Fiona Harvey Email scandal dominates debate on rail road to Copenhagen

The emails from climate change scientists at the University of East Anglia did not constitute evidence against established climate change science, the vice chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told reporters on Saturday, on board the Climate Express from Brussels to Copenhagen.

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele said the emails at the heart of the “climategate” affair dated from 1999 and discussed a branch of climate science that traces past temperatures from tree rings.

At that time, scientists were puzzled by the fact that although air temperatures were rising in the 1960s, tree ring data did not appear to reflect this.

Hence, he said, the phrase “hide the decline”, which sceptics have seized on as evidence that scientists were manipulating data.

Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environment Programme, said the emails should not be allowed to derail the Copenhagen summit.

Dr van Ypersele suggested that the emails may have been obtained from Russian hackers, who might have been paid for their services.

Hopes for Copenhagen have risen as President Obama of the US confirmed on Friday night that he would attend the crucial closing stages of the talks, at which world leaders are expected to forge a settlement that would require developed nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions sharply, and developing countries to curb the future growth of their emissions.