- London Telegraph -
Prof John Beddington admitted the impact of global warming had been exaggerated by some scientists and condemned climate researchers who refused to publish data which formed the basis of their reports into global warming.
In an interview, Prof Beddington, called for a new era of honesty and responsibility from the environmental community and said scientists should be less hostile to sceptics who questioned man-made global warming.
His words were refected in a New Scientist editorial that also argued that climate scientists should "welcome in the outside world" for more scrutiny.
Prof Beddington also said public confidence in climate science would be boosted by greater honesty about its uncertainties.
''I don't think it's healthy to dismiss proper scepticism,” he said.
“Science grows and improves in the light of criticism.
“There is a fundamental uncertainty about climate change prediction that can't be changed.”
His comments come after the United Nations’ climate science panel admitted last week that it made a mistake by claiming that the Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035.
The IPCC was forced to apologise after the prediction in its benchmark 2007 report – that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 – was revealed to have been based on unsubstantiated claims.
It followed another row surrounding the science behind climate change, dubbed “Climategate”, when leaked e-mails appeared to suggest that scientists at the University of East Anglia had manipulated climate change data.
As a result Prof Phil Jones, the director of the University’s Climatic Research Unit and a contributor to IPCC reports, has been forced to stand down while he is investigated.
Urging scientists to release their data to their critics, Prof Beddington added: ''I think, wherever possible, we should try to ensure there is openness and that source material is available for the whole scientific community.
“There is a danger that people can manipulate the data, but the benefits from being open far outweigh that danger.”
The New Scientist editorial said that the IPCC has done 'Herculean' work in assessing the risk of climate change and the recent revelations do not undermine the conclustion that man made global warming is happening.
But the process needs to be reviewed so that the public had more access to research and reports come out more frequently.
Lord Stern of Brentford, has previously said that climate change sceptics that pedal “muddled and unscientific” thinking could stop the world from tackling global warming.
Prof Beddington insisted that uncertainty about some aspects of climate science should not be used as an excuse for inaction:
But he said the false claim in the IPCC's 2007 report revealed a wider problem with the way that some evidence was presented.
“Certain unqualified statements have been unfortunate,” he said.
“We have a problem in communicating uncertainty. There's definitely an issue there.
“If there wasn't, there wouldn't be the level of scepticism. All of these predictions have to be caveated by saying, 'there's a level of uncertainty about that'.”
Prof Beddington also said that large-scale climate modelling using computers resulted in ''quite substantial uncertainties'' that should be communicated.
''It's unchallengeable that CO2 traps heat and warms the Earth and that burning fossil fuels shoves billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere,” he told The Times.
“But where you can get challenges is on the speed of change.”