Cautious welcome for climate change data probe

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The Independent Online

Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband today welcomed the UN's investigation into claims that scientists manipulated global warming data - but warned against listening to "flat Earth-ers" who are trying to undermine the science.

The claims stem from emails and other material, stolen from servers at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit and posted online, which climate sceptics allege show researchers manipulating evidence to support a theory of man-made global warming.

Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told BBC Radio 4's The Report programme that the claims were serious and he wanted them investigated.

Dr Pachauri, who has chaired the panel since 2002, added: "We certainly don't want to brush anything under the carpet. This is a serious issue and we will look into it in detail."

Speaking after an event at the Natural History Museum in London, Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband said: "We need maximum transparency including about all the data but it's also very, very important to say one chain of emails, potentially misrepresented, does not undo the global science.

"I think we want to send a very clear message to people about that.

"The science is very clear about climate change and people should be in no doubt about that."

He warned that in the run-up to the crunch talks in Copenhagen, where world leaders will attempt to secure a new deal on cutting the emissions causing climate change, there were attempts to "throw dust" in people's eyes over the issue.

"We must resist that, and keep listening to the science and not subscribe to people who are frankly flat Earth-ers," he said.

He added: "There will be people that want to use this to try and undermine the science and we're not going to let them."

He said reports that Saudi Arabia believed the emails cast doubt on the evidence of man-made global warming and would have a huge impact on the climate talks in Copenhagen, did not tally with his conversations from ministers from the Middle Eastern oil producer.

And he said sceptics who suggested the Earth was now cooling because 1998 - which coincided with natural warming effects of a strong El Nino weather pattern - was the hottest year on record were wrong, because the last 10 years were warmer than the previous decade, and were the warmest decade on record.

The University of East Anglia has appointed distinguished Scottish civil servant and former principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Glasgow, Sir Muir Russell, to head an independent review into the email allegations.

The investigation will look at the leaked email exchanges to see if there is any evidence of manipulation or suppression of data which would call into question the research findings of the centre.

The centre's director Professor Phil Jones earlier this week said he would stand down from the post while the independent inquiry took place.

But he has said he "absolutely" stood by the science the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) had produced and labelled suggestions of a conspiracy to alter evidence to support a theory of man-made climate change as "complete rubbish".

Mr Miliband said he had faith in the university's own investigation and the UN body's inquiry was also welcome.

Gordon Brown's spokesman said: "The Prime Minister's view is that the science case for action is unequivocal and that is the starting point.

"Obviously, people are entitled to their own opinions on this issue, but one has to look at the science and the science is unequivocal."

He added: "The Copenhagen meeting is incredibly important. We know how many world leaders are going to be there. The Prime Minister is of the view that we can reach an agreement there."

Mr Brown thinks it is "excellent" that Barack Obama will attend the Copenhagen talks on December 9, said the spokesman, who declined to comment on suggestions that the US President's presence might be more helpful at the end of the following week, when the crucial decisions are expected to be made by up to 70 other world leaders.

"The timing of his arrival and departure is completely a matter for him, but it is another example of how importantly world leaders are treating this event," said the spokesman.