Leaked climate e-mails make waves in Congress

A row over leaked emails from a British scientist hinting at a global warming cover-up has reached the US Congress, where climate change skeptics are seeking to thwart key legislation.

British Professor Phil Jones has stood aside as director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, after his emails calling into question the scientific basis for climate change fears were leaked.

Hackers had penetrated the center's network and posted online thousands of emails from researchers, including Jones, ahead of a landmark Copenhagen summit which opens next week.

The leader of a US group of so-called "climatology skeptics", Republican Representative James Sensenbrenner, said "if the emails are genuine it is very disturbing because they call into question the whole science of climate change."

He told the House committee on energy independence and global warming that data from the East Anglia university had "been used as a basis for the IPCC report as well as for the US global research program."

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC's) benchmarks for CO2 concentrations in a 2007 report serve as a guidepost for the UN-backed talks in Copenhagen.

The e-mails showed "an increasing evidence that scientific fascism is going on," Sensenbrenner added.

"As policy makers are making decisions about the state of the American economy for the next several generations, we have to have accurate science and it appears that there is enough questions on whether the science we have is accurate."

Skeptics, including many Republicans, say global temperatures may be warming naturally, and argue the costs of implementing legislation to curb greenhouse gas emissions will be too heavy for American industry.

US President Barack Obama is to attend the Copenhagen climate conference next week with an offer to cut US emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.

The White House has said Obama would also lay out a longer-term plan for a 30 percent reduction of US emissions from 2005 levels by 2025, a 42 percent reduction by 2030 and an 83 percent cut by 2050.

The United States is the world's second largest greenhouse gas emitter.