Epostene som tyder på at forskere ved Klimasenteret i Norwich manipulerte data om oppvarmingen av kloden, er blitt politisk ammunisjon for klimaskeptikere, og kan påvirke utfallet av København-konferansen.
In the US, where the CRU emails have been cited as proof of «the greatest act of scientific fraud in history», there are very real fears that hardline Republicans – together with powerful Right-wing media organisations – will use the scandal to scupper President Obama’s proposed legislation to cap carbon emissions.
In Australia, the world’s worst carbon dioxide polluter per capita, 10 opposition front bench MPs have resigned in protest at a proposed carbon bill, their resolve seemingly strengthened by the emergence of the emails.
And here in the UK, although the main political parties agree that global warming does exist and is man-made, there have been calls for the head of the CRU to resign over the scandal, and demands for a full-scale public inquiry from the former chancellor Lord Lawson who, this week, launched a new think tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, to challenge the consensus on global warming policy.
Phil Jones, the 57-year-old director of the CRU, is the man who has suddenly found himself the number one target of climate change conspiracy theorists the world over after he sent the most damaging of all the emails exposed by the anonymous hacker.
In one message, dated November 1999, he wrote: «I’ve just completed Mike’s trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 to hide the decline.»
Gotcha! say the global warming sceptics who have argued for years that average temperatures on Earth are, in reality, either stable or going down. Professor Jones defended himself by claiming the word «trick» was used out of context and simply referred to a legitimate method of handling data. But there was more.
An email sent by one of Prof Jones’s colleagues said: «The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.»
Prof Jones, whose department has for years refused to release its raw data on temperatures, wrote another email in which he said sceptics «have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send it to anyone». By chance, he now admits he has «accidentally» deleted some of the raw data.
Another message said the CRU’s method of collating data «renders the station counts totally meaningless… so, we can have a proper result, but only by including a load of garbage!»
Prof Jones, who at first refused to confirm even that the emails were genuine, finally issued a statement on Wednesday, in which he said: «My colleagues and I accept that some of the published emails do not read well.» On that point, at least, no one is likely to argue with him.
Although Prof Jones is not what you could call a household name (though he soon might be) he is, without doubt, one of the world’s most influential proponents of the theory of man-made global warming.
The CRU has the largest archive of global temperature data in the world, and its research formed the basis of the United Nations’ key document on global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report of 2007.
Climategate har blitt en faktor i mainstream-politikken. Fox News bruker dem som bevis på at klimaforskningen er politisert.
Det finnes to ulike tilnærminger: de som allerede har gjort seg opp en mening og vil bruke climategate for hva det er verdt, og de som er bekymret for forskningsetikken: hvis forskere manipulerer data, undergraver de tilliten til vitenskapen. Fordi dette er utropt til å være den viktigste saken i vår tid, har den enorme implikasjoner hvis forskere jukser.
President Obama’s climate tsar Carol Browner has even been forced to make a public statement on the emails, insisting the science on global warming remains sound.
In Australia, meanwhile, the scandal has helped stoke a growing rift in the opposition Liberal Party, which had been poised to back Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s carbon pollution bill, but which is hopelessly split on the issue after 10 of its most senior politicians resigned, threatening to challenge party leader Malcolm Turnbull if he does not oppose the legislation.
Klimaekspert Bob Ward tror ikke Climategate vil rokke ved grunnleggende overbevisninger. Oppvarmingen handler om enkle fysiske lover.
However Bob Ward, a climate change expert at the London School of Economics and Political Science, believes world leaders will pay little attention to the scandal surrounding the CRU, arguing that politics, not science, will decide the fate of the Copenhagen summit.
«The politicians won’t be swayed by this,» he said. «It’s basic physics that the world is being warmed by greenhouse gases, and politicians can see through the sceptics’ arguments. If Copenhagen fails to produce an agreement, it won’t be because of these emails. And in the US, President Obama’s cap and trade bills will be decided by 12 or 13 Democratic senators who represent states with large coal and oil reserves.»
Who’s to blame for Climategate?
The publication of damning emails about climate change could literally change the world. Gordon Rayner reports.