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Gore: 'Climategate' e-mails misunderstood

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Gore speaks of climate crisis
  • Gore says e-mails have been taken out of context, are years old
  • Scientists' hacked e-mails that seem to question climate change caused stir
  • Gore says the messages will not adversely affect climate movement

(CNN) -- Hacked e-mails from top environmental researchers, which appear to question whether humans influence climate, have been misunderstood, former Vice President Al Gore said Wednesday.

"The climate deniers tried to create the impression that that's what was in those stolen e-mails, but when you put them in context, it's clear that's not what [scientists] were doing, " Gore said on CNN's "American Morning."

Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his environmental activism based on the theory that people are responsible for climate change. He has become a cultural icon of the green movement. His new book, "Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis," was published last month.

In late November, a file containing more than 1,000 e-mails sent from or to members of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit in England was allegedly hacked and posted on the Internet. Climate change skeptics contend the messages are evidence that scientists have falsified data to exaggerate the threat of global warming.

Gore pointed out that many of the e-mails were more than a decade old and said the missives were discussions among colleagues about whether certain information should be included in studies.

"This was an open process in which the studies that were being argued about actually were fully included and openly discussed and analyzed," Gore said. The leaking of the messages was "an example of people who don't want to do anything about the climate change crisis taking things out of context and misrepresenting them."

Though some of the e-mails are from 13 years ago, others appear to be written as recently as last year.

One e-mail allegedly sent by the head of the CRU, Phil Jones, refers to using "Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years ... to hide the decline."

In another e-mail correspondence, a scientist writes that a statistical "trick" was used in a chart that showed a recent spike in warming trend.

The e-mails were released just three weeks before the start of the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark. A hundred heads of state, including President Obama, will join 15,000 delegates and seek to form a new global agreement on climate change. Gore plans to attend.

Gore was asked if the e-mails -- dubbed Climategate -- would hurt the discussion.

"If you put it in a longer context -- 10, 12 years ago -- when the last of these big meetings took place, virtually no heads of state went there. There was still raging debate on points [regarding climate change] that have long since been settled," he said.

"Is there any substantive reason to worry about [the e-mails]? No. Does the noise machine of the climate deniers blow them out of proportion and fool some people into thinking they have some substance? That's another matter, and I don't know how to respond to that."

Q&A: 'Climategate' explained

Scientists and researchers who agree with Gore have in the past week essentially conveyed the same sentiment. The chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Raiendra Pachauri, one of the world's leading authorities on climate change, told CNN he viewed the e-mails as nothing more colleagues and friends "letting off steam."

On Tuesday, six Republicans who sit on the Senate Commerce Committee called on its chairman, John D. Rockefeller IV, D-West Virginia, to investigate the leaking of the messages and possible manipulation of climate change information.

Apart from the e-mails, Gore said the economy is actually helping more people around the world understand the importance of green jobs and take practical steps to create them. The United States has serious competition from China, he noted, in light of recent news that China plans to create the world's largest power grid.

The best way to stay competitive is to create jobs in "green infrastructure," Gore said. "We have an opportunity to take these new jobs that are going to be created and plant them in local communities here in the United States and create millions of them. They can't be outsourced."

Gore was asked if he was "frustrated" that great attention has been paid to the e-mails.

"There is an air of unreality about the discussion of arcane points from e-mails from long ago," he began, his voice rising.

"The North Polar ice cap is melting before our very eyes. It's been the size of the continental United States for most of the last three million years and now, suddenly, 40 percent of it's gone, and the rest of it is expected to disappear within five, 10, 15 years.

"The mountain glaciers all over the world are melting, many of them at a greatly accelerated rate, threatening drinking water supplies. We've had these record storms, record droughts, floods, giant fires, unprecedented, all over the world. The evergreen trees of the American West are dying by the millions, because the warming trend is making them vulnerable to pests they could resist in colder weather in which they evolved."

More people are migrating from their homes due to drastic changes in climate, he said, and refugees "could reach the hundreds of millions, destabilizing political systems around the world."

"Sea levels are rising," he said. "These changes are now beginning to unfold right in front of our eyes. The fact they're distributed globally causes the problem to masquerade as an abstraction. It's not an abstraction. It's not an abstraction for those who are being affected, nor would it be for our children and others who will be affected unless we take action now."