Tony Blair's hopes of exploiting his close relationship with George Bush suffered a setback yesterday when a leading environmental adviser to the President said he would not change policy on global warming in his second term.
The warning means President Bush may scupper Mr Blair's attempt to achieve a breakthrough when he puts climate change at the top of his agenda while Britain chairs the G8 group of leading industrialised countries from January.
Myron Ebell, director of global warming at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, launched a personal attack on Sir David King, the Government's chief scientist, who has warned that the threat to the environment is more important than the war on terror. He told BBC Radio 4: "We have people who know nothing about climate science like Sir David King, who are alarmist and continually promote this ridiculous claim. Sir David has no expertise in climate science."
Mr Abell predicted the prospects for a change in US policy would also be reduced by the election on Tuesday of more Republicans to both Houses of Congress. "I don't think you will see a change," he said.
He added: "The whole tissue of argument that makes climate change into the greatest problem facing humanity is based on a long series of improbabilities." He said claims that the world's temperature had risen by a record level were "not true at all". His personal attack on Sir David caused surprise in London. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, conceded there was a "big disagreement" between the Bush and Blair Governments on the issue.
Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: "It is profoundly alarming to hear George Bush's advisers attacking Sir David King in this way. If Tony Blair's relationship with George Bush is to have any beneficial impact at all, he must use his influence now to get the White House to engage positively with the [climate] issue."
Environmental campaigners, who staged a protest march to the American Embassy in London last night, warn that that the US - responsible for a quarter of the world's pollution - must back Kyoto.
Mr Blair was also under pressure last night to spell out his plans to revive the Middle East peace process with Mr Bush. Labour MPs criticised him for failing to explain how he would use his "special relationship" to ensure progress. Mr Blair told the Cabinet that the re-election of President Bush "gave a chance to move forward on a variety of issues".
But an ad-hoc group of Labour MPs who have just visited Ramala and Jerusalem with Medical Aid for Palestine is seeking an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister to press on him the need for a clearly-defined set of policy objectives on the Middle East.
Dr Ian Gibson, a member of the group, told The Independent: "What we want to see is a determination to see a two-state solution. As in Northern Ireland there must be genuine efforts to disarm and end the slaughter that is going on in Gaza."Reuse content