Energy Secretary Ed Davey went on the offensive against climate "deniers" today, saying evidence of man-made climate change "screams out from decade upon decade of research".
Davey said 200 years of science had laid the foundation for the "irrefutable" evidence that showed greenhouse gases warmed the atmosphere and human activity was significantly contributing to the warming of the planet.
Those "dogmatic and blinkered people" who denied that climate change was happening wanted to take a huge gamble with humanity's future, Davey told a meeting at the Royal Society.
"When I am confronted by some of the most dogmatic and blinkered people who deny that climate change is happening, I am reminded of the sentiment of the famous USA Today cartoon: 'If we really are wrong about climate change, we will have created a better world for nothing'.
"In reality, those who deny climate change and demand a halt to emissions reduction and mitigation work want us to take a huge gamble with the future of every human being, our children and grandchildren and every other living species.
"We will not take that risk," he told a symposium on climate change and climate science by the Government-funded Avoid programme, which provides scientific and technical analysis to inform UK strategies on avoiding dangerous global warming.
Davey said people accepted scientific advice that smoking caused health problems such as heart disease, and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet sun rays led to skin cancer, and questioned there would be an exception for climate science.
He admitted there were uncertainties over climate change but said the evidence was "overwhelming".
"Two hundred years of good science - testing out uncertainties, considering risk - has laid the foundation of what we now understand. It screams out from decade upon decade of research.
"The basic physics of climate change is irrefutable. Greenhouse gases warm the atmosphere and cause changes to the climate. Human activity is significantly contributing to the warming of the planet."
He said that while every extreme weather event could not be attributed to climate change, "the pattern is building and the costs are rising", warning that the cost of the 2012 floods in the UK could easily top £1 billion.
Senior Tories including Chancellor George Osborne have raised concerns that pushing ahead with cutting emissions risks the UK's competitiveness because other countries are not doing their bit.
But Liberal Democrat Davey pointed to efforts in Europe to push for strong emissions reductions targets, and action by countries such as South Korea, Australia, China and the US.
"Those who advocate the view that 'no one else is doing anything, so why should we' have not opened their eyes to the real world," he warned.
He said the real danger the UK faced was being outpaced by other countries which were investing in low-carbon economies, and said the move to a green economy would provide growth, jobs, tax revenues and insulation from volatile fossil fuel prices.
Davey said he was hopeful of securing a new global deal to tackle climate change in 2015, but it would be easier if technologies were being developed to help cut emissions and that the scientific community had a key contribution to make.
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more