Reminiscent of the ridiculous “Climategate” scandal, over 5000 hacked emails and documents from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia have been leaked just weeks before the crucial UN climate negotiations in Durban. Last time the now infamous 2009 Climategate emails were leaked just as UN negotiators and world leaders were ramping up for climate talks in Copenhagen.

The emails all involve climate scientists debating scientific issues and events, including working papers for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

If the original Climategate emails conspiracy confused you, check out Skeptical Science’s breakdown of the whole event, including a rundown of the nine different reports and panels that examined the emails — all of which cleared the scientists of any scientific wrongdoing — and a through explanation of the “hide the decline” catchcry.

Just to clarify, none of the 5000+ recently released emails are new. 

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Centre at Penn State University and a scientist whose name appears in several of the emails, dismissed the latest email release as “truly pathetic”. He instead said the hackers were “agents doing the dirty bidding of the fossil fuel industry know they can’t contest the fundamental science of human-caused climate change. So they have instead turned to smear, innuendo, criminal hacking of websites, and leaking out-of-context snippets of personal emails in their effort to try to confuse the public about the science and thereby forestall any action to combat this critical threat. Its right out of the tried-and-true playbook of climate change denial.”

In a statement from the University of East Anglia it noted that all of the “new” emails date back to the original 2009 hacking incident:

“…these emails have the appearance of having been held back after the theft of data and emails in 2009 to be released at a time designed to cause maximum disruption to the imminent international climate talks.”

This appears to be a carefully-timed attempt to reignite controversy over the science behind climate change when that science has been vindicated by three separate independent inquiries and number of studies – including, most recently, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group.”

Sceptics were quick to get excited about the latest leaked emails.

“Michael Mann, Phil Jones, Ben Santer, Tom Wigley, Kevin Trenberth, Keith Briffa — all your favourite Climategate characters are here, once again caught red-handed in a series of emails exaggerating the extent of Anthropogenic Global Warming, while privately admitting to one another that the evidence is nowhere near as a strong as they’d like it to be,” declares conservative blogger James Delingpole at The Telegraph. He goes on:”In other words, what these emails confirm is that the great man-made global warming scare is not about science but about political activism.”

Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt was quick to announce the emails “expose scientists working for ‘the cause'”. “I have not read through the emails to establish the context,” writes Bolt, “But this selection will strengthen strong suspicions that a tight group of insiders have treated a questionable scientific theory as a cause that needs to by hyped.”

One of the key details to come out of the original Climategate debacle was that email quotes taken out of context failed to convey their true meaning.

Climate change deniers grab on to the quotes from scientists that show they are sceptical and require evidence on everything. Meaning, doing exactly what scientists should do, writes Shaun Lawrence Otto on Huffington Post:

“Geez. Another shocker. A leading expert of temperature reconstructions is skeptical of temperature reconstructions but still lets the data guide his ultimate conclusions. Isn’t that sort of skepticism what we want?”

Climate deniers shouldn’t get too excited, these latest emails don’t show a global conspiracy by climate scientists, just a bunch of scientists emailing each other and reviewing their work, says the BBC’s Richard Black:

“Robust debate? You bet.

A desire to prevent material being released through Freedom of Information (FoI) requests? Absolutely — as acknowledged, apologised for and dealt with during the 2010 inquiries into the incidents of 2009.

But a concerted plot to deceive the world?

I’ve yet to find it; and, judging by what he/she has highlighted, so has FOIA 2011 [the codename adopted by the email hacker], despite having had the unique opportunity to scour the emails for two years.”

It seems that even though the Climategate conspiracy has been proved wrong, many can’t process that fact, says a post on the Get Energy Smart Now! blog:

“Sadly, the basic nature of human psychology works against the corrective process: a falsehood, once embedded is extremely difficult to turnaround. And, sadly, the very efforts at correcting often reinforce the falsehood. And, this is even without dealing with the fact that there is a massive fossil-foolish machine (with the serious support of Faux News and the rest of the Murdoch disinformation empire) seeking to reinforce and expand on that disinformation.”

The blame for much of the Climategate scandal lies with lazy reporters, argues Brad Johnson at Think Progress:

“Climategate was a scandal of corrupt, deceitful, and shoddy reporting.”

Hopefully Climategate II won’t work in the same way.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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