To: Editorial Boards and Reporters Covering Climate Change
From: Natural Resources Defense Council
Re: Hacked Climate Emails from the University of East Anglia CRU
In the wake of the recent hacking of emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, we wanted to provide some insight and context for this issue.
Scientific integrity is essential. We support steps being taken by the CRU and other institutions to conduct a full review of the emails and to take necessary actions to ensure that the scientific process is based on sound principles, transparency and the highest standards. We also encourage the appropriate law enforcement agencies to fully investigate and take appropriate legal action against the individuals or groups that were responsible for the hacking of these private messages.
Most importantly, the emails that have been released do not change the scientific foundation of the causes of climate change, the impacts of climate change that are already occurring, or the necessity of action to protect our planet.
The Science and Consensus around Global Warming
The emails that have been revealed do not conflict at all with the well-established consensus and scientific findings about the growth in greenhouse gas emissions and their role in increasing global temperatures over the last 50 years.
In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a collection of 2500 scientific experts, including more than 450 lead authors and 800 contributing authors, came to the following conclusion:
“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.”
Similarly, as recently as October 2009, a collection of 18 leading scientific associations agreed that:
“Observations throughout the world make it clear that climate change is occurring, and rigorous scientific research demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.”
Just last week, a group of prominent scientists released an update called the Copenhagen Diagnosis found that:
“Global ice-sheets are melting at an increased rate; Arctic sea-ice is disappearing much faster than recently projected, and future sea-level rise is now expected to be much higher than previously forecast.”
[Full report: http://www.copenhagendiagnosis.org]
Global Warming is Already Occurring
Conclusions about global warming are not based solely on the work of any one set of scientists or any single aspect of the science. Since the 1880s, scientists have known that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap heat near the earth’s surface. The physics of this effect have long been known and are not seriously disputed. The increase in man-made greenhouse gases and wide array of evidence – from melting glaciers to thermometer records – point to abnormal global warming, which threatens our planet.
In June 2009, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the result of 20 years of study by the Pentagon, the Commerce Department, the State Department and 10 other federal agencies over the course of four administrations concluded:
“The global warming observed over the past 50 years is due primarily to humaninduced emissions of heat-trapping gases. These emissions come mainly from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas), with important contributions from the clearing of forests, agricultural practices, and other activities.”
The Copenhagen Diagnosis notes the changes in global temperatures that are consistent with human-based warming:
“Over the past 25 years temperatures have increased at a rate of 0.190C per decade, in very good agreement with predictions based on greenhouse gas increases. Even over the past ten years, despite a decrease in solar forcing, the trend continues to be one of warming. Natural, short-term fluctuations are occurring, but there have been no significant changes in the underlying warming trend.”
Similarly, according to NOAA:
“Seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 and the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1995.”
Why Did These Emails Gain So Much Traction?
While the identity of the hackers has yet to be revealed, a host of climate deniers and skeptics—including Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and others— sensed an opportunity to pile on. Ironically, they used exaggerations and hyperbole, justified by their ideological views, to distort the true nature of this occurrence. Predictably, this response was followed by well-known opponents of climate action, like Sen. James Inhofe (R-Ok.) and columnist George Will. Together, these pundits have been using their public platforms to extend the dangerous game of denying the science, even as climate change threatens our health, our security and our planet.
Rush Limbaugh said: “Now, the bottom line is, the whole global warming — manmade global warming movement is a fraud. It is a hoax. It’s made-up lies.” [Link: http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_112309/content/01125106.guest.html]
Sean Hannity on Fox News said: “This climate change hoax, now we find out that this institute, in fact, was hiding from the people of Great Britain and the world that, in fact, climate change is a hoax, something I’ve been saying for a long time.” [Link: http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/200911240055]
But, as the St. Louis Dispatch asserts in an editorial (November 23, 2009):
“Climate change deniers are hailing them as a ‘smoking gun’ — though exactly what they are supposed to demonstrate seems a bit unclear. Many of the e-mails discuss technical problems or point to gaps in evidence. Others are unabashedly critical of scientists who, the researchers say, misstate data or reach faulty conclusions.”
It’s unfortunate that the debate around climate change has moved from one of reasonable dialogue to extreme partisanship. We support open debate, transparency and accuracy in science and reporting. The science – and what we can see with our own eyes – tells us that changes to the climate are already occurring and that we need strong action to address this growing global threat. As leaders come together in Copenhagen and the Senate takes up legislation, we need to move forward with policies that will shift America to clean energy while cutting carbon pollution. By taking the necessary actions, we can prevent the worst impacts of climate change, strengthen our economy, enhance our national security and protect our planet for future generations.
- Scientific consensus information from the Union of Concerned Scientists:
- The U.S. Global Change Research Program, the most authoritative federal research project on the impacts of climate change: http://www.globalchange.gov/
- Real Climate blog, which has frequent updates:
- There is useful information from the Enviroknow blog:
For more information, please contact: Michael Oko, Natural Resources Defense Council, at (202) 513-6245.