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Greens on trial

Justin Rowlatt | 15:54 UK time, Wednesday, 14 October 2009

It's been a long time since I've written a blog. Very lazy, I know. So I've come back with a broadside. My question is whether the green movement is becoming part of the climate problem.

There is no doubt that the green movement has been instrumental in raising the profile of the climate issue. But, having moved green issues into the political mainstream, can the green movement offer solutions to global warming?

No, says David King, Britain's former chief scientist. He says if we want to move to a low carbon economy we are going have to - as he puts it - "use every tool in the box". But the green movement rules out quite a few of the most promising tools.

Take the question of how we are going to generate power. The green solution is renewable technologies - wind, solar and wave power.

No-one questions the need for these technologies to be part of the mix. But here's a checklist of other leading low carbon technologies: nuclear power, genetic engineering, nano-technology, carbon capture and storage.

Each one offers the potential for revolutionary new ways of generating power yet many greens oppose all of them. Quite a number say even research into these technologies is wrong.

So why do Greens take such a radical position? The reason is that most Greens are profoundly risk averse when it comes to technology. That should be no surprise. The key preoccupation for most Greens is the conservation of nature. That can make them very - well - conservative.

A key strand of green thought is the "precautionary principle". That's the idea that if you can't predict what all the risks of a new technology are then it is probably best not to use it.

Sounds like good sense, doesn't it? But don't forget how urgent the climate issue is. The green consensus is that carbon emissions have to peak by around 2015 if we are to stay within the crucial 2 degree temperature rise after which global warming could become uncontrolled.

That gives us just six years.

My question for the Greens is this: if time is so short surely we are going to have to take a few risks.


  • Comment number 1.

    I rather get the impression that due to the BBC's rather cozy arrangement with the eco-fascists over recent years tonight's " greens on trial " will be a complete and utter whitewash.

    Take the eco-fascist position on Traffic Calming, lower speed limits generally and blanket 20 Mph speed limits in towns.

    I believe that the latest statistics are 82% extra CO2, 37% extra NOX, The pollution problem is compounded by drivers driving over humps in too high a gear which means that the potentially toxic unburnt hydrocarbon pollutants linked to lung disease are probably doubled. A 20 Mph Zone allegedly increases CO2 by a " less pregnant " than humps at least 10%, but the potentially toxic unburnt hydrocarbon pollutants linked to lung disease problem remains. When I was waiting at a local village I observed cars coming up the steep hill and going around the corner. Many ( including petrol cars ) emitted black smoke due to being in too high a gear as taught by useless driving instructors to pass the quasi-religious driving test. It could be said that traffic calming is a greater risk to public health than latent asbestos or passive smoking ?

    It would appear that traffic calming has become a TB infested sacred cow for the eco-fascist leaning groups who were originally and still campaign for its introduction. It would appear that the eco-fascists cling to traffic calming in the belief that divers will be " irritated " out of their cars and use the train, at least a few anyway. If anyone had deliberately set out to design death traps for cyclists its doubtful whether they could have made a better job of it than traffic calming. I believe the Green Party have now opted for the " less pregnant " option of 20 Mph speed limits but still fail to admit their original mistake.

    FoE have known about this since I wrote to them in the mid 1990s, I never received a reply so rang them at head office only to be given loads of abuse by one of their then senior members.

    Take the greens position on reducing speed limits, a recent government study found that by taking measures to ensure everyone stuck to the current speed limits would increase CO2 emissions by 3%. The 40 Mph National Speed Limit the greens were pushing would not only lead to extra pollution but cripple the rural economy by putting transport back into the 1930s. Since the 1930s and up to 1974 local councils wisely spent a fortune bringing many stretches of rural roads up to a standard where they were safe to travel at up to the then limit of 70. Fair enough you could theoretically save fuel enforcing the motorway speed limit, but cutting the rural speed limit will give the Corporate Nazi's running the Post Office the excuse they need for more rural post office closures. Of course any green party supporters will claim unintended consequences when their whole outlook is based on flawed science and quasi-religion.

    It doesn't end there, the current prospect of the lights going out due to power cuts is due to alleged environmentalists preventing private companies from investing in any new coal or nuclear power stations over the last 20 years. Even to think about it would have hit power companies with massive legal bills from parasitic lawyers keen to jump on any bandwagon for a false profit.

    The result has been loads of new gas fired power stations which have wasted our once ample north sea gas reserves when the gas would have been far more useful for direct more efficient domestic use. Again, the eco-fascists organized local campaigns against underground gas storage projects, so they never got built yet the lawyers made a fortune and how much has the taxpayer forked out on public enquires due to the eco-fascists. Household gas prices must be far higher than they would have been if ample storage capacity existed.

    No chance of getting energy from waste off the ground, Severn Barrage etc, both of which could have reduced energy prices in the UK. The result of 20 years of the government appeasing the eco-fascists is that everything costs far more than it needed to have done. The eco-fascists stock market parasite private individual funders are laughing all the way to collecting their next fat false economic growth bonus. Everyone is forced to emit more carbon just to maintain their existing standard of living.

    If the eco-fascists grew up and actually took notice of the evidence they could cut road transport emissions by up to 10% and actually make road transport cheaper. Perhaps its ironic that high road fuel taxes actually diminish the scope for economically viable recycling, take this pre oil crisis example. It won't cost a fortune to remove all the idiotic safety inspired small diameter roundabouts which have littered our trunk roads over the past 20 years and replace them with " smart " part time traffic lights. I don't know just how much carbon it equates to off the top of my head, but a HGV traversing one of said roundabouts will consume up to a litre of extra fuel.

    Its not really new to be environmentally friendly by conserving resources but back in the 1920s the Southern Railway were recycling the oil from engine cleaning cloths for use in wagon axleboxes. The key to environmental efficiency is cheap transport, which really ended in the 70's. Back in the 1970s the company I worked for did all the main transport for Serfco at Darwen. Their main job was recycling cast iron borings from the heavy engineering industry, customers included British Leyland Coventry engine plant, Vickers at Barrow and a couple of places up in central Scotland. They regularly supplied products to locations as far apart as Larbert and Dover, with Mexborough in South Yorkshire and Kilmarnock. That's how I got right into the heart of Ravenscraig steel works, the cast iron borings were heated and pressed into " piglets " about the size of an egg. You can't put cast iron borings straight into a furnace, they wont melt and just float on the top, piglets solved that problem. They also supplied Manganese and Silicon in brick form, likewise Fleish blocks, cast iron borings glued together with various elements.

    Even before the ultimate demise of the foundry industry Serfco went bust due to a ship containing an export order to Turkey being held up outside port for months due to paperwork. The site at Darwen closed and they set up again on a smaller scale somewhere near Birmingham. I suspect that they are no longer trading. Since the introduction of the Road Fuel Tax Escalator, once environmentally friendly industry like the paper recycling mill at Settle have all gone by the wayside. Perhaps if Hitler had sent " fifth columnists " to sabotage the UK manufacturing economy he could not have done better than alleged environmental groups.

  • Comment number 2.

  • Comment number 3.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 4.

    from the previous article, a Question;

    Once inside the organisations, they could gradually work their way up because they were prepared to do the boring jobs. They rose to become membership secretaries, treasurers and trusted comrades with access to the vital records that MI5 was interested in. Some admit they could have been almost running the organisation,

    ................but that was strictly taboo.

    "As a rule of thumb, you could allow yourself to run with the organisation," says Richard,

    ..............."but you had to stop short of organising or directing it."

    Q- Perhaps you could ask those in power if this particular rule is still in force or is it relaxed sometimes?

    best wishes

  • Comment number 5.


    sorry about 3, will check the email you send ,but not sure why it broke the rules?

    best wishes

  • Comment number 6.

    BGT #4

    I'm afraid that it doesn't work like you suggest, I was once good friends with an active member of Greenpeace who had been tipped for the top job. He had been an active member for years, worked as a ship's engineer on Rainbow Warrior and got arrested for blocking the outflow pipe at Sellafield. They just passed him over and put some corporate puppet with no particular active history in control. It was alleged that they had to overlook him due to his criminal record for blocking the outflow pipe. I suspect that the truth was that he would not have taken the organization in the desired direction, he was willing to comprehend the true eco arguments and modify his position accordingly. He was a big help getting the latest flue gas scrubber fitted on our local cement works saving hundreds of jobs in the long term. All the eco-fascist do is destroy jobs whatever the environmental argument.

  • Comment number 7.

    Q. What-if carbon emissions are not the main player in the tendency to warmth as the IPCC has assumed? [It doesn't take one to be a deeply rigorous scientist to wonder out loud when upper ocean warming is going to get going again, after all.]

    A. Then we'd be wasting billions of pounds if we persist with uber-fast reductions of CO2[, before (i) we are really ready to roll out such game-changing technology efficiently, and (ii) are not really sure that we'll get a decent bang for our bucks!]

    Fact: Given that the truth is climate is order upon order of magnitudes of greater complexity than anything that CO2 might do (even interacting with water vapour etc), implies that we *will* be wasting billions somewhere along the line in the rush towards the low carbon economy "dogma" [, if only because there might be some more important combination of factors that we could be redirecting our resources towards which would increase our environmental resilience in a measurable way, nevermind how importantly CO2 will be regarded down the line].

    Political argument: Given that all political parties are committed to reducing waste in government, ought not *some* thought be given to alternatives to the IPCC-line, which has been shown to be overestimating Man's (in its terms =CO2's) impact. [It downplays other anthropogenic impacts, to its discredit, but there you go...what do you expect from an agenda-driven outfit? Obama wasn't the first recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize well before his time (by way of the leftish Norwegian govermental committe responsible, not the Swedish academy as people often assume)...and who knows *possibly* in complete contradistinction to actual events...]

    Possible conclusion: one idea might be to slow down the rush; take soundings as to what might be achieved at reasonable cost. [Ooooh but what would that do for scariness-which-the-eco-fraternity-have-become-so-reliant-on, the green movement, government tax coffers and generally fluffy-wuffy politicians' manifestos: heaven forefend!]

    Implication1: we need to take IPCC scariness out of this debate - temperatures are still lower by some margin that at other points in history and CO2's impact is logarithmic, i.e. a decreasingly important effect per additional unit volume.

    Implication2: we need to become more circumspect.

    Implication3: in short, we need a more grown-up debate.

    Afterthought: By the same token, there is no harm in weaning ourselves off say oil and gas in medium to long term as energy sources. We do need more R&D into long-term energy sources. Reliable renewables such as wave and tidal power have much to offer (not least because they don't require traditional backup), but must be introduced with sensitivity to environmental impacts. If battery/other storage technology advanced significantly that might hold out hope for solar and wind actually being efficient. Nuclear power can make a contribution that should not be belittled.

  • Comment number 8.

    In Ireland the Green Party are minority partners in a coalition Government.

    Absolutely everything and the only thing the Green Party in Ireland has ever done while in Government is to suggest an increase in taxes.

  • Comment number 9.

    Some of the green debate just misses a few of the simple but big questions, not quite like what is the meaning of life or why am I here, but what percentage of a barrel of oil cannot be used for anything else except making the very plastic bags that are causing so much pollution and hot air debate in equal measure, and the other end of the scale, are there any plants or animals that have learnt to evolve and thrive in a post-nuclear disaster environment? Is there something we can look forward to when all of France's 66 nuclear power stations discharge their radioactive effluent into the Pas de Calais? Since I've lived in London I have grown a birch tree of immense beauty for about 30 years, cut it down, made a very tactile bench and stool, put logs in all the fireplaces and captured all that carbon of 25 years and ended up with an aesthetically better end product. Of course I have planted even more trees.
    I went to an evening lecture at UCL and heard all the scientific self-satisfaction about the fluorescent yellow undulations of Essex rapeseed fields along with vast acreages of maize and other cereals that could be magically turned into fuels to replace fossil fuels burnt out of the North Sea these last forty years, yet the next week we were confronted by global staple food price rises causing riots in the undeveloped and developing world. Was it Einstein pleaded with the President of the United States not to go ahead with developing nuclear weapons which ended up on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? It doesn't take a genius to know that you can burn yourself on the tiniest flame of a candle, now North Korea doesn't seem to have rice or candles enough but has nuclear weaponry to threaten Japan and the USA. Oh yes, now so few people smoke, why is it that there is ever more filter tip litter in the pavements, clearly when man lands on the Moon again to colonize it, the huge craters will soon fill up with fag ends. Why do we want to go to the Moon, oh, to get a glass of water contaminated by crashing dead scientists ashes and many satellites into the surface polluting any groundwater. The programme tonight was very interesting.

  • Comment number 10.

    So much for Ethical man , already flown abroad twice for holidays . Indeed that seems to be the nub of the problem/argument. If so called "Ethical man" cant do without flying , why the hell do the Greens think the rest of us will? Tonights "debate" was merely another free ride for Greenies. They needed to be asked difficult questions , and not let off the hook until they had answered them . Some of their more outrageous lies needed to be dealt with on the spot , but Emily Maitliss wasnt up to the job it appears . Is it too much to ask as a licence fee payer that there is some kind of balance with regard to the whole climate change scam? Lets have Bjorn Lomborg , Richard Lindzen , John Christy etc putting the alternative viewpoint for a change. The BBC should remember , its job is to be impartial - on this issue , for the moment at least , it is far removed from that ideal.

  • Comment number 11.

    The Greens. Those people who, like religious fundamentalists, insist that they are RIGHT, and you are wrong if you deign to disagree with them.
    Someone mentioned 20mph speed limits and road humps.
    Almost 30 years ago the RRL (Road Research Laboratory), published research that showed that if HGVs were speed limited in towns, this would result in more 1st and 2nd gear work, and much more diesel particulates are emmitted. This seems to have been ignored. Childhood asthma...surprise up.
    Now we see road humps, designed to slow HGVs even slower!!
    Every manufacture designs their vehicles with an optimum MPG economy speed in mind. How to REDUCE C02?? Find your vehicles "optimum speed" for fuel conservation, and keep to it. Unfortunately, in towns we can no longer do this because of rigid appliance of the aforementioned speed bumps and 20mph speed limits!!!
    The Green movement, from watching Newsnight are a bunch of left wing so called intellectuals who can`t see the wood for the trees!
    Britain needs, in order to survive in the 21st Century, a booming capitalism, making MONEY!!! Making new products. More engineering to make OUR OWN nuclear power plants. (Approx. 23 to 30 would help the country become independent to a great degree of oil and gas supplies we have no control over.
    If we also encouraged solar power, providing panels on ALL public buildings, the savings would be enormous.
    As for restricting flights abroad, well, the recession seems to be doing that, but why should we be told how to live our lives by people who do not know how to effectively live their own??
    Since 1900, Britain has changed dramatically, and is not recognisable as the same country. Thanks to progress, science and new technology!
    In the same space of time looking forward, technology will also change the world so much that we cannot even dream of the changes that will occur. So, let the greens carry on their campaign as they like. I watched Johnathan Porrit on Question Time, and he stated that anyone not believing the "green message"...and agreeing with his point of view, were to quote him exactly "All liars". How democratic of him to dimiss well over 50% of the population. His statement gave me the chills, and as a result, I now completely ignore their message as unbelievable.
    The world will change. It will, thanks to future technologies, leave behind the greens and their fanaticism, and in 80 yrs or so, our descendants will look back, (possibly from a Moonbase), and reflect upon the incredible steps that they will have taken to ensure a stabilised and fuel efficient world, with transport and technology we cannot dream of.
    So, please Newsnight. let some scientists who actually ARE experts onto your programme, for the mad ideas of carbon capture and windmills may be attractive to extremists and politicians, but the vast majority of people just want to be left alone. Politics has made a mess of Britain since 1997!!
    Just let people get on with their lives and make up their own minds, we do not need extremists attempting to control the country. We have had enough of that from New Labour thank you very much!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    I don't think green opposition to carbon capture and storage, nuclear or the other technologies mentioned is as clear cut as the blog and tonight's programme makes out. Greenpeace's former leader, Stephen Tindale, was once strongly against nuclear but now says we should build more - alongside major investment in renewables and energy efficiency - and he's far from the only one to change his mind.

    Even Greenpeace's climate manifesto, launched by the people on the roof of the Houses of Parliament, calls for a near zero carbon emissions power sector by 2030. Why say "near zero carbon emissions" instead of "renewables"? The only other things that could be used alongside renewables are carbon capture and storage and nuclear.

    Perhaps it is too much to expect Green group leaders to officially declare they are now pro-nuclear or pro-CCS, but maybe for many of their members climate change is a much bigger issue and they are keeping their options open.

  • Comment number 13.

    Create sustainable communities with local jobs,local green industries,local farms and local energy systems[Wind Generators,Solar Panels,[Food Digesters which after creating energy would give waste for compost for the farms] and Geo Pumps.Benefits walking or cycling or short public transport journeys,Fresh food short distance,Power transmission short distance more efficiency all equaling to a low carbon emission and a culture that could be set up simply with a sensible determination and consideration for the future of our planets health and a saviour for all life

  • Comment number 14.

    I really think that newsnight went out of their way to present the greens as a political joke; there is no need to show the images of nudists parading around this is not the activity of the majority of the environmental parties and it seemed to me to be fairly bizarre that this was seen as essential by the BBC.
    Much of the style of the pre-interview 'preamble' coverage was reminiscent of that of the EDL earlier this week and I believe that this is an unfair reflection of the greens. The nude sequence was clearly a sensationalist attempt to engage an audience who I think would generally be insulted at the idea that they needed to have genitals thrust into their face to make them continue to watch.
    How perculiar.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    @Matt Jones

    "I really think that newsnight went out of their way to present the greens as a political joke;"

    Neither Newsnight or anyone else needs to go out their way to do that.

    Last night's programme was extremely revealing in that we have a taste of what a miserable hair-shirt existence the Greens would be quite happy to inflict on the rest of us in the unlikely (thankfully) prospect that they were ever voted into power.

    For example, the opposition to GM technology has more do with protecting the interests of wealthy land-owners (Prince Charles, the Soil Association) rather than the actual merits of the technology itself - indeed no one seems to be aware that seedless grapes along with all the other fruit we buy is the result of selective breeding or genetic tinkering (EG Apples grown "naturally" are crab apples and not suitable for eating). For further information on this then read Dick Taverne's March of Unreason.

    If the Greens were serious about reducing Carbon Emmissions then they would have dropped their opposition to Nuclear Power a very long time ago and, indeed, famous Greens like George Monbiot have finally done exactly that. He put aside his politically motivated ideology to finally see the light on this piece of Real Politik but it was still far too little, far too late and many Greens still remain in the dogmatic dark ages.

    Finally, any discussion or debate about reducing consumption is an entirely academic exercise and ultimately futile unless the number of consumers there are on the planet is also apart of that discussion. Everything always goes back to the fundamental problem of population and unless this is properly discussed and debated then there really is no need for anyone anywhere to pay the slightest bit of attention to calls for them to reduce their Carbon Footprint.

    I, for one, will carrying on consuming in defiance of the Greens safe in the knowledge that I will long dead when nature finally deals with the problem of too many human beings on the planet.

  • Comment number 17.

    The BBC can't deny they have a biased 'Green Agenda'. Yesterday there was an interesting piece on the website entitled: 'Whatever happened to Global warming?' suggesting that the planet has, in fact, been cooling since 1998. Yes, it was published, but it was WAY down the running order, whereas today's piece: 'Arctic Ice to disappear' is in the top three headline pieces. Now, as an ordinary punter, I have no idea whether the quality of the research is inherently better in today's piece over yesterday's, but it seems a bit strange that the BBC editors have decided that one is more important - and therefore presumably more credible than the other. Why not give equal weight to both pieces? Why not?

  • Comment number 18.

    I'm not sure the people at the top of any organisation really speak for those within, or supporting it. Climbing skills and good sense/listening appear mutually exclusive.

    Speaking as a Greenpeace supporter and attempting to reduce my carbon footprint etc etc, my objection to 'future tech.' is not it's use, but how and by who. If it isn't an 'ownable asset', it doesn't appear on balance sheets. Real costs to us all are overlooked in the pursuit of profit, and risk analysis performed by biased companies with an inherent conflict of interest. It isn't the tools that are the problem.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm a 'green' - as in I'm actively trying to do my bit to avert the catastrophe of climate change. I'm doing this because I'm risk averse - averse to the risk of snuffing out millions of people in the coming decades. The flip side of that risk aversion is to embrace any possible solution that might prevent this - all options have to be explored as the situation is so serious - even ones that carry some risk.

    Whilst I thought that the 'green' speakers at the end of the feature more than coped with Emily's somewhat staged attacks, the preceding feature was hardly deep analysis. The most serious failing of environmentalists in my opinion was that alluded to by Solitaire - that we've failed to get the message embraced by people who dont already sympathise. There are overwhelming, utilitarian reasons to adopt many 'green' proposals but we greens have failed to successfully link those to what most people see as their priority interests - financial security, comfort and happiness. It's not easy but we've a real talent for self marginalisation that has hindered our effectiveness for decades. If we dont break out of the 'Smugosphere' we fail, and that is our biggest challenge.

  • Comment number 20.

    I agree with rachelmahoney. I noticed the same thing. I can't help feeling suspicious of a sort of climate fundamentalism when news editors seem to be afraid to present opposing views in a balanced way. Justin is right, the Green movement need to show that they understand something about people and the realities of life. The other day I was at a farmers market and an earnest young member of GreenPeace approached me asking me where I shopped. Tesco, I said. She almost got angry with me. Had I thought about using my local shops??? Hmm, I said, Tesco IS my local shop. The same goes for mad council recycling. We now have three recycling bins in our area. They're enormous things and my 82 year old next door neighbour was practically in tears as it's physically impossible for her to a) sort her rubbish and b) get to, or move the bins. I do try to help when I can, but there seems scant regard for the realities of everyday life in some green policy making. If the green lobby don't start to address this they will alienate millions of people, and that's the opposite of what is required to protect our precious environment.

  • Comment number 21.

    You aren't clear on the reasons why greens are against nuclear power and genetic engineering - there are very good scientific based reasons why either of those issues would have potentially serious negative effects on the environment. With GM crops, the effects could be a catastrophic loss of biodiversity with releases of engineered genomes into the biosphere. With nuclear power, the Greens are normally opposed as there is deadly radioactive waste produced from reactors, for which the only solution is deep geological disposal. Plus, investment in nuclear power means less Government investment in renewables (in the case of the UK at least).The precautionary principle is not some anti-science stand, it usually relates to man-made greenhouse gas emissions and a policy of reducing emissions under a precautionary measure that if predictions are correct, there could be irreversible damage to the climate system.

  • Comment number 22.


    "I'm doing this because I'm risk averse - averse to the risk of snuffing out millions of people in the coming decades."

    Certainly a noble ambition but an utterly futile one as there really isn't anything that is going to stop this happening anyway.

    There's just far too many people on the planet and the cruel indifference of "mother" nature has its own way of correcting this - mostly in the way described by Thomas Malthus when population exceeds food supply (the decades of famine in the 3rd world is merely proof that Malthus was right all along).

    However, the upcoming wars over what remains of the Earth's resources will make the Oil wars we have seen look like "It's A Knockout" compared to the wars we'll see over water. Failure to prevent the ever increasing birth rate will see even more consumption, more pollution and further degradation of the environment and I can't see anything being done about this in the next 6 years.

    It reminds of some that Nietzsche wrote in Beyond Good and Evil about the then Greens, the Stoics:

    "You want to live according to nature...Think of a being such as nature is, prodigal beyond measure, indifferent beyond measure, without aims or intentions, without mercy or could you live according to such indifference? And even if your imperative "live according to nature" meant at bottom "live according to life" - how could you NOT do that?"

    "If we dont break out of the 'Smugosphere' we fail, and that is our biggest challenge."

    Fat chance if last night's newsnight is anything to go by.

    What we have is very smug, self-appointed elitists from the "concerned" classes (AKA the middle-classes) lecturing us lowly underclasses about how wrong it is to buy things; that we "shouldn't want" to have possessions like houses or cars or PCs or DVD players; that the State should criminalise people who do consume and that Capitalism can simply be wished away even if it is an inevitable consequence of human beings trading with one another.

    Let them continue to preach to the choir whilst the rest of us get on with the business of ignoring them.

  • Comment number 23.


    “You aren't clear on the reasons why greens are against nuclear power and genetic engineering –“

    To be fair, the Greens aren’t clear why they oppose Nuclear Power (ask George Monbiot) or Genetic Engineering (you’re comment reveals the mistake of assuming that all Genetic Engineering must be bad).

    “there are very good scientific based reasons why either of those issues would have potentially serious negative effects on the environment.”

    I can understand with Nuclear Power due to radioactive waste but what Scientific evidence can you actually cite in regards to GM crops especially in regards to those GM crops that have existed for many years and we already buy such as all fruit (certainly any bought at any supermarket) including seedless grapes.

    “With GM crops, the effects could be a catastrophic loss of biodiversity with releases of engineered genomes into the biosphere.”

    It could but all research conducted so far shows that it doesn’t and the scientific consensus on this is as equally clear and overwhelming on this as it is on the reality of climate change occurring – or do you just disagree with scientists when it supports your narrow ideological agenda to do so?

    “With nuclear power, the Greens are normally opposed as there is deadly radioactive waste produced from reactors, for which the only solution is deep geological disposal.”

    It is also very expensive but it is Carbon Free and, unlike the alternatives, really does provide the energy we need.

    “Plus, investment in nuclear power means less Government investment in renewables (in the case of the UK at least).”

    Renewables simply do not provide enough juice – you could cover the entire British Isles with Windmills and it still wouldn’t be able to enough to produce the tiniest fraction of what is needed.

    “The precautionary principle is not some anti-science stand,”

    I’m afraid that it is.

    If any scientist abided by the so-called precautionary principle then there wouldn’t be any science or any risk taking endeavors. EG, We wouldn’t have any high speed trains because the precautionary principle would state that people wouldn’t be able to breathe at those speeds so don’t do it, the lab at CERN would have to be closed down due to the risk of Black Holes, etc.

    The precautionary principle is merely the stupid sloganeering of the neo-luddites who are firmly anti-science and think that they can somehow freeze-frame progress.

    “it usually relates to man-made greenhouse gas emissions and a policy of reducing emissions under a precautionary measure that if predictions are correct, there could be irreversible damage to the climate system.”

    Shows what you know about the Precautionary Principle - try reading Dick Taverne's March of Unreason: Science, Democracy and the New Fundamentalism. It looks at the real evidence for and against such unpopular notions as GM crops and time and time again shows how our fears are a victory of media-manipulated sentiment over reality and reason.

  • Comment number 24.

    re, er, ChaosMagic

    what you say about preaching to the choir [and your somewhat gleefully doom-laden assertions] is all the motivation any 'green' needs to stop preaching to the choir. Thank you for the support.

  • Comment number 25.

    This is all really depressing. I am Green and proud of it.
    Isn't it just too easy to bash the Greens instead of facing up to reality? I'm sorry, I don't buy this at all.

    Far from being 'profoundly risk averse when it comes to technology', Greens are now the real radicals and drivers of change. It is the anti-Greens who are seemingly afraid of this. Greens have vision and are great promoters of technological solutions to problems. The anti-Green doesn't believe renewables and energy conservation can save us. The Green believes they can - and we could not only survive, but thrive. The only problem is that this positive message seldom gets across.

    There is in any case a difference between being risk averse and completely reckless. The precautionary principle is sensible. It doesn't say no to change, it just says, 'look before you leap'.

    Conservation of nature is sensible since we are all - like it or not - part of 'nature'. We cannot exist without nature and nature includes us. The whole point about ecology is that all living beings are inter-dependent. This is something that anti-Greens ignore at their peril.

    So what about some of the things the so-called 'ethical man' seems to advocate?

    Nuclear Power: I certainly don't want it, or the terrible security, waste, health etc issues that go with it. That's not 'risk-averse', it's just common sense. We simply don't need that sort of future. And it isn't carbon neutral either. How much CO2 is generated just building a nuclear power station? I don't want a world where our energy sources have to be protected by unanswerable armed police day and night and the waste remains hazardous for tens of thousands of years. Please let's not go back there.

    Nano technology is a completely new field. It would be completely reckless to rush into this before we see what the consequences are. We have seen the results of over-enthusiasm for new technologies before. Remember thalidomide? At least we don't unleash new drugs on the market these days without extensive testing. That is the precautionary principle in action and a good thing too.

    Carbon capture and storage is - at present at least - simply pie in the sky. No-one has succeeded in doing it and if they do the costs are likely to be enormous.

    GM: This is a technology based on a view of the planet and its ecosystems that many of us just don't share. It has been developed by a small number of large corporations to enable increased use of pesticides and increase their profits. It will never feed the world. It is seriously untested and is already presenting major problems in areas where it has been adopted through cross-contamination, destruction of biodiversity and so on. We should not be forced to accept this technology simply because Monsanto and their friends demand that we do.

    The truth is that we do not need any of these things to survive. I could start listing a host of positive suggestions but who wants to hear them? The anti-Green is the real conservative who simply wants an excuse to go on as at present.

    So in answer to the question, 'if time is so short surely we are going to have to take a few risks?' I answer - yes, certainly we need to take some risks, but not the risks you favour. Let's take a few risks with a new type of economy that favours working with 'nature' rather than smashing it up. That values empowerment, community, reduced consumption and waste, happiness over wealth, - all very scary ideas to the anti-Green lobby!

    We need to consume less and enjoy our lives more. That doesn't mean hardship or misery. But it's a radical, risky idea.

  • Comment number 26.

    I guess I'm a self-professed "greenie". My views on those mainstream promoted energy solutions mentioned in the above blog post are as follows:

    Nuclear: If we're talking in half-lives of thousands of years, and stuff too toxic to be handled, I don't think that's an ethical or realistic solution. We don't know how the political world will shape itself 50 years from now, let alone ten thousand years from now. We simply have no right to pollute the planet for that long.

    This is not the behaviour of responsible stewards of the earth, caring for the earth for our children, grandchildren, and all people and species to come, for millions of years into the future. Yes, I'm mixing ethics and science, but somebody has to, for goodness' sake.

    If things are so dire that we need to consider mass building of reactors, maybe we need to consider mass building of decent public transport, decent bikeways, decent footpaths, and decent insulation of housing for all people first.

    On a technical note, the lead time on building a reactor is 10 - 15 years, start to finish. That's to build the thing, train your staff, deal with security issues, and get it up and running. And the security issues (and geological issues) make them unsuitable for many countries and areas.

    In short, nuclear is not a short term fix. It's part of a long-term plan, if anything - and a bad one at that.

    Also, nuclear development has, to date, *always* been associated with the development of nuclear weapons. There is no country on earth with nuclear generators that did not develop a nuclear arsenal as part of its program. And evidence suggests that often the desire to develop weapons systems is the true impetus behind the push for nuclear. The last thing we need on an earth with dwindling natural resources is more nukes.

    Genetic engineering: The power behind this research is money-directed, not benefit-to-humanity-directed. We simply have a case of "the arrogants" in this issue, in my opinion.

    We think we know everything, and only later realise what mistakes we've made.

    Look at the so-called "green revolution" in agriculture after WW2, which transformed the technology used in chemical warfare into pesticides and fertilizers.

    With that technology we've basically turned millions of hectares of prime agricultural land into little more than a toxic sponge, on which we dump more chemicals in order for it to yield anything at all. Topsoil loss is a critical issue in areas with the highest pesticide use - many of the same areas where the green revolution was first introduced. And can anyone remember DDT?

    Sure genetic engineering is a different field of science, but what I'm pointing out is that we know a whole lot less about long term effects, and interweaving effects than we think we do. Science by its nature is based on expertise in specifics rather than wholistics, and therein lies the problem.

    As for patenting foods, don't get me started!

    Carbon capture and storage: Has to be the biggest red herring to date. For example, the Australian Coal Assn. (Australia is the single largest exporter of coal in the world) spends more on *advertising* the fact it is researching CCS each year than on CCS research itself.

    Technically, of course, sequestration is *resequestration* because the carbon was already sequestered neatly in the ground, as coal.

    Even if we succeeded in *resequestering* the carbon, leakage would be an issue, as even fairly minor leaks of carbon can be lethal. CCS assumes that the world is unchanging, fixed - a neat little mechanical box - something which is simply false.

    CCS strikes me as one of those "it will save us" technologies that will be around - in ten years time.

    And in ten years time, the coal companies will assure us again - it will be around in ten years time.

    In the meanwhile, the coal companies keep on making mega-profits roasting the planet.

    It seems a bit dim to me to trust our whole planet's safe existence to a technology we're being sold that isn't proven by someone who is proven to make profits on it being ready "in ten years time". Especially when we have quality renewables available now.

  • Comment number 27.

    I think the solutions to climate change are out there. We have all heard enough about the effects but not about what we are doing to prevent it. I get the feeling the government has been waiting for better options to come along before implementing the changes we need to stop climate change. As for the voice of the green community, I don't think they are being heard properly. I read the news all the time and whenever any environmental protest is covered, I can't say that I had their message conveyed to me at all. Only that they protested something that wasn't environmentally friendly. If they have real alternatives and solutions to suggest to fix the problems, I don't think the public or maybe even the politicians for that matter are hearing about them.

  • Comment number 28.

    I think some of the period building materials will return, lime mortar, Cast Iron Soil Pipe & natural insulation.


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