David Cameron has failed to convince many of his MPs that man-made global warming is a serious problem, according to a poll that finds widespread sceptisicm across parliament about the issue.
A third of Tory MPs who responded to the survey questioned the existence of climate change and its link to human activity. Two-thirds said tackling climate change should not be a priority for local councils.
A significant number of MPs from other parties also told the survey they had doubts on the issue. Overall, the results suggest that up to a fifth of the MPs who have been debating the UK's climate change bill do not understand, or choose to ignore, the science on which it is based. (Download a PDF of the full poll of MPs attitudes to climate change.)
Two recent polls attempting to judge the public mood about climate change have revealed contradictory results. Last week's Ipsos Mori poll told us that most people doubt the human causes of climate change. Yesterday's Guardian/ICM poll told a slightly different story, one of a growing concern with climate change, with many people considering it a higher priority than the faltering economy.
The roots of scepticism can be traced to many sources. In this newspaper on Monday, Peter Wilby criticised the media for not doing its part to lend credibility to the argument. Some have pointed the finger at that fateful Channel 4 documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle; others at the sometimes contradictory messages from environmentalists. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that many people still remain unsure of the causes of climate change, and the seriousness with which we need to tackle it.
The scientists and campaigners have done their best. The IPCC's latest report states that there is a 90% chance that humans are the main cause of climate change. Al Gore has gone around the world with graphs and arresting photographs of the melting Arctic ice, proving that climate change really is happening. And, of course, there is the anecdotal evidence: everyone knows someone who has witnessed an extreme storm, or had their house flooded, or watched from a balcony as the Asian tsunami leapt from the sea.
According to an Ipsos Mori poll, carried out for the Observer this month, most Britons believe climate change is at least partially down to natural causes, and not solely to human activity. A majority also believe scientists are divided on the causes and more than a fifth say the whole thing has been exaggerated.
Now where would they have got those ideas from? One Channel 4 programme, claiming global warming is "a swindle", has no doubt played a role, as have internet blogs arguing all the world's scientists are party to a Marxist conspiracy bent on destroying western civilisation. But the press, though declining, still counts. It contributes to the framework within which public debate proceeds. It lends respectability to the opinions it highlights.
The majority of the British public is still not convinced that climate change is caused by humans - and many others believe scientists are exaggerating the problem, according to an exclusive poll for The Observer.
The results have shocked campaigners who hoped that doubts would have been silenced by a report last year by more than 2,500 scientists for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found a 90 per cent chance that humans were the main cause of climate change and warned that drastic action was needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The findings come just before the release of the government's long-awaited renewable energy strategy, which aims to cut the UK's greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent over the next 12 years.