The climate secretary, Ed Miliband, last night warned of the danger of a public backlash against the science of global warming in the face of continuing claims that experts have manipulated data.
In an exclusive interview with the Observer, Miliband spoke out for the first time about last month's revelations that climate scientists had withheld and covered up information and the apology made by the influential UN climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which admitted it had exaggerated claims about the melting of Himalayan glaciers.
The perceived failure of global talks on combating climate change in Copenhagen last month has also been blamed for undermining public support. But in the government's first high-level recognition of the growing pressure on public opinion, Miliband declared a "battle" against the "siren voices" who denied global warming was real or caused by humans, or that there was a need to cut carbon emissions to tackle it.
"It's right that there's rigour applied to all the reports about climate change, but I think it would be wrong that when a mistake is made it's somehow used to undermine the overwhelming picture that's there," he said.
"We know there's a physical effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leading to higher temperatures, that's a question of physics; we know CO2 concentrations are at their highest for 6,000 years; we know there are observed increases in temperatures; and we know there are observed effects that point to the existence of human-made climate change. That's what the vast majority of scientists tell us."
Mistakes and attempts to hide contradictory data had to be seen in the light of the thousands of pages of evidence in the IPCC's four-volume report in 2007, said Miliband. The most recent accusation about the panel's work is that its chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, may have known before the Copenhagen summit that its assessment report had seriously exaggerated the rate of melting of the Himalayan glaciers.
However, Miliband was adamant that the IPCC was on the right track. "It's worth saying that no doubt when the next report comes out it will suggest there have been areas where things have been happening more dramatically than the 2007 report implied," he said.
The danger of climate scepticism was that it would undermine public support for unpopular decisions needed to curb carbon emissions, including the likelihood of higher energy bills for households, and issues such as the visual impact of wind turbines, said Miliband, who is also energy secretary.
Also: The big issue: Sceptics fiddle while the planet burns
Click to read more from Juliette Jowit, environment editor, The Observer
Updated below from the DAILY MAIL & BBC
Ed Miliband declares war on climate change sceptics
by Daily Mail Reporter
Climate secretary Ed Miliband broke his silence on the ongoing row about man-made climate change by declaring war on the 'siren voices' who denied global warming was real or man-made.
Mr Miliband said the by the 'climategate' controversy that appeared to show that vital data was suppressed or manipulated by climate scientists, as well as the more recent revelation that the Intergorvernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had exaggerated claims about the melting of glaciers in the Himalayan mountains.
'It's right that there's rigour applied to all the reports about climate change, but I think it would be wrong that when a mistake is made it's somehow used to undermine the overwhelming picture that's there,' he told the Observer.
He pointed to a wealth of research used to support the argument that climate change is man made - the physical effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, CO2 concentrations and observed increases in temperatures.
'There are a whole variety of people who are sceptical, but who they are is less important than what they are saying, and what they are saying is profoundly dangerous,' he said.
The danger of climate scepticism, he said, was that it would foster dissent against unpopular decisions such increases in energy bills and investment in wind turbines, which are essential to tackle environmental issues.
However, climate change scepticism has been growing ever since the leaked emails controversy at the University of East Anglia, and last week's revelations about IPCC work has fueled the flames.
The accusation is that chairman Rajendra Pachauri may have known before the Copenhagen summit that the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are supposed to be melting was hugely exaggerated in its report.
Mr Miliband defending the report, pointing to the thousands of pages of evidence in the IPCC's four-volume report in 2007.
'No doubt when the next report comes out it will suggest there have been areas where things have been happening more dramatically than the 2007 report implied,' he told the Observer.
He admitted that the Copenhagen summit was a disappointment, with no formal agreement being reached, but said there were some important achievements, including the agreement by countries responsible for 80% of emissions to set domestic carbon targets.
The climate secretary warned activists against despair, saying: 'There's a message for people who take these things seriously: don't mourn, organise.'
Ed Miliband defends climate change science
Recent controversies over scientific data have not undermined efforts to tackle global warming, Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband has insisted.
Among the controversies are claims that some leading scientists exaggerated the melting of the Himalayan glaciers.
Mr Miliband told the BBC it would be "profoundly irresponsible" to use one "mistake" as an excuse not to act.
He added it did not "undermine decades of climate research" and the "majority of scientists say that".
Earlier this month, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was forced to admit it had made a mistake in asserting that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035.
The incident came shortly before the disclosure that the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia broke Freedom of Information rules in refusing to release research data.
The CRU was already at the centre of a row over a series of leaked e-mails between leading climate scientists, the contents of which led some to suggest that evidence against man-made global warming was being suppressed.
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