One in 15 Conservative MPs believe climate change is a ‘myth’, poll finds

Exclusive: 7% of Tories in Commons do not accept scientific consensus

Adam Forrest
Saturday 06 November 2021 09:12
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Related video: Boris Johnson tells Cop26 that climate promises ‘100% useless’ without action

One in 15 Conservative MPs still does not believe that climate change is real, exclusive polling for The Independent shows.

A survey of more than 100 MPs from across parties found scepticism about global warming remains relatively strong among Tory politicians.

Seven per cent of Conservatives surveyed said the scientific phenomenon of the climate crisis – currently mobilising world leaders at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow – is “a myth”.

And nine per cent of Tory MPs said they did not accept that there is a scientific consensus on human activity causing climate change, according to the poll by Savanta ComRes, while no Labour MP said the same.

It also found that one-third of Tory MPs (37 per cent) do not believe that the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events come from climate change – despite agreement among scientists that the impacts can already be seen.

Friends of the Earth said the poll showed that Boris Johnson had “failed to convince members of his own party” of the scientific consensus on the climate crisis, despite the “glossy announcements” made at Cop26.

“This calls into question his ability to act in line with the scale of the climate disaster on our doorsteps,” said Connor Schwartz, climate lead at the pressure group. “Clearly the prime minister has work to do behind the scenes.”

Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay told The Independent it was “extremely worrying to see such climate denialism” in the Tory party.

He added: “It is no wonder that Boris Johnson is nowhere near delivering the sort of transformational change required, if so many of his own MPs don’t even believe the science.”

Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said the poll suggested “tiny but stubborn pockets of climate denial have managed to persist in the Conservative party”, and added: “This minority of MPs is out of step with the overwhelming scientific consensus, with public concerns, and with their own party’s leadership.”

There was less scepticism about the climate emergency facing the planet from Labour and other opposition parties.

A stark divide between the two main parties emerged on the question of eating less meat as a means of cutting carbon emissions, due to the fact that the meat industry contributes a large amount to global greenhouse gases.

Almost two-thirds of Tory MPs (66 per cent) do not accept adopting a more plant-based diet as a means of tackling climate change. But only 9 per cent of Labour MPs were sceptical about the impact of a plant-based diet, with 91 per cent saying it could make a positive difference.

While Cop26 has seen new commitments to reverse deforestation and end nations’ dependence on coal, campaigners have been underwhelmed by the pledges made so far, many of which have been set decades away or are voluntary.

The survey of MPs also found pessimism about the chances of the summit leading to the changes needed to keep global warming in check.

The poll found that half (51 per cent) of MPs – rising to 69 per cent of those in Labour – think leaders will fail to meet the goal of keeping global warming below the 2C limit set by the Paris Agreement.

Almost as many (42 per cent, again rising to 69 per cent of Labour MPs) think it is unlikely that the UK government will hit its net zero carbon emissions target by 2050.

While 94 per cent of Labour MPs said Mr Johnson’s government should prioritise the cutting of emissions as part of the Covid recovery, only 55 per cent of Tory MPs think a “green recovery” should be a priority.

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