Less than a week before U.N. negotiators convene in South Africa for a new round of talks aimed at forging a global climate pact, a hacker has released an apparent second round of emails from the University of East Anglia in Britain, seeking to portray climate scientists in a negative light.
The email exchanges, which appear to have been pulled from the same set of pirated electronic files taken from servers at the university's Climatic Research Unit more than two years ago, do not contain any new revelations about research linking human activity to global warming.
But the release highlights the ongoing conflict between some bloggers and climate-change skeptics who challenge this science, and those who support it.
In 2009, an anonymous hacker posted more than 1,000 emails from the University of East Anglia on the Web, sparking a controversy dubbed "Climate-gate" by some media outlets and prompting many conservatives in the United States and elsewhere to question whether human activity induces global warming. British police have investigated the email piracy but have yet to identify who was behind it.
Those emails painted the scientific climate establishment as combative and clubby, but a half-dozen investigations in the United States and Britain found no evidence that the scientists manipulated data, as critics alleged.
This second batch deals less with climate science than with how some prominent scientists framed the issue and recruited colleagues to serve on panels such as the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In a statement Tuesday, the University of East Anglia said that "we have no evidence of a recent breach of our systems" and that it could not confirm yet whether the 5,000 new emails are genuine because of "the sheer volume of material."
But it added that, if authentic, "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."