It must have seemed almost too good to be true to climate sceptics who doubt mounting evidence that global warming is man-made - finally, a report showing that nature is to blame.

Only one problem - it's a hoax.

Why someone went to the trouble of creating a previously unknown "Journal of Geoclimatic Studies" based in Japan, is anyone's guess.

The study says bacteria naturally living in sediments of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans emit 300 times more carbon dioxide than industrial activity - one of very few reports to challenge findings by the U.N. climate panel that human activities, led by burning fossil fuels, are "very likely" to be the main cause of warming.

The pranksers even provided obscure details of "benthic bacteria" or "sample invariants from diachronically sectioned quadrants in the western Atlantic: towards a pneumatic equation for bacterial mass". And if that wasn't hard enough evidence, here's a sample of an equation for the mathematically minded...

4δ161 x Λ³Жญ5,6,1,8Φ-4 = {(ΣΨ²Њyt3 - 14๖P9) x 49}

2β x ⅜kxgt -§

Gothenburg University in Sweden, where two of the four authors were listed as working, told me it was a hoax, saying it had never heard of them. Other scientists also said it was a spoof. Sceptical bloggers who had rushed to embrace the findings - there isn't much research challenging growing evidence that fossil fuels are a main cause of warming - quickly deleted them...

"This could not be more damaging to man-made global warming theory," wrote one sceptic in a blog. "I somehow doubt if this is going to be on the BBC news." Another U.S. commentator said it was a "blockbuster" report.

One blogger who saw through the hoax gleefully said it "put the fun back into lying about science."

"We're just the website design company," said David Thorpe at Cyberium in Wales, listed as the administrator of the site. "I don't know anything about the content. We were just asked to put the website up."

Graph showing bacterial emissions and carbon dioxide levels

Phone calls to the owner of the site, listed as being in Japan, went nowhere and e-mails have bounced back.

...So who is behind this? Any ideas?