Climate scepticism is undermining public support for tough decisions needed to curb carbon emissions the climate secretary, Ed Miliband, told the Observer newspaper today.
"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.
Miliband said the the University of East Anglia 'climategate' controversy and the recent revelation that the Intergorvernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had exaggerated claims about the melting of glaciers in the Himalayan mountains had helped fuel an erroneous debate.
"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."
"Everything we know about life is that we should obey the precautionary principle; to take what the sceptics say seriously would be a profound risk."
Miliband said a public backlash against the science of global warming, the presentation of which is battered by claims that experts have manipulated data, is hampering real progress.
"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.
Miliband warned activists against "despair" despite the Copenhagen conference in December ending in a shambles
The UN conference was a "disappointment", he said. "There's a message for people who take these things seriously: don't mourn, organise," said Miliband.