Tories attacked as 'climate saboteurs'

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The Conservative peer Lord Lawson, the Tory MP David Davis and other politicians who have been casting doubt on the science of global warming in advance of next week's Copenhagen climate conference were "climate saboteurs", Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said yesterday.

In a robust defence of the general scientific consensus on climate change – that it is happening, and is man-made – Mr Miliband hit out at climate sceptics in general and the two Tory politicians in particular, saying they were “profoundly irresponsible.”

Lord Lawson, who as Nigel Lawson was Chancellor of the Exchequer in Margaret Thatcher’s Government, is chairing a think-tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, to challenge the accepted view of climate science. Mr Davis, who was Shadow Home Secretary under David Cameron until he resigned his post over the issue of 42 days’ detention, wrote an article in Wednesday’s Independent attacking the setting of carbon-cutting targets as a “ferocious determination to impose hair-shirt policies” and doubting that the atmosphere was actually getting warmer.

“I have to say I think it is profoundly irresponsible for people who have held, in the case of Nigel Lawson, positions of high office, and in the case of David Davis, the position of Shadow Home Secretary, to be doing what they are doing,” Mr Miliband said. “I do think that we have to beware of the climate saboteurs, the people who want to say that this is somehow in doubt and who want to cast aspersions on the whole process.”

He said he did not think it was coincidental that the questioning of the science was happening just on the eve of the conference in the Danish capital, which lasts from Monday 7 to Friday 18 December, although he said he was “not claiming that there is a conspiracy.”

He said: “I think there are clearly interests that don’t want an agreement [at the conference.] I don’t know what they are doing to make that happen. But anyone who comes forward at this very, very sensitive moment, at the moment of both maximum difficulty and maximum opportunity and starts saying, oh perhaps we don't have to do this after all, perhaps we can stick our heads in the sand, is pretty irresponsible.”

Mr Miliband played down the significance of the recently-leaked emails from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia which appear to show climate scientists concealing data which were unfavourable to their position. The emails have been used to bolster the sceptics’ case and are even being cited abroad; yesterday Saudi Arabia’s lead climate negotiator, Mohammad Al-Sabban, said the emails suggested climate change does not have a human cause, and that that the issue would have a “huge impact” on next week’s UN summit – whch more than 100 world leaders have now said they will attend – leading to some countries being less willing to cut their carbon emissions.

Mr Miliband said : “I think it is very easy to take emails out of context. There is an inquiry going on in East Anglia as to the precise nature of these emails and what they said, but I think it is really important that we are responsible in this and not irresponsible, and we take heed of the values of science and the enlightenment and not prejudice in this, because one chain of emails does not undo a scientific consensus which is broadly based and relatively universal.

“There will be people who want to jump on these emails as somehow saying this disproves climate change is happening. That is absolute and utter nonsense, frankly, and I think we should be very clear about that.”

He went on: “Just for the avoidance of doubt, I think it is very important that we make the case for the science. There is a very widespread consensus on the science among something like 4,000 scientists who are part of the IPCC process [the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and just last week, the Met Office, the Natural Environment Research Council and the Royal Society in the UK issued a very, very clear statement which said that carbon dioxide concentrations were continuing to rise, and that this decade has been warmer on average than any other decade in the previous hundred and fifty years, because some of the sceptics are trying to claim that somehow the world is cooling – it isn't – and the scientists are very clear about that.”

He added: “I read David Davis' article it is very dangerous, because here’s someone who is not to my knowledge a scientist, and he’s saying there is somehow doubt about this, and that actually the world isn't getting warmer.

"I much prefer, to be honest, the views of the Met Office and of the Royal Society when it comes to the science of climate change, to he views of David Davis."

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