Crackers leak climate research e-mail, possibly to manipulate public opinion.

22 November 2009

The argument over whether or not the global climate is getting warmer or cooler due to the actions of humanity has been going fast and hard ever since someone claimed back in the 1960's that average temperatures were getting cooler...

Did I say 'cooler'? I meant 'warmer'. Back when I was in high school (in the first half of the 1990's) and into today the concern was over whether or not the globe was getting warmer, and if you haven't been paying attention to the television this has been a campaign point in the last few presidential elections.

If that seems odd, it's because it is. The debate is, by and large, erudite and gets ugly as often as not. People who take a stand for one side are called denialists by the other (a word which has gotten a nasty connotation for reasons I can't go into without violating Godwin's Law), and large volumes of data backing opinions are hurled back and forth in academic circles while ad hominem and straw man attacks take place a little closer to home.

Speaking of large volumes of data, all of that leads up to an article that leaped out at me yesterday - an e-mail server on the network of the University of East Anglia in the UK was cracked and 62 megabytes of correspondence between climate change researchers was leaked, first on an FTP site in the Russian Confederation and thence to the Web. This represents about a decade's worth of discussion between scientists working in the field of climate change research. It has been postulated that the messages which were released were those which could, out of context, be used to undermine the topic in the public eye. A few of the researchers have come forward and verified the e-mails as their own which only adds more fuel to the fire. Some bloggers have stepped up to quote specific passages to brace their arguments that climate change is a vastly overrated phenomenon and that the collected data is being edited before publication to support one side or another.

For what it's worth, Wikileaks doesn't seem to have copies of this data and the proliferation of articles on the web is making it difficult to find copies of the messages. One of them can be read here and some of the others are reprinted in an article I linked to earlier. If you search around you'll probably find a couple of links to the archive, like this one (note: this link could die at any time). They can also be found on BitTorrent trackers here and here. If you do decide to download them, be careful - chances are someone'll get the bright idea to post look-alike .zip files which contain malware so don't run any executables you may find, make sure you're patched up, and scan everything.

Interestingly, a summit will be held in Copenhagen next month where world leaders will attempt to hammer out a treaty which would help limit the discharge of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. What effect this leaked information will have on the outcome remains to be seen.