Scientists and campaigners have rounded on the Green Party by accusing it of turning its back on its main mission by largely ignoring the crucial issue of climate change in the run-up to the general election.
Critics said that although the Green Party manifesto contains plenty of references to policies on global warming, the subject has gone largely unspoken in campaigning by the party and its leader, Natalie Bennett.
Professor Peter Wadhams, of the University of Cambridge, who has edited highly influential UN reports on the subject, said: “The Green Party are grievously at fault in not talking about climate change. Its politicians should be saying that the most important and urgent problem facing the whole planet, including the UK, is climate change and the speed at which it is happening.
“Natalie Bennett had a great chance to talk about the issues at the debate last Thursday but was very disappointing because she came across as just another machine politician, talking about the NHS and unemployment. The words ‘climate change’ may briefly have passed her lips but she didn’t make any kind of a point about it.”
The failure of all parties to address global warming in their campaigning is a “sad indictment” on the political system, the professor of ocean physics said, calling it a “disgrace”.
But the low profile accorded to the subject by the Green Party has been particularly disappointing for many environmental campaigners given that the organisation was set up primarily to look after the environment.
Kevin Lister, an environmental campaigner and author of the climate-change book The Vortex of Violence, said: “The Green Party are becoming a political irrelevance. Natalie Bennett is not using her position to lead the climate-change debate – she is too concerned about moving to the centre ground to appeal to voters.”
Mr Lister said that the Brighton & Hove MP Caroline Lucas was a notable exception and that she is putting the message about climate change across strongly.
The criticisms are just the latest to hit Ms Bennett, following a series of embarrassing performances in media interviews. But she has fought back, arguing that she had done more than any other leader to highlight the issue. Saying it was “really very telling” that none of her rivals had uttered the words “climate change” during 3.5 hours of debate, she told The Independent: “I will claim some credit for the fact that climate change was talked about in both of the leader debates, even if I was the only person who talked about it.
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
In pictures: Changing climate around the world
Calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers are seen floating on the water in Qaqortoq, Greenland
Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on Earth, has shrunk more than 80 percent to 1,000 square kilometers in the past decade. It shrinks mainly because of climate change, expanded irrigation for surrounding farms and the damming of rivers that feed the body of water
A boat navigates among calved icebergs from the nearby Twin Glaciers in Qaqortoq, Greenland. Boats are a crucial mode of transportation in the country that has few roads. As cities like Miami, New York and other vulnerable spots around the world strategize about how to respond to climate change, many Greenlanders simply do what theyve always done: adapt. 'Were used to change, said Greenlander Pilu Neilsen. 'We learn to adapt to whatever comes. If all the glaciers melt, well just get more land
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is seen after being inaugurated in Longyearbyen, Norway. The 'doomsday' seed vault built to protect millions of food crops from climate change, wars and natural disasters opened deep within an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard
A technician preparing to drain a vast underground lake at the Tete Rousse glacier on the Mont Blanc Alpine mountain, to avert a potentially disatrous flood. Some 65,000 cubic metres (2.3 million cubic feet) of water have gathered in a cavity, dangerously raising the pressure beneath the mountain, a favourite spot for holiday makers in Saint-Gervais-les-Bains
Cracked mud is picture at sunrise in the dried shores of Lake Gruyere affected by continuous drought near the western Switzerland village of Avry-devant-Pont. A leading climate scientist warned that Europe should take action over increasing drought and floods, stressing that some climate change trends were clear despite variations in predictions
Cattle graze on grassland that remains dry and brown at the height of the rainy season in south of Bakersfield, California. Its third straight year of unprecedented drought, California is experiencing its driest year on record, dating back 119 years, and dating back as far as 500 years, according to some scientists who study tree rings
An aerial view shows tents of flood-displaced people surrounded by water in southern Sehwan town. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) executive secretary Christiana Figueres met with people displaced by last year's devastating floods. Catastrophic monsoon rains that swept through the country in 2010 and affected some 20 million people, destroyed 1.7 million homes and damaged 5.4 million acres of arable land
An aerial view of flooding in North Wagga Wagga. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening all countries but small island states, poor nations and arid regions in particular, UN experts warned
Damages caused by a landslide on the Pan-American highway near La Moramulca, 55 Km south of Tegucigalpa. International highways have been washed out, villages isolated and thousands of families have lost homes and crops in a region that the United Nations has classified as one of the most affected by climate change
A resident sprays water on a peatland fire in Pekanbaru district in Riau province on Indonesia's Sumatra island. Indonesia, an archipelago of 17,000 islands, is one of the world's biggest carbon emitters because of rampant deforestation. US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday issued a clarion call for nations to do to more to combat climate change, calling it 'the world's largest weapon of mass destruction'
An excavator clearing a peatland forest area for a palm oil plantations in Trumon subdistrict, Aceh province, on Indonesia's Sumatra island. As Southeast Asia's largest economy grows rapidly, swathes of biodiverse forests across the archipelago of 17,000 islands have been cleared to make way for paper and palm oil plantations, as well as for mining and agriculture. The destruction has ravaged biodiversity, placing animals such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers in danger of extinction, while also leading to the release of vast amounts of climate change-causing carbon dioxide
Stagnant rain water with tannery waste make the Hazaribagh area in Old Dhaka as well as Buriganga River the most polluted. Each year during the seven-month long dry season between October and April the Buriganga River becomes totally stagnant with its upstream region drying up and becoming polluted from toxic waste from city industries
Waste water from Dhaka city drained to the River Buriganga contributes to its pollutions. On the World Water Day observed in 2007 under the theme Coping with Water Scarcity, under the leadership of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, DrikNEWS explores some of the images of the river. UN-Water has identified coping with water scarcity as part of the strategic issues and priorities requiring joint UN action. The theme highlights the significance of cooperation and importance of an integrated approach to water resource management of water at international, national and local levels
Heavy smog has been lingering in northern and eastern parts of China, disturbing the traffic, worsening air pollution and forcing the closure of schools. China's Environment Ministry said it will send inspection teams to provinces and cities most seriously affected by smog to ensure rules on fighting air pollution are being enforced
“We need to take bold action on climate change, and we need to do it soon. That’s why we’re focusing on climate change as one of the key themes of our campaign and it’s why Green MPs elected on May 7th will make it their mission to push for the changes we so desperately need to avert catastrophic climate change. At the very heart of the Green Party’s campaign in this election is our ongoing commitment to protecting our shared environment. That’s why we launched our manifesto with a commitment to insulating nine million homes across the country – which would cut carbon, create jobs and keep people warm in their homes over winter.”
She insisted that voters were conscious of the dangers posed by global warming, saying: “It is quite a tribute to the sense and judgement of the public that despite the efforts of the right-wing media tycoons over a long period of time, there has been a consistent high level of understanding that climate change is man-made, it’s here now and it’s serious.”
Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist, conceded that the Green Party “could have talked about climate change more” – although he said he understood why it was keen to be seen to be about much more than the environment.
The Green Party’s failure to push climate change is part of a much bigger problem as political parties across the board sweep the frightening reality of global warming under the carpet, Sir Jonathon Porritt, a former Green Party chairman, said.
He argued that all of Britain’s political parties were guilty of choosing to hide behind the Climate Change Act – which sets legally binding targets for the UK to reduce carbon emissions – rather than debating the issues and policies needed to meet those goals. “It’s funny that the main parties sanitise the climate‑change debate by all signing up to an anodyne statement saying they all still believed in the Climate Change Act,” he said.
The Independent has got together with May2015.com to produce a poll of polls that produces the most up-to-date data in as close to real time as is possible.
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