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University of East Anglia spokesman Simon Dunford said that while academics didn’t have the chance yet to examine the roughly 5,000 emails apparently dumped into the public domain Tuesday, a small sample examined by the university “appears to be genuine.”

The university said in a statement that the emails did not appear to be the result of a new breach.

Instead, the statement said that the emails appeared to have been stolen two years ago and held back until now “to cause maximum disruption” to the imminent U.N. climate talks next week in Durban, South Africa.

If that is confirmed, the timing and nature of the leak would follow the pattern set by the so-called “Climategate” emails, which caught prominent scientists stonewalling critics and discussing ways to keep opponents’ research out of peer-reviewed journals.

Those hostile to climate science claimed the exchanges proved that the threat of global warming was being hyped.

From wire dispatches and staff reports