The next generation of Conservative MPs place climate change at the bottom of their list of priorities, a survey has found
The results cast doubt over David Cameron insistence that the environment remains a policy priority.
"Reducing Britain's carbon footprint" was rated the lowest of 19 possible priorities for a Conservative government in a poll of 141 Tory candidates in "winnable seats".
Tim Montgomerie, editor of ConservativeHome website, which carried out the survey, said Mr Cameron could face rebellion from backbenchers over the issue and described it as the "new Europe" for the Conservatives.
He said: "Europe has divided the Tories since the late 1980s. Could climate change cause similar problems? David Cameron needs to proceed cautiously on this issue if he is to keep the Conservative coalition together."
Ten Conservative election candidates have been sent on a green "re-education" day by Steve Hilton, the party's head of strategy to "bring them on board".The Green Alliance
The survey asked candidates to rate 19 policy issues on a scale of one to five, with five as the most important. Only eight of the 141 who responded gave climate change the highest score, making it the lowest of any issue.
There are concerns that some prominent Tories doubt the science of man-made global warming while others are worried about the costs of pursuing mitigation policies.
Instead the survey found that reducing the budget deficit was considered most important by 112 Tory candidates followed by the need to reduce red tape (73 candidates), reduce welfare bills (59) and winning trust on the NHS (50).
Environmentalists fear that the Conservatives are not their natural supporters.
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace said: "There is a gap opening up between where David Cameron and the top leadership are, compared to where their base is."
Meanwhile, Douglas Carswell, a prominent right wing MP received messages of support yesterday when he wrote on his blog on Monday that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had "fessed up to the face that some of its "evidence" about melting Himalayan glaciers is, in fact, speculation".