UN officials have likened the theft of e-mails from university climate researchers to the Watergate scandal, after claiming computer hackers were probably paid by people intent on undermining the Copenhagen summit. Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a vice-chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said that the theft from the University of East Anglias Climatic Research Unit (CRU) was not the work of amateur climate sceptics, but was a sophisticated and well-funded attempt to destroy public confidence in the science of man-made climate change. He said the fact that the e-mails were first uploaded to a sceptic website from a computer in Russia was an indication that the culprit was paid. Its very common for hackers in Russia to be paid for their services, he said. If you look at that mass of e-mails a lot of work was done, not only to download the data, but its a carefully made selection of e-mails and documents thats not random at all. This is 13 years of data and its not a job of amateurs. Mr van Ypersele said that publication of the e-mails had undermined efforts by the IPCC to convince the 192 countries at the summit, which begins today, that they needed to act fast on emissions. We are spending a lot of useless time discussing this rather than spending time preparing information for the negotiators. He rejected claims by sceptics that the e-mails showed efforts had been made to manipulate the data to exaggerate the warming trend. It doesnt change anything in the IPCCs conclusions its only one line of evidence out of dozens of lines of evidence. Achim Steiner, director of the UN Environment Programme, said that the theft of emails had echoes of Watergate the burglary of the Democratic Partys offices at the Watergate building in Washington DC in 1972. This is not 'climategate, its 'hackergate. Lets not forget the word 'gate refers to a place where data was stolen by people who were paid to do so. So the media should direct its investigations into that. Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said that the stolen e-mails looked very bad and were fuelling scepticism, but said the media scrutiny was not unwelcome. Mr de Boer said: I think its very good that what is happening is being scrutinised in the media because this process has to be based on solid science. If quality and integrity is being questioned, that has to be examined. This week the Met Office will release temperature data from 1,000 weather stations around the world in an attempt to shore up public confidence in its statements about the dangers of climate change. The raw data will be impossible for any non-expert to interpret. The Met Office is also planning as soon as possible to release the computer code it used to analyse the data. It is this analysis, by the Met Office in partnership with the University of East Anglia, that is at the centre of the controversy over the leaked e-mails. The e-mails, which were sent over a 15-year period ending on November 12, first appeared on websites run by sceptics on November 17. Almost a month before they were posted on a website popular with climate-change sceptics, the hacked information was sent to a BBC weatherman who had expressed his doubts about climate science on his blog. The BBC has confirmed that Paul Hudson received some documents on October 12 but no story was broadcast or printed by Mr Hudson or the corporation. Then, on November 17, someone hacked into realclimate.org, a website popular with climate scientists. The hackers put all the UEA e-mails and documents on the website, using a computer based in Turkey. The websites owners responded quickly, shutting down the site within minutes. Finally, using a computer in Saudi Arabia, the hackers posted a link on the Air Vent blog. The link sent readers to a file that was stored on computers in Russia. Only then did others begin to pick up on the story. (The Times)