The two-and-a-half-year investigation into the hacking of emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit has officially been closed by the Norfolk Constabulary, who were unable to identify the culprit/s behind the breach that was dubbed “climateage.” Detective chief superintendent Julian Gregory, the senior investigating officer on the case, said that the complex nature of the investigation meant they did “not have a realistic prospect of identifying the offender or offenders and launching criminal proceedings within the time constraints imposed by law.” The police team was able to confirm, however, that the hack was the work of “sophisticated” outsiders, not a whistleblower at the university.
The Guardian reports that the incident led to thousands of private emails exchanged between climate scientists over the previous decade being dumped online in November 2009. A second tranche of emails was uploaded onto the internet late last year. Climate sceptics interpreted the leaked emails as implying that the climate scientists at CRU had “massaged statistics” and altered data. As Climate Central reports, this cast doubt on climate science at a crucial time, when world leaders were due to meet for the UN-led Copenhagen climate conference. Numerous inquiries into the practices of the scientists were launched, all of which cleared them of wrongdoing. The university, however, was criticised for its data handling and response to freedom of information requests.
“The misinformation and conspiracy theories circulating following the publication of the stolen emails – including the theory that the hacker was a disgruntled UEA employee – did real harm to public perceptions about the dangers of climate change,” said UEA vice-chancellor Prof Edward Acton. “We are naturally disappointed that those responsible …have not been caught and brought to justice. Clearly the perpetrators were highly sophisticated and covered their tracks extremely carefully,” he said. “The results of the independent inquiries and recent scientific studies have vindicated our scientists, who have returned to their important task of providing the best possible scientific information on this globally critical issue.”
Whither the weather?
It’s only taken drought, a record-breaking heat wave and catastrophic wildfires, but it seems the American people are finally starting to lend weight to the notion that something’s up with the climate. Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that in the four months since March there has been a jump in US citizens’ belief that climate change is taking place, especially among independent voters and residents of southern states like Texas, which is suffering through its second year of record-breaking drought. A University of Texas poll, conducted July 12-16, found 70 per cent of respondents thought the climate was changing, compared with 65 per cent in a similar poll in March. Those saying it’s not taking place fell to 15 per cent from 22 per cent, according to data set to be released this week by the UT Energy Poll.
The survey – the results of which suggest that the American public’s views on climate change are linked to recent trends in the weather, rather than the reams of scientific research on the subject – did not ask about the causes of climate change, a point on which poll director Sheril Kirshenbaum says “there is no debate.” Kirshenbaum says that it is beyond doubt that man-made carbon emissions are warming the planet. “We need to get beyond arguing if it’s occurring and start developing policies to adapt to extreme weather events and rising sea levels,” she said.
China filling bigger carbon shoes
The average Chinese person’s carbon footprint is now almost on a par with the average European’s, according to figures released on Wednesday. China has been the largest national emitter of CO2 since in 2006, a dubious honour tempered by the fact that the nation’s emissions per person remained a decent amount lower than those in developed countries such as Europe. But now a report by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) – and which covers emissions from energy, only – shows that per capita emissions in China increased by 9 per cent in 2011 to reach 7.2 tonnes per person, only a fraction lower than the EU average of 7.5 tonnes, says The Guardian. The figure for the US is still much higher – at 17.3 tonnes – though total Chinese CO2 emissions are now around 80 per cent higher than those of America. This widening gap reflects a 9 per cent increase in total emissions in China in 2011, driven mainly by rising coal use, compared with a 2 per cent decline in the US.
Worley wins controversial Amazon hydro contract
WorleyParsons’ Brazil entity CNEC WorleyParsons Engenharia has won the contract to coordinate and deploy the environmental socio-economic plans prescribed in the environmental licences granted for the construction of the controversial Belo Monte Hydroelectric Power Plant, in the State of Pará, northern Brazil. The Brazilian government gave the Amazon Forest project the green light for what will be the world’s third largest hydroelectric plant back in February, despite strong opposition from environmentalists and indigenous activists who claim it will displace native tribes and further damage the Amazon basin. “We want to make sure that Belo Monte does not destroy the ecosystems and the biodiversity that we have taken care of for millennia,” Megaron Tuxucumarrae, a leader of the Kayapo Indians said, quoted in The Guardian. “We are opposed to dams on the Xingu and will fight to protect our river.”
According to the Brazilian energy ministry the dam, expected to start production in 2015, will cost around R$20 billion ($A10.25 billion) and will eventually produce around 11.2GW of electricity. The government’s environment minister has said “not a single Indian” would be displaced by the project. WorleyParsons’ scope of work includes the implementation and management of 43 separate social and environmental projects/programs over a scheduled duration of 49 months. The contract value is R$175 million (approximately A$85 million). “We are pleased to be able to provide our services to Norte Energia for this mega project which will utilise CNEC WorleyParsons’ comprehensive capability in the field of environmental planning and consultancy,” said WorleyParsons CEO John Grill, adding that it was “noteworthy that this project is the largest environmental role that WorleyParsons has so far been awarded.”