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Newsflash: Climatologist e-mails reveal humans do not contribute to the environmental warming of the earth! It’s all a big-government conspiracy! Down with recycling! Stop alternative energy research!

Why the extreme reaction? Last month, hackers broke into the server at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and published thousands of private e-mails between climate researchers onto the internet. Skeptics of the theory that humans contribute to global warming crow that these e-mails “prove” climate scientists have been withholding information and exaggerating their own claims.

Don’t worry though — you haven’t been changing light bulbs and suffering through freezing cold classrooms for naught. The e-mail scandal isn’t likely to shift the overwhelming scientific support for the theory that humans are at least partially responsible for rising global temperatures. The hackers clearly timed the release of the e-mails to coincide with the U.N. Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen, which starts today.

The hackers remain unidentified, but probably hope that the leaked e-mails will prevent climate control legislation from passing. College senior Mordechai Treiger, co-cirector of Penn Environmental Group and former Daily Pennsylvanian columnist, said, “This is a clearly political move designed to make the experts look bad. In this, it may have succeeded, but it has not actually overturned any of the overwhelming data that indicate the globe is warming.”

Whether the e-mails themselves will derail climate legislation is hard to tell. In the United States, for example, the American Clean Energy and Security Act faced serious opposition before the messages were released. The notion that the e-mails reveal a global conspiracy to raise taxes, create a world government and curtail the rights of citizens is downright silly, and hopefully will have no effect on the proceedings at Copenhagen.

In my opinion, the problem with the e-mails is the alarming fact that these researchers and professors actively tried to prevent dissenting views of their research from journal publication. In one of the published e-mails, Phil Jones, a professor and director of the East Anglia climate center, wrote of skeptics, “We will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!” He added, “If [skeptics] ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send it to anyone.”

Let me be clear — I believe humans contribute to global warming, and I believe governments around the world should pass legislation curbing polluting activities to preserve our planet for as long as possible. I am concerned, however, by the disregard for alternate points of view. It’s one thing to support your own position and refute those who disagree with you, but it’s quite another to actively prevent alternate theories from being published, which it seems is what some of these researchers hoped to accomplish.

Multiple points of view are critical for scientific progress to occur, and a sharing of data is a crucial step in that process. Each scientist should be able to replicate the research of another. Even though the majority of scientists agree with the Climatic Research Unit researchers that humans impact climate change, there should still be an opportunity for dissidents to examine the data gathered and replicate the methodology in order to check the results and publish their own interpretation. When e-mails like this surface, it harms the claims of the researchers by making them seem shady and more concerned with “beating” the other side than the veracity of their results.

Many Penn students are engaged in cutting-edge research, or soon will be, and will enter this cutthroat environment of grant applications and publications. Keeping the scientific field open and sharing research is vital to continued innovation, and it’s important to remember that ultimate goal, whether you’re just starting out researching or already a world-class career researcher.

Lauren Burdette is a College senior from Overland Park, Kansas and the former President of the Penn Dems. Her e-mail address is

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