Did Russian "Hacker Patriots" Embarrass Proponents of Global Warming at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia?
"When four years ago, then President Vladimir Putin was weighing his options on the Kyoto Protocol the Russian Academy of Sciences strongly advised him to reject it as having 'no scientific foundation.' He ignored the advice and sent the Kyoto pact to Parliament for purely political reasons."--The Hindu (7-10-08) [Note: the Russian Academy of Sciences is a signatory to the Joint science academies’ statement on growth and responsibility: sustainability, energy efficiency and climate protection.]
The media and the blogs are debating the significance of a scandal called "Climategate."
According to the blog Atlas Shrugs (11-20-09), an "unknown alleged Russian entity" hacked into the server of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia and briefly posted a file with embarrassing e-mails and documents on a Tomsk (Томск) server called TomCity. The file soon disappeared, but not before the information had been downloaded by climate change skeptics in the West. The Russian InfoCentre (11-24-09), citing Science and Technology (11-23-09), posted this article in English:
Russian hackers have cracked the server of the University of East Anglia, which dealt with climate change and global warming problems, and found that research resuts [ie results]were forged.
Hackers have stolen the correspondence between University staff members and made it public on the Internet. Researchers have been discussing the ways to forge data in order to correspond with the idea of global warming.
The real data surprisingly shows the decrease of Earth’s average annual temperatures. The University of East Anglia confirms the theft, but refuses to give any comments on the correspondence.
To read Russian-language media reports about this scandal use the Google translation toolbar and read these articles in the "news" on Rambler.ru Here is a search under Российские хакеры Томск (Russian hackers Tomsk). Here is a Rambler.ru "news" search for Фил Джонс (Phil Jones, the scientist at the center of the CRU controversy). Here is a Rambler.ru "news" search for ФСБ хакеры Томск [FSB (domestic state security) hackers Tomsk].
Gazeta.ru (11-23-09) has a long discussion of the scandal and reports:
Предположительно, взлом серверов университета был совершенхакерами из России, так как архив был выложен на один из ftp-серверов города Томска. Сейчас этот адрес закрыт, но материалы уже распространились по другим веб-сайтам, в основном англоязычным.
[Presumably, the hacking of the servers of the University was committed by hackers from Russia; in addition, the archive was posted on one of the ftp-servers in the city of Tomsk. Now this address is closed, but the materials have already spread to other websites, mainly English-speaking.]
The Guardian (11-27-09) also reports on the hackers and claims:
Computer hackers who broke into the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) server at the University of East Anglia had access to its systems for more than a month.
The full data – covering 1,000 emails and 3,000 documents in which the most recent document and email is dated 12 November – came to wider notice when a copy was posted on a web server in Russia on 19 November.
But a month earlier a BBC weatherman who had expressed doubts about climate change on his blog was sent a sample of the email exchanges, suggesting the hackers already had access to the private system...
The university declined to answer questions about the setup and security of the computers used by CRU scientists, but security experts say there are only three tenable explanations for how the server was hacked: a determined break-in by an external hacker; that one of the CRU or university systems was accidentally "compromised" by a computer virus or other "malware"; or it was an "inside job" by a disaffected member of university staff. The latter is viewed as the least likely.
Climate change deniers have seized on the disclosures, claiming they proved that the scientists had colluded to manipulate climate data and that they called into question the evidence for human-driven global warming.
Leading scientific bodies and governments have dismissed the charges, insisting there is clear evidence that humans are to blame for global warming.
The first leak occurred after 9 October, when one of the BBC's regional weathermen, Paul Hudson, wrote an article arguing that for the last 11 years there had not been an increase in global temperatures. On 12 October he was forwarded a "chain of emails", including some which subsequently appeared in the hacked documents. Last night the BBC confirmed Hudson had been forwarded emails written by two of the scientists, but refused to disclose the source.
"Paul spotted that these few e-mails were among thousands published on the internet following the alleged hacking of the UEA computer system," said a BBC spokesman.
After sending Hudson the sample, nothing more emerged from the hackers for a month. Then early on 17 November someone hacked into the RealClimate website, used by climate scientists to explain their work. Using a computer in Turkey, they uploaded a zip file containing all 4,000 emails and documents. But within a couple of minutes Gavin Schmidt, the website's co-founder, realised something was wrong and shut down the site. The file had been online for 25 minutes but had not been picked up.
On 19 November the hackers used a computer in Saudi Arabia to post a link on The Air Vent – a website popular with climate change sceptics – pointing to a fresh copy of the zip file, this time stored on a Russian web server. At that point it was finally picked up by blogs and news organisations around the world. [See full text.]
The purloined e-mails seem to suggest that the scientists were manipulating the data on global warming, but the scientists claim that the hackers were "cherry-picking" the e-mails.
We may know what the truth is soon because the Telegraph (11-28-09) reports:
Leading British scientists at the University of East Anglia, who were accused of manipulating climate change data - dubbed Climategate - have agreed to publish their figures in full...
The U-turn by the university follows a week of controversy after the emergence of hundreds of leaked emails, "stolen" by hackers and published online, triggered claims that the academics had massaged statistics.
The publication will be carried out in collaboration with the Met Office Hadley Centre. The full data, when disclosed, is certain to be scrutinised by both sides in the fierce debate.
But what were the motives of the "Russian hackers" who posted the embarrasing kompromat (compromising information) on the Internet? According to an article in the New York Times (10-21-07) Russian hackers tend to have ties to organized crime outfits. Sometimes criminals operate Internet service providers (ISP's) in Russia.
For example, E-Week Europe (10-21-09) reports that the infamous criminal Internet service provider Russian Business Network (RBN) was hosting child pornography:
RBN's systems were used to host child pornography and at its peak, according to SOCA, the organisation hosted around one third of all the "pay-per-view" child pornography in the world. The rest of the illegal network was devoted to malware including systems to control botnets.
"What we are tallking about is a purpose-built criminal ISP - built for and used by criminals...
Russia expert Dr. Paul Goble has written an article about Russian hackers titled Window on Eurasia: FSB Encourages, Guides Russia’s ‘Hacker-Patriots’ (5-31-07).
According to Dr. Goble, the state security and Kremlin also commit cyber-crimes:
The FSB (state security) and quite possibly elements within the Kremlin itself have been encouraging Russian “hacker-patriots” to launch denial of service attacks on websites that official Moscow does not like, according to a leading Russian investigative reporter who specializes on security issues...
Such arrangements provide the Russian government with plausible deniability while achieving the ends that its officials quite publicly indicate they seek. In 2002, [Russian journalist Andrei] Soldatov notes, Tomsk students launched a denial of service attack at the “Kavkaz-Tsentr” portal, a site whose reports about Chechnya angered Russian officials. The FSB office in Tomsk put out a special press release saying that what the students had done was a legitimate “expression of their position as citizens, one worthy of respect.”
Over the next several years, Russian hackers attacked a variety of other sites...
Russia’s “hacker-patriots” have not limited themselves to attacks on websites linked to Chechnya or foreign states. They have also attacked extremist groups like the National Bolshevik Party, moderate opposition groups like “the Marc of Those Who Disagree,” and mainstream media outlets like “Kommersant” and “Ekho Moskvy.”
In all these cases, Soldatov suggests, the FSB with its Center for Information Security as well as the National Anti-Terrorist Committee did not have to use their own in-house resources to attack objectionable websites; they could simply point the growing community of “hacker-patriots” in the right direction...
[Soldatov observes] that “it is not excluded” that “certain groups of activists are being guided not by the special services but by the administration of the president”...[See full text.]
Some Russian scientists, such as the Russian geologist and member of the Academy of Sciences Andrei Kapitsa, have spoken out against the Theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming.
The Hindu (7-10-2008) observes:
Russian critics of the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for cuts in CO2 emissions, say that the theory underlying the pact lacks scientific basis. Under the Theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming, it is human-generated greenhouse gases, and mainly CO2, that cause climate change. “The Kyoto theorists have put the cart before the horse,” says renowned Russian geographer Andrei Kapitsa. “It is global warming that triggers higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, not the other way round.”...
The hypothesis of anthropogenic greenhouse gases was born out of computer modelling of climate changes. Russian scientists say climate models are inaccurate since scientific understanding of many natural climate factors is still poor and cannot be properly modelled. Oleg Sorokhtin of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Ocean Studies, and many other Russian scientists maintain that global climate depends predominantly on natural factors, such as solar activity, precession (wobbling) of the Earth’s axis, changes in ocean currents, fluctuations in saltiness of ocean surface water, and some other factors, whereas industrial emissions do not play any significant role. Moreover, greater concentrations of CO2 are good for life on Earth, Dr. Sorokhtin argues, as they make for higher crop yields and faster regeneration of forests...
When four years ago, then President Vladimir Putin was weighing his options on the Kyoto Protocol the Russian Academy of Sciences strongly advised him to reject it as having “no scientific foundation.” He ignored the advice and sent the Kyoto pact to Parliament for purely political reasons: Moscow traded its approval of the Kyoto Protocol for the European Union’s support for Russia’s bid to join the World Trade Organisation. Russian endorsement was critical, as without it the Kyoto Protocol would have fallen through due to a shortage of signatories. It did not cost much for Russia to join the Kyoto Protocol since its emission target was set at the level of 1990, that is, before the Russian economy crashed following the break-up of the Soviet Union. According to some projections, Russia will not exceed its target before 2017. Notwithstanding this, the Russian scientific community is vocal in its opposition to the Kyoto process.
“The Kyoto Protocol is a huge waste of money,” says Dr. Sorokhtin. “The Earth’s atmosphere has built-in regulatory mechanisms that moderate climate changes. When temperatures rise, ocean water evaporation increases, denser clouds stop solar rays and surface temperatures decline.”
Academician Kapitsa denounced the Kyoto Protocol as “the biggest ever scientific fraud.” The pact was lobbied by European politicians and industrialists, critics say, in order to improve the competitiveness of European products and slow down economic growth in emerging economies. “The European Union pushed through the Kyoto Protocol in order to reduce the competitive edge of the U.S. and other countries where ecological standards are less stringent than in Europe,” says ecologist Sergei Golubchikov.
Russian scientists deny that the Kyoto Protocol reflects a consensus view of the world scientific community. Academician Kapitsa complains that opponents of the man-caused global warming are routinely denied the floor at international climate forums.
“A large number of critical documents submitted at the 1995 U.N. conference in Madrid vanished without a trace,” the scientist says. “As a result, the discussion was one-sided and heavily biased, and the U.N. declared global warming to be a scientific fact.”
Critics concede that the thrust of the Kyoto Protocol is towards promoting energy-saving technologies, but then, they argue, it should have been just that — a protocol on energy efficiency and energy conservation. The problem with the Kyoto process, critics say, is that it shifts the emphasis away from genuine ecological problems, such as industrial, air and water pollution, to the wasteful fight against harmless gases.
“Ecological treaties should seek to curb emissions of sulpher dioxide, nitrogen oxides, heavy metals and other highly-toxic pollutants instead of targeting carbon dioxide, which is a non-toxic gas whose impact on global warming has not been proved,” says Dr. Golubchikov...
[Russian scientists] cite U.S. global weather reports as indicating that global temperatures have stopped rising since the turn of the century. “The global warming in 1970-1998 was merely a phase in the 60-year cycles of natural warming and cooling,” Dr. Bashkirtsev says.
Russian climate researchers working in Antarctica confirm that temperatures on the sixth continent have been declining in recent years. According to geographer Nikolai Osokin, the ice cover in Antarctica, which accounts for 90 per cent of the global ice stock, has overall been growing.
This year global temperatures have been showing a distinct downward trend, and according to the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, in May “the globe was cooler than at any time since January 2000.” [See full text.]
Academician Kapitsa has longstanding disagreements with English scientists. According to the Times Higher Education (10-16-98):
Kapitsa doubts that man's activities, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, can greatly affect global temperature or ozone levels. "Global warming as a result of man's activities does not exist," he told a London conference earlier this year. "People who say it does have predicted temperatures would get higher for the past 20 years, but globally this has not happened."...
"I gave a lecture in Cambridge a couple of years ago on the myths of global warming and of the ozone hole, but not one of my opponents would come and discuss the issue with me," he says. "It is disappointing, but the facts are against them. I am for discussion not dictatorship in the academic world."...
Andrei Kapitsa is adamant that man's activities can have only a negligible effect on the earth's temperature, which is governed almost entirely, he believes, by solar and volcanic activity. His views differ from those of many scientists, who see an inextricable link between global warming and the carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels.
Kapitsa is not alone. After the Kyoto agreement on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, thousands of United States scientists signed a petition saying there was "no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane or other greenhouse gases is causing I catastrophic heating of the earth's atmosphere and disruption of the earth's climate".
Kapitsa believes it is time for more open academic debate on the subject. He argues that 90 per cent of the world's carbon is dissolved in the oceans. A 0.50 C rise in global temperature would warm the water, causing it to release dissolved carbon dioxide.
The historic climatic record, Kapitsa says, does link higher temperatures with a rise in carbon dioxide. But he says that it is the rise in temperature that releases the carbon, not the other way round. Despite an 80 per cent increase in the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over the past 40 years, global temperatures have been stable, he says.
In fact, Kapitsa believes that more carbon, and therefore more photosynthesis and plant growth, could be a good thing: "If you are using less carbon fuel, you will have less harvest, and people could starve in the third world.
Russia's President Medvedev has appointed Russia's chief meteorologist, Alexander Bedritsky (Александр Бедрицкий), his new adviser on climate. Bedritsky serves as the president of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Bedritsky believes that global warming is a fact but that the effect is unpredictable. Russia in the World profiled Bedritsky's views on global warming in a recent article. Use the translation feature on the Google toolbar to read about Bedritsky's views.
I am not qualified to discuss the science of global warming, but I do think it is important to be skeptical not only of the motives of the CRU scientists -- who seem to be fudging their figures, suppressing evidence, and bullying their opposition -- but of the sponsors and motives of the unknown Tomsk hackers. The Russian media seems quite proud of these Tomsk hackers. The hackers described themselves as "honest men," but we don't even know who they are. VESTI.KZ predicted that we might be hearing again from the hackers. I am going to reserve judgement until all of the data from the CRU becomes available to scientists because this scandal seems like a clasic case of kompromat.
Wikipedia's "Climategate" entry catalogues the dismissive reactions of many scientific organizations and individual scientists to this scandal. For example:
The American Meteorological Society stated that the incident did not affect the society's position on climate change. They pointed to the breadth of evidence for human influence on climate, stating "For climate change research, the body of research in the literature is very large and the dependence on any one set of research results to the comprehensive understanding of the climate system is very, very small. Even if some of the charges of improper behavior in this particular case turn out to be true — which is not yet clearly the case — the impact on the science of climate change would be very limited."