He has insisted there is almost certainly no such thing as global warming, threatened to run down cyclists who get in his way and vowed to keep his patio heater lit 24 hours a day, just to annoy Greenpeace. But the environmentalists are no longer prepared to put up with Jeremy Clarkson's car-loving agenda.
Sir Jonathon Porritt, whose feud with Mr Clarkson dates back several years, has launched his most scathing attack yet on the presenter of the BBC2 motoring show Top Gear, branding him an "outstandingly bigoted petrolhead".
The former director of Friends of the Earth, who heads the Government's Sustainable Development Commission, chose the opening of a classroom at Rendcomb College, near Cirencester, Gloucestershire, for the latest round in a long-running feud. Sir Jonathon blamed Clarkson for public apathy about climate change and contrasted him with his fellow BBC presenter Sir David Attenborough, who recently went public for the first time about his fears over global warming. Clarkson, on the other hand, is renowned for belittling the threat posed by carbon dioxide emissions.
"In my mind this outstandingly bigoted petrolhead is partly responsible for why so many people today still somehow think that the world is going to be drawn in the image of Jeremy Clarkson rather than the image of David Attenborough and others," Sir Jonathon said. "Anyone who can shut up Jeremy Clarkson deserves more honours than have already been heaped on David Attenborough."
In the past, Sir David has come under fire from environmentalists for failing to use the platform afforded him as the doyen of natural history programmes to address the threat from rising temperatures. But Sir David told The Independent last week: "I am no longer sceptical. Now I do not have any doubt at all. I think climate change is the major threat facing the world."
Sir Jonathon said: "I am delighted that David has accepted the evidence that most people accepted a long time ago ... When people like David Attenborough think very carefully about the evidence, eventually there is very little room for people playing the scientific uncertainty argument. Maybe he will even shut up Jeremy Clarkson. That would be a great relief."
Clarkson has insisted he does not want to be the bête noire of the green lobby and that he just wants to be "the champion of the ordinary people". But many of his actions and comments, particularly in his Sunday Times column, seem designed to raise the hackles of environmentalists. The BBC was forced to pay £250 compensation after he drove a Toyota pick-up truck into a 30-year-old horse chestnut tree on Top Gear and he has also driven a 4x4 through virgin peat bogs on the programme.
He has dismissed the effects of global warming in other countries as not even "worthy of a shrug". He warned cyclists in a column: "Do not cruise through red lights. Because if I'm coming the other way, I will run you down, for fun."
Sian Berry, a spokeswoman for the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s, described Mr Clarkson's stance on global warming as "incredibly irresponsible". "He's like a man in the pub who gets hold of a rumour and tells everyone even though he doesn't know if it's true.
"He perpetuates the worst kinds of stereotypes about people who have concerns about giant gas-guzzlers. Environmentalists stopped being people wearing beards and sandals about 10 years ago ... he's still stuck in the Eighties."
The eco-warrior vs the gas-guzzler
PORRITT ON CLARKSON:
"'Life in the fast lane' is the aspiration of countless millions, regardless of the career crashes and life-wrecks that litter that particular lane. Jeremy Clarkson, the high priest of speed for speed's sake, has a lot to answer for."
(In a critique of the fast pace of life, The Guardian, 28 September 2005)
"Living more sustainably means living happier, more balanced and potentially more fulfilled lives than most of us 'choose' to live today, whatever Jeremy Clarkson may have to say about that!"
CLARKSON ON PORRITT:
"I'm sorry, Mr Nboto. We'd love to build a well in your village, but unfortunately Mr Porritt is spending all our money on a new type of possibly unnecessary engine that runs on saliva."
(On why it's "silly to spend billions developing cauliflower-powered cars when they might not make any difference, and half the world is starving."
The Sunday Times, 16 January 2005
"It was as though Jonathon Porritt himself had flown over the town in a giant vacuum cleaner."
About driving in Norway, The Sunday Times, 29 January 2006
"A Happy Christmas to everyone. Except Jonathan Porritt."
In The Sun, 21 December 2001
"For crying out loud, man. You're the boss of a car firm. Siding with Porritt is like finding the Archbishop of Canterbury has sold his cathedral to the devil." On the decision by Mark Quinn of Kia Cars to become a "Green Futures Partner".
The Sun, 27 April 2001
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