Friday, 9 May 2014

When will the green groups apologise for their contribution to global warming?

The infamous anti-nuclear power badge,
featuring the largest nuclear reactor within 4 light years
When I talk to people in the media about their treatment of science, they often admit, rather sheepishly, how bad they are at apologising for misleading the public - even when it's something with the devastating impact of the way the media turned parents against the MMR vaccine with no basis in fact. However, I don't think they're the only ones to shirk their responsibility to apologise. How about Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth?

The fact is that without substantial green campaigning there is a good chance that the major percentage of our electricity - as is the case in France - could now be generated by nuclear power with a huge beneficial impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. So much so that we could have probably filled the gap with renewables and had pretty well zero carbon electricity. Instead we are now playing catch up far too late.

Long term, the best solution is likely to be nuclear fusion, but until that comes on stream, not until 2050 at the earliest, we need nuclear fission to tide us over in a low carbon fashion. Instead though, when they should have been building new power stations, governments gave way to the media impact of these green behemoths and failed to invest.

So how about it, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth? Time to say 'Sorry, we got it wrong'? Because your action seems at least in part to be responsible for one of the biggest segments of carbon emissions from the UK. Well done, guys. But my suspicion is that we won't see any such apology, because unlike science, campaigning groups (with the exception of a few individuals like George Monbiot) are not very good at accepting that they got things wrong and changing tack. They are happy to wave the 'scientific consensus' banner when it comes to manmade global warming - and that's a good thing - but they ignore the scientific consensus when it comes to the role nuclear power should take, suggesting that emotion is more of a driver than actually caring for what is best for the planet.

I think there's an interesting parallel in an email conversation I had with the Soil Association, the UK's main organic body, a while ago. I was pointing out that their policy on nanoparticles, which was that natural nanoparticles are ok, but artificial ones aren't, doesn't make any sense, as any problems with nanoparticles comes from their size and physical properties, not how they are made. In a burst of perhaps unintentional frankness, their spokesperson replied: ‘[T]he organic movement nearly always takes a principles-based regulatory approach, rather than a case-by-case approach based on scientific information.’ In other words, theirs is a knee-jerk reaction to concepts, rather than one based on genuine concerns about the dangers of various products. What's sometimes called greenwash. And sadly that is all too often the case with the big green organisations too.

No comments:

Post a Comment