Monday 12 October 2009

Climate consensus is lunacy, says influential Tory MP

Just how deep does scepticism about man made climate change go in the Tory party?

Douglas Carswell MP seems keen to lead the charge, today blogging that

The lunatic "consensus" on man-made climate change is starting to break down.

This charge of lunacy is rather forceful language, when Carswell's party leader David Cameron has written that "Our children will judge the current generation of political leaders on our ability to put aside party differences in order to face up to this unprecedented global threat".

Carswell couldn't disagree more. He complains that

For years, the BBC has reported opinion about the impact of human CO2 emissions on the climate as if they were fact.

Carswell seems to be a big fan of Ian Plimer, the Australian geologist whose polemic was given cover story billing on The Spectator, which hailed him as "the man who has exposed the great climate con trick". (The Times review pointed out several basic errors in the book's misreporting of its own purported sources).

One of the more surprising claims on the fringe this year was made by Tim Montgomerie, editor of the ConservativeHome website, who told a Fabian event on the new Conservatives that, while much of the party was content with David Cameron's push on green issues, many were sceptical of whether this needed to extend to climate change.

Montgomerie declared himself "very sceptical about what we can do about climate change", suggesting that "keeping the lights on would prevail" in the internal debate if the Conservatives were elected.

Perhaps more significantly he said that ConservativeHome's surveys showed that a majority of both activists and parliamentary candidates showed that neither the parliamentary party nor the grassroots are convinced about climate change.

This raised a few eyebrows - with a brief mention in The Guardian as part of the lighter side of conference. (Only up to a point, really). John Harris felt the comment motivated Labour activists.

But, in contrast with so much attention paid to Conservative views on Europe, I am surprised there have not been more sustained media efforts to work out how far climate scepticism goes in the party (or even to simply ask Tim Montgomerie for the results of the ConservativeHome surveys of candidates and activists on the issue).

Meanwhile, the sprinkling of high profile Tory green voices tend to vigorously promote the idea that the party has changed to the media. I have heard rather less of them challenging the breadth of scepticism within their own party: the public message on that seems to be 'job done'.

Carswell is thought of as an influential voice in shaping the ideas of the right of the party. The Telegraph this month included him in Britain's "100 most influential Right-wingers", with only two backbench MPs ranking higher up the list. Carswell wrote the Direct Democracy pamphlet co-authoed by many of the rising stars of the Tory class of 2005, which the Spectator described as "one of the founding texts of the new, revitalised Toryism .... written by some of the brightest young Conservative thinkers" and co-authored The Plan with Daniel Hannan MEP.

(Hannan also sounds rather sceptical on climate change, recently arguing that this summer's variable weather forecasts and the lack of a barbecue summer provide evidence that the climate science must also be less certain than many think).

Neither Carswell nor Hannan are ever shy of promoting the idea of their ever-growing influence in the Tory party.

Any full frontal assault to overturn the party's acceptance that man made climate change is real will surely not prevail in this pre-election period. The Tory leadership chose this issue as a major focus of its 'brand decontamination' efforts to show how much the party had changed. And that commitment is important, given that effective and sustained efforts to tackle climate change will require cross-party support.

But it does seem very likely that there might would be very little backbench or grassroots pressure for Britain to meet its climate change commitments if there was a Conservative majority in the Commons.

Those who do think climate change is real and urgent know it is also a question of willing the means.

That becomes more difficult if - as is being argued by those with a good claim to know - Conservatives remain pretty much split down the middle about the importance of climate change and even the facts of the science itself.

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