Monbiot on Green movement and nuclear power

George Monbiot is an internationally known environmentalist. He is a hard left activist ontopics from climate change to the Iraq War. So it is in that context you should read what he has just blogged:

Over the past 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. …

But it gets worse; much worse. For the past 25 years, anti-nuclear campaigners have been racking up the figures for deaths and diseases caused by the Chernobyl disaster, and parading deformed babies like a mediaevel circus. They now claim that 985,000 people have been killed by Chernobyl, and that it will continue to slaughter people for generations to come. These claims are false.

The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (Unscear) is the equivalent of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Like the IPCC, it calls on the world’s leading scientists to assess thousands of papers and produce an overview. Here is what it says about the impacts of Chernobyl.

Of the workers who tried to contain the emergency at Chernobyl, 134 suffered acute radiation syndrome; 28 died soon afterwards. Nineteen others died later, but generally not from diseases associated with radiation(6). The remaining 87 have suffered other complications, included four cases of solid cancer and two of leukaemia. In the rest of the population, there have been 6,848 cases of thyroid cancer among young children, arising “almost entirely” from the Soviet Union’s failure to prevent people from drinking milk contaminated with iodine 131(7). Otherwise, “there has been no persuasive evidence of any other health effect in the general population that can be attributed to radiation exposure.”(8) People living in the countries affected today “need not live in fear of serious health consequences from the Chernobyl accident.”(9) …

Failing to provide sources, refuting data with anecdote, cherry-picking studies, scorning the scientific consensus, invoking a cover-up to explain it: all this is horribly familiar. These are the habits of climate change deniers, against which the green movement has struggled valiantly, calling science to its aid. It is distressing to discover that when the facts don’t suit them, members of this movement resort to the follies they have denounced.

We have a duty to base our judgements on the best available information. This is not just because we owe it to other people to represent the issues fairly, but also because we owe it to ourselves not to squander our lives on fairytales. A great wrong has been done by this movement. We must put it right.

It will be interesting to see the response to Monbiot’s column. And it should be recalled when we debate (which has near zero greenhouse gas emissions) use in the future.

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