Two previous surveys of our panel of Conservative Party members, conducted in 2020 and 2021 respectively, suggested that a significant slice of activists are at odds with climate change orthodoxy. Our latest snapshot suggests that this element has grown – at least, if the panel’s view of some newsworthy issues is any guide.
Let’s start with Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. These have been made topical by the ULEZ row in London, the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election result, and reaction to it (though they are as much a health-related as emissions-related initiative). Rishi Sunak has pledged a review.
Only just over five per cent of our panel supports them. Twenty-six per cent does so in principle but is “opposed in some cases to the way in which they have been implemented”. That leaves an emphatic 66 per cent opposed.
Next, the proposed ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030. Early last week, the Prime Minister failed to confirm that the Government would stick to this target before then doing so later.
Fifteen per cent of the panel back the policy, while a socking great 83 per cent oppose it. My take has long been that the nearer a target is, the more likely people are to oppose it. (Conservative Party members not least.)
The survey seems to bear this out when asked about the more distant target of net zero emissions by 2050 – a cornerstone of the Government’s energy security and climate change plan.
Eighteen per cent of respondents support the target and its presence on the statute book. Another 40 per cent back it, but not the legal requirement. Still, that’s almost three in five Party members supportive of the main Net Zero target.
However, 40 per cent are opposed to that target altogether – two in five of those Party activists, if our panel is representative. So do Party members believe it will be hit? (Regardless of their support for the target or otherwise.)
Eighteen per cent think that it will, 61 per cent that it won’t and 21 per cent don’t know: that last figure is high for that particular category.
What about global warming itself? Do Party members believe that it’s happening, and if so do they think that human activity is driving it?
So almost exactly 50 per cent, half the panel, accept the conventional view. But 33 per cent, precisely a third, don’t: they believe that global warming is happening, but aren’t convinced that human activity is driving it.
Roger Scruton articulated this view in his Green Philosophy, asserting that “greenhouse gas emissions are only one factor in altering the balance of incoming and outgoing radiation on which the earth’s temperature depends”.
That takes us finally to whether the panel believes that there is or isn’t a climate emergency. Twenty-seven per cent, just over a one in four, of its members think that there is; 67 per cent believe that there isn’t.
I’ve written many times before about the consistency of the panel, and these findings bear the point out yet again. We received just under 700 responses to this latest survey, compared to about 990 in 2020 and some 850 in 2021.
But on climate emergency, the causes of global warming and the Net Zero target – all issues on which we polled not only last month but also during these years – opinion has scarcely moved at all.
For example, here are the climate emergency scores. In 2020, 29 per cent of respondents said there was one and 66 per cent that there wasn’t.
In 2021, those figures were 31 per cent and 63 per cent respectively. And last month, they were, as we have seen, 27 per cent and 67 per cent.
So a picture of the typical panel member looks roughly like this. He (and it will usually be he) believes that global warming is happening, but isn’t necessarily convinced that human activity is driving it. He supports the Net Zero 2050 target, but not its presence on the statute book, and doesn’t believe that it will be hit. He is strongly opposed to the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars – and to low traffic neighbourhoods.
As I say, the nearer the target, tax or measure, the bigger the opposition.