A controversy over possible falsified climate change reports has been growing in England and the United States as world leaders, including President Obama, prepare to attend the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Copenhagen Dec. 7-18.
The White House said last Wednesday that President Obama will travel to Copenhagen on Dec. 9 to participate in the conference. It also announced that, in the context of an overall deal in Copenhagen that includes robust mitigation contributions from China and the other emerging economies, Obama is prepared to put on the table a U.S. emissions reduction target of 17% below 2005 levels in 2020 and ultimately inline with final U.S. energy and climate legislation.
In the meantime, charges and counter-charges were flying last week based on the release of hundreds of documents and e-mail exchanges between leading climate scientists from Britain's Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia that were obtained by hackers. Opponents of the theory that human activities are to blame for climate change claim the purloined documents reveal efforts by some research scientists to manipulate data to support a massive worldwide campaign to retard climate change.
One U.S. lawmaker, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, has called for a congressional hearing. Inhofe wants an investigation of the leaked documents and the UN International Panel on Climate Change, which based its conclusion of manmade climate change on CRU data.
According to London's Daily Telegraph, approximately 1,000 e-mails and 3,000 other documents were stolen from CRU computers by hackers and circulated on websites run by climate change skeptics. The emails indicate that a leading research scientist supporting climate change caused by human activities altered or ignored data in a major study to disguise other relatively recent global warming episodes in the Middle Ages and during Roman times that could not have been caused by humans.
Other scientists claim that using complete information indicates that temperatures have not shown any unusual increase in the last 20 years to support a "hockey stick" theory of rapid global warming. The climate change skeptics say the e-mails show scientists discussing how to manipulate data to show a temperature increase in recent years when there has actually been a decrease, and discussing ways to remove dissenting scientists from the peer review process, the newspaper said. Inhofe told the National Review the CRU documents reveal that climate change scientists worked together to present a united front on manmade global warming. "They were purposefully misrepresenting the facts. They tried to make America believe, and it worked, for a time." Inhofe also said he would be going to Copenhagen "to expose the truth."
CRU officials said the hacked documents "have been taken out of context and misinterpreted" and reveal only an "open debate" among climate change researchers.
"There is nothing in the stolen material which indicates that peer-reviewed publications by CRU and others on the nature of global warming and related climate change are not of the highest quality of scientific investigation and interpretation," said Trevor Davies, the university's pro-vice-chancellor for research. He hinted that the hacking of CRU's computers may have been part of a concerted effort by climate change skeptics to turn the tide of the debate.
"The publication of a selection of stolen data is the latest example of a sustained and, in some instances, a vexatious campaign which may have been designed to distract from reasoned debate about the nature of the urgent action which world governments must consider to mitigate and adapt to climate change," Davies said.
Also scheduled to attend the Copenhagen conference are Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and other administration officials.
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