Saturday, 9 April 2011

Two views on nuclear power and the green lobby

Two independent views I've heard this week from people whose worldview couldn't be more different. Firstly all power to green campaigner George Monbiot, whose astonishing revelations in the Guardian (thoroughly recommend the whole article) on the abuse of scientific argument by senior anti-nuclear campaigner Dr Helen Caldicott went against much of what he once believed, as a scientist, to be true:
Over the last fortnight I've made a deeply troubling discovery. The anti-nuclear movement to which I once belonged has misled the world about the impacts of radiation on human health. The claims we have made are ungrounded in science, unsupportable when challenged, and wildly wrong. We have done other people, and ourselves, a terrible disservice.
Something which is not only throws into question the whole scientific basis of the anti-nuclear argument, but is damaging for the general image of scientific investigation, something already under unprecented scrutiny thanks to the internet, as pointed out by the Royal Society's Sir Paul Nurse in his fine documentary Science Under Attack. Things like this play perfectly into the hands of the climate deniers.

And secondly, Tony Blair, observing in A Journey:

NGOs...are treated by the media as concerned citizens, which of course they are [but they are] also organisations, raising money, marketing themselves and competing with other NGOs in a similar field. ...And they've learned to play the modern media game perfectly. As it's all about impact, they shout louder and louder to get heard. Balance is not in the vocabulary. It's all 'outrage', 'betrayal', 'crisis'....It's like the Greens over nuclear power. The case for nuclear power is now so overwhelming that frankly it is almost irresponsible - faced with an energy crunch and climate change - to oppose its development. I bet many of them know that privately, but it would be such heresy to say so and would divide the movement.
In other words, Blair's words, written last year, turned out to be prophetic: the green movement was in a desperate bind over nuclear power, and its anti-nuclear wing was capable of playing the media game as well as anyone to achieve its ends. Including, it seems, basing part of its argument - and, I stress, only part - on false evidence. And it shows, of course, that NGOs are, in the final analysis, politicians as well: they are not, as they are sometimes portrayed, some morally untouchable group of universally good people and they get things wrong, too.

(By the way, on nuclear power itself, after Japan, the jury is still considering, as I said in a previous post. But that's not really the point.)

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