Party leader David Cameron has said that "the dangers of climate change are stark and very real. If we don't act now, and act quickly, we could face disaster".
The Tory blogs could hardly disagree more. The scale of the Tory netroots revolt over climate change is revealed by Next Left's survey of the climate change views of this year's top 10 Conservative blogs, as identified by Total Politics magazine's blog awards poll.
Indeed, Next Left can now declare that the unlikely winner of 'greenest top Tory blogger' is John Redwood MP, who had never previously been mistaken for Zac Goldsmith. Redwood's combines his own scepticism with the argument that it would be prudent to take some steps to adapt to possible negative consequences, while welcoming the benefits of global warming too. This would appear to mark Redwood out as a deep green when compared to his fellow Tory top bloggers.
Vocal complaints against the climate change orthodoxy and complaints that it crowds out dissenting views ironically dominates much of the climate change discussion on the major right-wing blog. Perhaps there is more than one kind of 'stifing consensus', though the Tory blogs range from different varieties of agnosticism to the absolute certainty that climate change is a fraud, expressed in rising backbench star Douglas Carswell MP's attack on a "lunatic consensus".
Pointing out the scale of climate scepticism among the online opinion formers on the right does not, of course, prove that they are wrong, or right. That is a matter of scientific evidence. (Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts). But, as a matter of politics, the lack of support for party policy from the most prominent netroots voices on this high profile issue suggests there will be vocal pressure from the party will be to play down the climate change issue.
Some will be deeply concerned about that; others will celebrate it.
Polling finds a strong majority of the British public do think global warming is real and man-made by a margin of 71% to 23%, .the level of Tory opposition to the idea appears to have a strong ideological component.
I am grateful to LibDem blogger Mark Reckons for flagging up his earlier post on this subject. And this post is dedicated to Tim Montgomerie for his willingness to take part in the Fabian fringe at Labour conference, where his argument that the party is far from convinced on climate change.
Climate change and the top Tory blogs
These are the top 10 Conservative blogs, in the Total Politics blog awards, and the reasons they give for being much more sceptical about climate change than David Cameron and the official party policy.
1. Iain Dale is not convinced that climate change is man made. Read a selection of climate posts here.
I used the phrase "preaching climate change religion bollocks" for a reason ... I dislike the messianic side of those like Gore who treat Climate Change as a pseudo religion which if you deign to question you're considered a nutter. I do question it, but I do it out of curiosity, not out of dogma. Let me make my position clear. I do believe climate change is taking place, but I have an open mind on the extent to which it is (if at all) man made. I am unconvinced by both the Stern Report and the IPCC report, which seems to change its evidence according to the conclusion. I am prepared to listen to the arguments of the climate change sceptics, just as I am to those I respect on the other side of the argument.
2. Probably the most influential Tory blogger is Tim Montgomerie, founder of Conservative Home which he co-edits with Jonathan Isaby. "Conservatives are concerned about the environment," he told the Fabian fringe meeting in Brighton. "Not climate change, but definitely the environment".
"I don't think the parliamentary party or the grassroots are convinced about climate change ... As someone who is very sceptical about what we can do about climate change, I think keeping the lights on will prevail", he said. ConservativeHome members' survey found that 86% of readers agreed with the statement that ""Within the next few years the average voter will be much more worried about the cost and availability of energy than they'll be worried about climate change."
The site has editorialised in favour of Nigel Lawson's scepticism on climate change, while running pieces from different perspectives, such as Nick Hurd in favour of party policy, and several pieces from Roger Helmer MEP who is campaigning for the party to declare climate change a media-driven frenzy.
3. Dizzy Thinks has expressed a neutral view on climate change, challenging the idea that the peer reviewed evidence favours the consensus view.
Before someone screams that I'm a "climate change denier", I'm not. However, I'm also not a "climate change believer". What I have never accepted is the argument that there is a "scientific consensus" on the subject and therefore I must accept it as true
Dizzy is an ex-Conservative party member. He is included because we have taken the top 10 Total Politics list, which would be widely accepted as the best known list, so that we can not be thought to have skewed the selection of top blogs.
(In any event, the number 11 blogger Donal Blaney thinks "the continued obsession with climate change at a time of economic meltdown is madness" and thinks the wet summer weather disproved the climate change hypothesis, and writes that "the earth is cooling, not warming").
4. Daniel Hannan MEP is sceptical about climate change, being among those to argue that problems in accurate weather forecasting cast doubt on climate science. He has, however, been less vocal on thse issues than his co-author and close collaborator Douglas Carswell MP.
5. Tory Bear mostly deals in political gossip but is a strong disbeliever, certain that climate change story is a lefty green myth. Blogged recently that the real inconvenient truth of the lack of evidence for hypothesis of global warming "is what most sensible people have been arguing for years".
6. Archbishop Cranmer focuses on the spiritual more than the temporal, but is a strong sceptic about the "religion of climate change", expressing high praise for Northern Ireland environment minister Sammy Wilson's halting of a UK-wide advertising campaign on the grounds that it was 'insidious propaganda':
no amount of money is ever going to control solar activity, no matter how well-meaning the religious fervour which underpins the theory, or how sincere the fanatical zealots who propagate it. The notion of man-made global warming is a political agenda to deprive people of their liberty, property, and livelihoods.
7. John Redwood MP - has a cautious, and prudential view. He is sceptical about how much difference human emissions are making - noting
We do need to know more about cloud formation, water vapour, sun flares and spots and volcanic activity to be sure what is causing the phase of warming that started in 1975 after 35 years of cooling.
I have always thought we should remain sceptical about all scientific theories, for that is the way that science advances by constantly submitting theories to test. Meanwhile we are living in a period when things are warming up, so we should manage any unhelpful consequences of that and welcome the good effects it will have.
This makes him rather more open to the possibility of man-made global warming than most of the other blogs here, and he has written that "Prudence' nonetheless dictates that we should take action now to proect ourselves against the possible bad consequences of global warming.
Redwood has been present to participate in relatively few major Commons divisions on this issue, according to the public whip website.
8. Douglas Carswell MP has blogged about the "lunatic consensus on climate change", which suggests he thinks anybody who holds the 'mainstream' view of this issue, such as his own party leader, is literally mad.
Carswell is 110% convinced that Ian Plimer's "brilliant" book has debunked the climate change myth and should end the argument. And Carswell can not understand how anybody could criticise a book with so many footnotes!
I keep getting folk posting comments telling me how wrong he is. Not just wrong, but totally wrong, apparently. All his facts made up, some suggest. His opinions presented without supporting evidence.
In fact Plimer's book is one of the most heavily footnoted publications you'll find. One thing he doesn't seem short of is evidence to back up what he says.
Of course, none of those shouting about how wrong Plimer is seem to take the trouble to show how and why he is wrong. More often they link to another site that merely regurgitates the consensus on man-made climate change.
Not everyone agrees. But we have heard enough to award Douglas Carswell the hotly contested prize of being the strongest opponent of climate change theory among the top ten Tory blogs.
9. Letters from a Tory
This issue is not a major focus for the site: it does not feature in the site's Manifesto. Mark Reckons noted LFAT's challenge to the 'irritating nonsense' of climate camp protests but LFAT's challenge to Al Gore was based on the idea that EU coordination would be required to make a difference. (Though LFAT also favours UK withdrawal from the EU).
As that seemed inconclusive, Next Left sent an email to the author, and received a characteristically courteous reply:
This might sound strange, given my opinionated blogging, but I honestly have no idea what the hell is going on with climate change. You get the official line of '50 days to save the world' or whatever, and then you get the 'we've now got global cooling, everything's fine, the evidence is all rubbish and full of lies' side of the debate - and I have no idea what to make of it all ...
There are just so many opinions, so many sources of evidence, so many accusations, so many claims, so many politicians with their own agendas, so many pressure groups with their own agendas, so many cynical bloggers, so many climate change 'deniers', so many critics on both sides that I just don't know what to make of this issue.
I just feel that it's not worth having an opinion on climate change unless you spend months looking at this stuff and genuinely listening to both sides, and I just don't have the time or the resources to do that nor have I come across anyone who seems to have already achieved this.
Hope my complete failure to answer your question is helpful....
10. Burning Our Money is a declared agnostic/sceptic about climate change.
On global warming, Tyler likes to characterise himself as an agnostic. Which means he can see the planet is warming, but is unconvinced anyone really understands why.
Though leans towards the revisionists, writing of Channel 4's controversial "Great Global Warming Swindle"
It's well worth the hour and a quarter, if only to arm yourself against the BBC's next global warming scare story, or its reporting of the egregious polemics from the International Panel on Climate Change as fact, or even its everyday line that evil capitalists and 4x4 drivers are destroying the planet... Yes, of course it's almost certainly a lot more complicated than this doc suggests. But here we have a serious yet accessible counterweight to the uncritical hysteria we're constantly served up with elsewhere.
So there we have it. Ten out of ten, albeit to differing degrees.
The right-wing blog consensus is strengthened by the most prominent less party aligned blogs on the top 100 right-of-centre list. The top 10 includes three blogs not on the Conservative list, but they do not do anything to increase diversity of climate debate on the right: Guido Fawkes is campaigning for a recognition that solar activity, not carbon, causes climate change; The Spectator is championing Ian Plimer as "the man who has exposed the great climate change con trick"; while Devil's Kitchen is a committed critic of the AGW theory.
The Tory frontbench is not entirely without support on the Conservative blogs. Those who do want to see a sustained cross-party consensus on climate change might particularly wish success to Richard Willis, a Reading Conservative councillor who is number 20 on the Total Politics list, in his efforts to convince his party that Margaret Thatcher was a climate change pioneer, while several Tory modernisers can be found huddled at Platform 10, ranked 63rd on the Total Politics list, backing the 10:10 campaign as well as all women shortlists and other heresies against the Tory blogosphere worldview.
However, David Cameron's failure to carry the argument within the right may worry the Conservative leader. There is also evidence that Conservative councils have been least likely to sign up to the 10:10 campaign.
Cameron said this month "There is now widespread agreement about the nature and scale of the threat posed by climate change ... Of course, there will always be some who deny the science and the scope of the threat posed. They say ninety percent certainty is not good enough. But that is not a justification for inaction. I say to them, would you ask your children to live in a house which ninety percent of the experts told you was going to burn down?"
It may be an argument that he needs to take into his own party more often.