The Tory party is rife with climate change sceptics.
With the current flooding crisis heightening public debate over how best to combat climate change, the spotlight is being shone on David Cameron’s record on environmental issues, which has been looking worse in recent months, despite his previous promises to lead the “greenest government ever”.
At least Cameron still believes in the reality of climate change, however, and that it is caused by human actions.
This can’t be said for all of the members of his government.
There have also been reports that those Tories who do believe that action needs to be taken on climate change are being sidelined in their own party. Tim Yeo and Anne McIntosh have both been deselected by their local party organisations, with speculation that their environmentalist views were unpopular with the membership of their local parties.
Former Tory environment secretary Lord Deben has also claimed that climate change is diminishing in importance in party policy.
So which Tory members of the government have expressed scepticism toward man made climate science?
- Environment secretary Owen Patterson has claimed that climate change could have a positive effect. He also said that “People get very emotional about this subject and I think we should just accept that the climate has been changing for centuries”. Spending on preparing the UK for the effects of global warming has almost halved since he become environment secretary;
- Energy minister Michael Fallon has described climate science as ‘theology’
- Defence secretary Philip Hammond was quoted on Wednesday as saying that “solar rhythms” have contributed to climate change
There are also several backbench Tory MPs who are climate sceptics:
- Peter Lilley, who has claimed that “the simple fact is that the science [behind climate change] is not resolved”, and who has links to the oil industry. He was also one of the three MPs who voted against the Climate Change Act;
- Christopher Chope also voted against the Climate Change Act;
- Andrew Tyrie was the third MP who voted against the Climate Change Act;
- Douglas Carswell, who previously believed in climate science but changed his mind;
- David Davis, who says that the claim that scientists are united over the belief that global warming is caused by human activity “simply does not stack up“;
- John Redwood, who questions the ‘climate forecasting models‘ of climate scientists.
Another prominent Tory climate sceptic is Lord Lawson, who has set up his own climate sceptic think tank called the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Last year the think tank was warned that it could be shut down after a formal complaint that it has misled the public.
Prominent Tory MEP Daniel Hannan has also flirted with climate scepticism, saying that “it ought to be possible to accept the case for global warming – and, indeed, for an anthropogenic component therein – while still believing that the Rio-Kyoto-Copenhagen agenda represents a misallocation of resources. If this makes me a ‘sceptic’, in the literal sense of wanting to question things, fine.”
Many of these Tories will no doubt idolise Margaret Thatcher, which is ironic, considering she was convinced of the reality of human-made climate change, and has even been celebrated by some as a green hero.
There are several other Tory members of the government who, while they might not be climate sceptics, do not exactly have a good record when it comes to climate change:
- Chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne says that he does not want the Britain to lead the world in fighting climate change, on the grounds that it would make the UK less competitive in international energy markets;
- Secretary of state for communities and local government Eric Pickles has removed the duty of local councils to prepare for the impact of climate change;
- Minister without portfolio John Hayes, who as energy minister contradicted his boss Ed Davey (and official government policy) by calling for an end to wind farms ‘peppering’ the countryside.
Overall, this situation suggests that the Conservatives have completely given up on their ambitions to take the lead on environmental issues. It also suggests that they perhaps never took this ambition seriously in the first place.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.