Climatic Research Unit email theft – 10 years on

The fierce criticisms directed at science and scientists 10 years ago over the data used to monitor changes in our climate were shown to be unfounded in the months following so-called ‘Climategate’.

Despite orchestrated attempts after the theft of emails to cast doubt on climate science and the work of the University of East Anglia’s world-renowned Climatic Research Unit (CRU), events since 2009 have further confirmed that our science is providing robust expertise and counsel to society about the immense challenges we face.

Global temperature has reached 1°C above its pre-industrial level. Sea-level rise is accelerating due to increased melting of the major ice sheets. Many extreme weather events have become more likely and more severe as a direct result of human-caused climate change. That the warming continues reinforces the urgency of the threats facing countries and populations around the world.

Assessments of the global temperature increase and the consequences of continued warming from 10 years ago have been validated by new research and by ongoing climate change and its dramatic impacts.

This improvement in our understanding of the climate system has prompted societies and governments to recognise the need for urgent action, reflected in the UN Paris Agreement, Local Authority declarations of a climate emergency, the UK government’s announcement of a ‘net zero’ target for emissions by 2050, and global climate strikes.

Scientists at CRU and UEA’s other research centres, including the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, are committed to continuing their work because it is vital that policy decisions are underpinned by peer-reviewed publications, information and data.

They are at the forefront of attempts to understand the environment around us, and how it will look in the future - from biodiversity loss and the effects of warming oceans to the behavioural changes required in our everyday lives.

In support of this, UEA researchers across disciplines - in science and health, social sciences and the arts and humanities - are working on projects with regional, national and international impacts.

These include the major new £5m Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST) climate research centre, in partnership with Cardiff, Manchester and York universities, which explores how we as a society can live differently to achieve the rapid and far-reaching emissions cuts required to address climate change.

In the Arctic, the epicentre of global warming, scientists from UEA are involved in a ground-breaking international ocean expedition to gain fundamental insights that are key to better understanding global climate change.

The expertise of academics from UEA has been and continues to be called upon by governments, policy-makers and organisations around the world.

The University, as it always has, stands by its scientists and their critical contribution, and is as committed as ever to supporting informed societal decisions backed by solid scientific evidence and expertise. 


Prof Tim Osborn, director of research, Climatic Research Unit:

“Ten years ago, we were the victims of a crime. Our computer systems were hacked and thousands of our emails and documents were illegally released. Their contents were distorted and misinterpreted in an attempt to cast doubt on our work and on climate science.  

“The ensuing media storm took a significant personal toll but we knew all along that we were doing careful, honest science and this was confirmed by a series of independent inquiries: we were cleared by all of them.

“Throughout the controversy we stood by our science 100 per cent, and still do. Our science has been confirmed by new research over the last 10 years and by ongoing climate change and its impacts.”


Prof Phil Jones, Professorial Fellow, School of Environmental Sciences, former director of research at the Climatic Research Unit:

“Climate science involves the input and expertise of researchers and organisations around the world. The resulting published science, not the contents of emails, are the most credible sources of information for anyone wanting to understand climate change. 

“Scientific papers and IPCC reports provide carefully considered assessments of climate science, whereas cherry-picked phrases taken from 10 to 20 year-old stolen emails were used to misrepresent our work. Ongoing research over the last decade has confirmed that the science was sound all along.”


UEA statements related to the CRU hacking and information about the subsequent inquiries can be found here.