Last week, 5,000 new emails and other documents hacked from the server of the University of East Anglia's (UEA) Climatic Research Unit were made available on a searchable database. The new data breach appears to be linked to a nearly identical incident two years ago, dubbed “Climategate,” when a batch of emails hacked from the Climate Research Unit ignited a controversy over whether the Unit’s researchers manipulated and withheld key climate data. Although several investigations have since exonerated the researchers from any wrongdoing, an anonymously authored document that accompanied the release of the emails stated that the latest batch of documents contains new evidence that the researchers massaged data and avoided Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, among other things, BBC News reported.
Although the majority of the emails have been “cherry picked” and taken out of context, according to the University of East Anglia, one of the most damning emails, has the unit director, Phil Jones, advising his colleagues to delete emails in response to FOI requests, ScienceInsider reported. The email reads: “<2440> Jones: I've been told that [the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] IPCC is above national FOI Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process.” Jones has acknowledged that he had been misinformed about the IPCC being “above” FOIA requests, according to ScienceInsider.
The release came one week before The United Nations Climate Change Conference, which began in Durban, South Africa today (November 28). Similarly, the original “Climategate” emails were released shortly before the Copenhagen Summit on climate change in 2009. “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,” the University of East Anglia said in a statement last week.
A police investigation is currently looking into the hacking.