Climate science denial and opposition to climate-friendly policies are widespread among Brexit Party general election candidates, analysis by DeSmog shows.
Of prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) standing for Nigel Farage’s party who have expressed views on climate change publicly, the majority appear to reject mainstream science on the issue.
While a handful of Brexit Party PPCs have made calls for greater action to limit emissions, most have made no previous statements on what Parliament declared was an “emergency” earlier this year.
The party’s announcement today that it will not be fielding candidates in any of the seats won by the Conservatives at the last election means some of the PPCs mooted for particular seats will now not be running. Some may, however, be transferred to other seats ahead of the final deadline for submissions.
The party’s policy platform, which excludes any mention of climate change, contains just two environmental commitments – to “plant tens of millions of trees” and to recycle waste in the UK rather than abroad.
Want DeSmog to keep holding politicians to account throughout the General Election? Become a patron now!
The Brexit Party, which refused to comment on DeSmog’s findings, recently appeared to accept the threat of climate change and advocate low-carbon measures in a mailout to supporters. The party quickly backtracked, however, saying the statement had merely been a “suggested draft from a keen young staffer”.
One candidate contacted by DeSmog said he would only be happy to “provide a full view” on climate change “once elected”.
DeSmog has also identified six Brexit Party candidates affiliated with Spiked, an anti-environmental media outlet which grew out of the now-defunct Revolutionary Communist Party. The group was revealed last year to have received significant funding from the oil billionaire Koch family, key backers of libertarian, climate science denial organisations in the US.
Meet the candidates
Ann Widdecombe, Plymouth Sutton and Davenport
The former Conservative minister and now Brexit Party MEP for South West England has a long history of rejecting the scientific consensus on climate change.
Having been one of only five MPs to vote against the UK’s landmark Climate Change Act in 2008, Widdecombe has written that the “science of climate change is robustly disputed”.
In a 2014 column for the Daily Express, she described a book by Lord Nigel Lawson which downplays the risks of climate change as the “best refutation of the doom mongers” and compared its difficulty in getting published to book-burning in Nazi Germany.
Martin Daubney, Ashfield
Elected as an MEP for the Brexit Party in May, the former editor of lads’ mag Loaded has made numerous comments denying climate change is human-caused.
Daubney has said it “cannot be proven” and that “we can’t say for sure man is responsible”.
@Mikell_Pine Evolution we can prove. Unless you’re blinded by faith. Climate change cannot be proven. Unless you’re blinded by faith?
— Martin Daubney MEP (@MartinDaubney) December 7, 2015
Since being elected to the European Parliament, Daubney has said the issue is treated “like a religion” in Brussels and praised commuters who dragged Extinction Rebellion activists off a London Underground train in October, calling for tasers to be used against them.
Nathan Gill, Caerphilly
Former Wales UKIP leader and MEP, Gill defected to the Brexit Party last year and has said it is “ridiculous” to think humans could have an effect on the climate.
In 2015, he told the BBC climate change was being exploited by governments who have “realised this is a great way of taxing people”.
Last year, Gill said in a statement that he would vote against the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive.
“The European Commission continues to impose never-ending objectives for emissions reductions. EU policies oblige us to invest vast amounts of money on initiatives that will have little or no effect on climate change,” he wrote.
Other candidates who appear to reject mainstream climate science include:
- Tony Willicombe (Swansea East), who tweets articles by the fringe climate science denial group Principia Scientific International.
- Julie Maughan (Easington), who has called climate change a “pattern of the earths and the suns cycle [sic]”. Responding to questions from DeSmog, Maughan said although she believed climate change “has always been and will always be a part of the earth’s natural cycle”, she thought “governments and individuals should do all in their power to reduce our impact on the climate”.
- Jules Morgan (Coventry South), who called climate change a “massive lie” in a now-deleted tweet.
- Roger Carter (Oxford East), who has claimed “changing levels of cloud fully explain ‘global warming’”.
The Spiked group of academics and writers who regularly publish articles attacking efforts to tackle climate change are well-represented in the Brexit Party’s candidate list. DeSmog previously revealed that the group was funded by Charles and David Koch, billionaire American industrialists and infamous funders of climate science denial.
James Woudhuysen (Carshalton and Wallington), a professor at London South Bank University, has written extensively on the issue. He acknowledges its existence but opposes what he considers the “misanthropic green ideology of restraint”, backing high-carbon projects like Heathrow expansion and dismissing renewables as “nowhere near viable”.
Stuart Waiton (Dundee West), a sociology professor at Abertay University who has been writing for Spiked since 2001, has described supporters of Greta Thunberg as a “cult”. He told DeSmog he accepted that “mankind is having an impact on the environment” but dislikes environmentalists’ “culture of limits”.
Keep up to date on all of DeSmog’s General Election coverage over the coming weeks.
Kevin Yuill (Houghton and Sunderland South), a history professor, has cast doubt on the impacts of climate change, decrying “eco-doomsayers”, while Paddy Hannam (Islington South) has described achieving “net zero” emissions as a “waste of money”.
Dr Alka Cuthbert (East Ham), another regular contributor to Spiked, does not appear to have made any public comments on climate change.
James Heartfield, who has blamed the Grenfell tragedy on climate targets and written a book arguing that attempts to “green” the economy are about “manufacturing scarcity to boost prices”, is no longer standing in Islington North for the Brexit Party. He did not know who he had been replaced by when asked.
Some Brexit Party candidates have shown support for strong climate action, however.
Mark Taylor (Coventry South) shares the concerns of Extinction Rebellion, if not their tactics, and is a fan of solar energy, while Colin Lambert (Heywood and Middleston) opposed fracking during his tenure as Labour leader of Rochdale council, saying he wanted the borough to be the “greenest in the country”.
Despite repeating a common trope that Greta Thunberg is being “exploited as a poster child” by her parents and climate activists, Mike Greene (Peterborough) has backed a 2050 “net zero” target for the UK and called for a “cross-party approach” to tackling climate change.
Victims of Brexit Party announcement not to contest Tory seats
A number of candidates DeSmog investigated were due to stand in seats won by the Conservatives in 2017, though may still be swapped into other constituencies.
Michael Heaver, Castle Point
Another Brexit Party MEP hoping to enter the House of Commons this election is co-founder of the Arron Banks-backed Westmonster website Michael Heaver, who has often expressed uncertainty about mainstream views on climate change.
Dr Julia Reid, Chippenham
A former UKIP MEP for the South West who served as the party’s Spokesperson for Science and subsequently Spokesperson for the Environment during her time at the European Parliament, Reid has frequently promoted news casting doubt on the threat of climate change.
In 2015, she shared an article posted on a conspiracy theory website that claimed a “minute increase of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere” was not the cause of global warming. She has also criticised EU efforts to promote green energy, calling them “unrealistic” and based on “alarmist dialogue about man-made climate change” in a debate on the policy.
Prof DJ Easterbrook: Minute increase of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere (0.008%) was not the cause of warming https://t.co/lpGtEY44iz
— Dr Julia Reid PhD (@julia_reid) December 26, 2015
Robert Rowland, Waveney
Another Brexit Party MEP, Rowland has denied the veracity of climate science on the floor of the European Parliament, saying in a debate in October:
“There is, frankly, more credibility with the theories such as sunspots, the Milankovitch cycle and orbital variations than there is with anthropogenic warming, but by far the biggest impact of climate policies is on energy costs, living standards and the economy.”
He has also praised Martin Durkin, a filmmaker who produced the infamous documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, as well as climate science denier Matt Ridley, who he has said he admires for his “repudiation of climate hysteria”.
Rowland previously worked for Brexit-backing Conservative Party donor Crispin Odey’s asset management company.
Wondering who’s trying to delay action on climate change in the UK and beyond? Check out DeSmog’s Climate Disinformation Database.
Other candidates that were set to run for the party include:
- Professor David Blake (Huntingdon), a professor at Cass Business School and a member of the pro-Brexit Economists for Free Trade group who has said he is a “long way convinced that climate change is man made”.
- Robin Koerner (St Austell and Newquay), a faculty member at the Foundation for Economic Freedom, a US libertarian group with a long history of climate science denial. Koerner has previously interviewed the American climatologist Judith Curry, who has cast doubt on whether humans are the dominant cause of recent climate change. Koerner told DeSmog he was not a “climate change denialist”, however. He said in an email that “political polarisation of science and attempts by those on both sides to smear those on the other (sometimes just by crude association) are a huge part of why major problems that we face, including global environmental ones, are so hard to fix.”
- Robin Adamson (Bournemouth West), who has claimed the sun is the only cause of climate change. Adamson declined to outline his current views on climate change when contacted, saying: “The climate debate is not going anywhere for a few weeks and whilst topical and important, it is not what those I meet want to talk about”.
- Richard Milton (Worthing East and Shoreham), who has written that people concerned about climate change are “superstitious”.
- Reverend Sam Norton (Forest of Dean), who has previously described predictions by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as “literally meaningless”. Norton is, however, concerned about broader environmental problems and told DeSmog climate change “cannot be separated out from the wider ecological crisis through which we are living at the moment”.
- Nadine Mason (Rossendale and Darwen), who has said the impact of climate change is the “least of our worries”.
- Adrian Myers (Great Yarmouth), an Independent Councillor and former UKIP member who has shared posts by the Canadian climate science denial group Friends of Science. He told DeSmog he did accept that climate change is “clearly happening” but that the science is “often questionable”. He said there were “counter arguments such as we are moving nearer the sun in a cyclical orbit” but thought deforestation, which he considered the biggest contributor to climate change, should be stopped.
- Andrew Bell (Buckingham), who tweeted in August that “Humans are NOT responsible for climate”.
- Tim Scott (Beaconsfield), who has said the climate “may well be changing” but is unconvinced about whether it is natural or man-made.
Humans are NOT responsible for climate https://t.co/7QXkEUmPjj
— Andrew_Bell2019 (@ABell2019) August 18, 2019
Other candidates analysed accept the science but oppose measures designed to tackle the problem, such as Jonathan Bullock, an ex-UKIP MEP who has said the UK’s Climate Change Act should be abolished, and Les Durance, who has tweeted that “wind farms and congestion charges in city centres won’t save the Planet!”
Farage’s decision not to threaten Conservative-voting seats may mean the Brexit Party losing a few candidates who do have climate action on their radar.
David Bull, a medical doctor who was due to contest the seat of Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, has made frequent calls for climate action. In June, he tweeted that the UK needed a “renewable national energy infrastructure” and backed the drive towards “zero emissions”. He has also celebrated the recent milestone reached by the UK when it began generating more electricity from renewables than fossil fuels.
I do indeed. It’s really important that we make electric cars affordable & mainstream so everyone can have one. But we also must have a renewable national energy infrastructure and the planning for this is pitiful . We must have zero emissions . We must protect the planet https://t.co/wKUUKrlSAR
— Dr David Bull MEP (@drdavidbull) June 2, 2019
Darren Selkus (Epping Forest) has expressed his concern about the “extreme weather events being experienced around the world” and wants more low-carbon energy produced in the UK.
David Smith (South Dorset), a former Conservative councillor who held the Planning and Environment portfolio on Bournemouth council, has slammed Donald Trump for pledging to take the US out of the Paris Agreement. He has also voiced concern about coastal erosion, a subject Keith Adams (Welwyn Hatfield) is researching for his PhD.
DeSmog also identified two Brexit Party candidates who have had leading roles in the fossil fuel industry and dismiss the threat of climate change, though neither may now stand as a result of today’s decision.
Dr Edmund Fordham (Bury St Edmunds) recently retired as a scientific advisor to Schlumberger, an oil industry services company headquartered in Texas.
He called climate change a “matter of debate” in an EU elections hustings earlier this year and has shared content from the UK’s principal climate science denial think tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
Paul Chapman (Reading West) has spent much of his career as an engineer “working predominantly on oil and gas mega-projects for Middle-Eastern clients”.
Neither candidate responded to a request to comment for this story.
Additional research by Tom Ritchie.
Updated 25/11/2019 to include response from Robin Koerner.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia/CC BY–SA 2.0