To anyone who is skeptical about the science of global warming, "ClimateGate" is the biggest scandal ever.
ClimateGate is the term being used for a handful of e-mails stolen last month from the influential CRU, the Climatic Research Unit in England. By far the most embarrassing email is from 1999, in which CRU's director Phil Jones brags he's used a trick to "hide the decline." That means hiding the studies from tree rings that show the earth has been cooling since 1960, when actual recorded temperatures show a trend toward warming.
The phrase "hide the decline" is now so infamous it is being spoofed on you tube.
And the fact that global temperatures have gone down in some years was in other e-mails, with one scientist lamenting "we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't."
To long term skeptics and many Republicans, ClimateGate is proof that global warming is based on deception, reports CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews.
"At worst its junk science and it's part of a massive international scientific fraud," said Rep. James Sensebrenner, R-Wis.
But if that's true-it is a fraud adopted by most of the world's leading scientists, along with NASA, the United Nations, the American Medical Association, and the National Academies of Science of 32 countries including the United States. And to most of them ClimateGate is a sideshow compared to one overwhelming fact:
"The last decade is the warmest decade on record," said Michael Mann.
Mann is the Penn State climate professor who's being lampooned in that video. Mann says "hide the decline" was never an attempt to deceive - it was the use of real global temperatures, to show a real upward trend.
"Those who deny the existence of this problem, who don't have the science on their side have instead engaged in a smear campaign to distract the public and distract policy makers," Mann said.
ClimateGate advocates are in fact hoping for political traction from the scandal. They're hoping any suggestion of uncertainty over manmade global warming will change President Obama's plan to offer CO2 cuts in Copenhagen next week.