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November 22, 2011 

Hackers Release Batch of Stolen Emails from Scientists

Science Group Calls on British Authorities to Increase Efforts to Identify Hackers

WASHINGTON (Nov. 22, 2011)—In an apparent effort to discredit climate science, hackers again posted stolen emails from leading climate scientists online today, just days ahead of a United Nations climate meeting. According to the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, the emails released today are part of the same batch that was stolen from the university years ago. Only some of those emails were released in November 2009. Since then, multiple investigations exonerated scientists who had their emails stolen of misconduct.

“These leftover emails should be met with a collective yawn,” said Francesca Grifo, senior scientist and director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) Scientific Integrity Program. “It’s time to condemn the real perpetrators in this story: the hackers who stole and released university property. The hackers and their allies are resorting to desperate measures to distract the public when our focus should be on how to respond to climate change.”

Norfolk police who are investigating the original hacking told the British newspaper Guardian that the contents of the leftover emails will be “of interest” in their attempts to identify the hackers. UCS called on British authorities to escalate their investigation.

“Two years after the emails were stolen, the hackers have still not been brought to justice,” Grifo said. “British authorities should redouble their efforts to find the criminals who are behind this. To do otherwise sends a message that freedom of expression will only selectively be protected.”

UCS climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel said the emails are a distraction from important scientific findings. “The stolen emails are an inconsequential sideshow compared to the main event: preparing ourselves for climate change and reducing emissions,” she said. “Stolen emails won’t cool us off during killer heat waves or prevent floodwaters from washing away our homes.”

Just last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report linking climate change to certain types of dangerous extreme weather, including heat waves and shifts in rainfall that lead, in many areas, to prolonged drought punctuated by heavy flooding.

Grifo also called on universities to better protect the privacy of researchers while honoring their obligation to respond to open records requests, warning that failure to do so could expose others to unwarranted attacks. UCS has closely followed requests for emails from scientists and academics in the United States.

“Attacks like these threaten not only the privacy of scientists, but also of students, faculty and the public,” said Grifo. “Universities need to adequately protect their own records."


The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

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