissions.

“The misinformation and conspiracy theories circulating following the publication of the stolen emails – including the theory that the hacker was a disgruntled UEA employee – did real harm to public perceptions about the dangers of climate change,” said Professor Edward Acton, vice chancellor of UEA.

The police investigation did not find enough evidence to bring any charges, said senior investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Julian Gregory. He did say, however, that “the data breach was the result of a sophisticated and carefully orchestrated attack on the CRU’s data files, carried out remotely via the internet”. “The offenders used methods common in unlawful internet activity to obstruct enquiries.”

Climate change critics had suggested that the leak was the work of a whistleblower inside the CRU, which Superintendent Gregory did not think likely:  “There is no evidence to suggest that anyone working at or associated with the University of East Anglia was involved in the crime.”

They weren’t able to trace any physical or electronic penetration of the site, however, and the investigation did not reveal any links to businesses or nations keen to shoot down climate science – a theory which environmentalists had suggested.

“The international dimension of investigating the World Wide Web especially has proved extremely challenging,” said Superintendent Gregory.

“It’s a big shame that whoever stole these emails from scientists has apparently gotten away with it,” said Michael Halpern, manager of the Scientific Integrity programme of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who warned climate scientists are increasingly facing harassment by email and phone calls, and even death threats.

“The lesson here is that scientists who work in a field with significant relevance to public policy should be prepared for unethical attacks like these,” said Halpern. “Universities and government agencies need to do more to protect the scientists they employ so scientists can continue to make new discoveries that help us make informed decisions about our health, our environment and our economy.”

Meanwhile, the climate change research goes on, and is carried out in a more open fashion than before Climategate. Data including that from CRU is available for open examination online – along with a stack of other data, at the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, where full analysis continues to support the consensus that human activity is raising the earth’s temperature through emission of greenhouse gases

“My colleagues and I remain committed to the research CRU undertakes to illuminate the globally important issue of climate change,” said Professor Jones.

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