Only one in two voters accepts man-made climate change, according to new poll
Nearly one in two voters believes there is no proof that mankind is causing global warming, according to a new opinion poll

05 Dec 2009

The ICM survey for The Sunday Telegraph will dismay proponents of "man-made" climate change – including leading scientists and the majority of world governments – as they gather in Copenhagen for the landmark climate summit.

Asked if they backed the main conclusion of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that humans are largely responsible for modern day rises in temperatures, 52 per cent of voters agreed.

However, 39 per cent said climate change had not yet been proven to be man made, while seven per cent simply denied the phenomenon was happening at all. Furthermore, fewer than one in four voters (23 per cent) believed that climate change was "the most serious problem faced by man" – a view endorsed by governments across the world.

A clear majority (58 per cent) said it was merely "one of a number of serious problems" while 17 per cent believed it has been exaggerated and is "not a very serious problem."

The survey follows the recent raising of tensions between proponents of man-made climate change, which is the prevailing scientific view, and those who take a more sceptical stance. The IPCC has said it will launch an investigation after the online publication of emails and other material stolen from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) in the so-called "climategate" affair. Climate change sceptics claim the material shows that the evidence used to support man-made global warming has been manipulated.

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that Professor Phil Jones, who headed the CRU and who has stood aside after the leak of the emails, has received more than £13 million in funding for his research.

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice chairman of the IPCC, said it was possible Russian hackers had been paid as part of a global conspiracy to cast doubt on the science of global warming. "I do not think this is a coincidence," he added.

Gordon Brown, who will attend the two-week, 192-nation Copenhagen summit, denounced "the behind-the-times, anti-science, flat-earth climate sceptics" who challenged the prevailing view.

David Cameron has also put tackling climate change high on the Conservative agenda – although his party is home to some prominent sceptics.

David Davis, the former shadow home secretary, has hit out at "the fixation of the green movement with setting ever tougher targets".

The ICM poll showed Tory voters were less likely to agree with the prevailing scientific view on man-made global warming (47 per cent) than either Labour supporters (58 per cent) or Liberal Democrats (57 per cent).

Lord Stern, the British government's leading adviser, has warned that 10 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions must be taken out of the atmosphere by 2020. So far agreement is in place for only half of that amount – but chances of a landmark deal at Copenhagen, where President Barack Obama will also attend, appear slim.

Despite the drive to do a deal to cut emissions at Copenhagen its is estimated that there will be around 1,200 limousines on the city's road this week – of which just five will be either electric cars or hybrids. Copenhagen's main airport, furthermore, says it is expecting up to 140 extra private jets.