My first thought, of course, was "the world is doomed". And it may be, because politically motivated (shurely not well-paid??) hackers have selectively released emails that will help those also-politically-motivated (ibid) politicians and lobbyists who are denying climate change to convince people that they don't need to do anything.
(Which is pretty easy. People don't want to do anything. That's one of the reasons so many bastards are conservatives, because they want easy power and there's no easier route to power than playing to the fears of the poor and the greed of the rich.)
This is only going to make meaningful change that much harder, if not impossible, and a lot of people may die because of it.
My second thought, though, was "this changes the rules". Previously, hackers were seen as jokers, teenagers, or maybe anarchists. But let's be honest: this didn't come from that group. This was politically motivated. This was a deliberate attack. This proves that the politicization of science goes far beyond who publishes where, and for what. This is a clarion call to every scientist that those crazies out there can reach into their own lives—into their own private correspondence—and selectively misinterpret everything that they say. Maybe not today, but in the future.
But it's not just scientists. What happened to these climate guys can happen to everybody. That conversation you had about politics with a friend of yours, where you expressed annoyance with the government? It may get out there. That misuse of a phrase that you made in an email to a different friend? It may get out there. That argument you had on an instant messenger? It can get out there.
The law can't help you. Rest assured, if it's politically relevant, nobody's going to give a damn if it's legal or not. They just don't. Even if the hackers are tried and found guilt, even if they were thrown in jail and the key thrown away, even if they were executed, that wouldn't change the impact on the world of this sordid event one whit. That's even assuming the hackers are in your jurisdiction. They won't be. STRONGER LAWS WILL NOT HELP.
No, people need to start taking security more seriously. They need to start taking encryption more seriously. They need to start taking pseudonymity and anonymity more seriously. they need to take all of this more seriously. The only alternative is watching what you say, even in private. You HAVE no privacy.
It's not just about potential employers seeing you get drunk on Facebook any more. It's about your hacked and misinterpreted correspondence emails ruining lives. Nothing less than that.
Edit: Of course, the logical response is "what about the naysayers? What if they get hacked?"
But that's the thing, isn't it? For all the blather about a supposed global warming "faith", it's the opponents that are the zealots. They're far more likely to go to such extreme lengths to defend their faith than the scientists and thinkers that have demonstrated the reality of climate change.
They probably deserve the same treatment, though I cannot counsel it, as it is of course illegal and (in a broader sense) immoral. I don't expect that they'll get it, and I expect that many are so incredibly deluded as to be utterly consistent in their zealotry and obsession. Emails might reveal that obsession, but it wouldn't make much difference. The modern media—which lauds a consistent villain and punishes even the most slightly doubtful hero—just isn't wired that way.
As is so often the case, the villains inevitably come out ahead.