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Environmental groups should admit mistakes

By Max Rheese - posted Monday, 8 November 2010

While we should all be pleased these campaigners have finally accepted the evidence of the benefits of global nuclear power generation over the last five decades, it has only come to pass because of the untenable position they had manoeuvred themselves into by vilifying coal and gas without any other practical available source of base-load power, other than nuclear.

There are multiple ironies in this turn of events for the Australian Environment Foundation, which has campaigned consistently for an informed debate on whether Australia should or should not consider adopting nuclear energy.

At AEF’s first conference in Brisbane in 2006, physicist Dr Tom Quirk presented a solid case for at least considering the benefits of nuclear energy. At the second AEF conference in Melbourne in 2007, Dr Ziggy Switkowski of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation gave a compelling presentation based on science and evidence for the adoption of nuclear energy.


The contribution to the debate in the public domain from the gaggle of Australian environment groups opposed to uranium mining and nuclear energy is based on fear and ideological opposition. An intellectually bereft contribution to public policy formulation.

Not only are we now witnessing such luminaries as Patrick Moore lamenting their ill-founded opposition to at least considering nuclear energy, we watch on as many environment groups squirm uncomfortably in the knowledge they have helped to drive discussion on global warming and the burning of fossil fuels to the point that clean, green nuclear power use is seen as the best form of base-load power generation available in many parts of the world.

Last week I was challenged during a Sydney radio interview for not being a "true environmentalist" because, amongst other things, AEF supported a debate on nuclear energy and the adoption of GM technology. At the same time, on the other side of the world, long time environmental campaigners were aligning themselves with a similar view to mine based on empirical evidence.

If adopting an ideological position that has no basis in fact means you are a true environmentalist, but you can change your mind decades later after your campaigning "has done harm and you regret it", then AEF members will forgo the title to hold to the values of science and evidence that produce good environmental outcomes.

As in much of the debate on environmental matters it is not the consensus view, or the populist narrative based on emotion and "feel good" options that matter, but what the outcomes will be, based on science and evidence.

Much of the environmental campaigning in Australia is a facile, distortion of reality directed at well meaning, but ill informed members of the public who succumb to well funded, slick media and internet campaigns, aided by mainstream media who are too lazy to ask pertinent questions and accept the unsubstantiated statements of environment groups as gospel.


To avoid a continuum of the last two decades of mainly ideological campaigning, as opposed to the real environmental gains made in the preceding two decades by the environment movement, it is incumbent on all of us to hold the environment movement and the self serving politicians that listen to them to account.

Of all issues to date, nowhere is it more important to hold those "true environmentalists" who make exaggerated, unsubstantiated claims to account, than in the debacle that passes for debate on global warming and the egregious plan to impose a tax on the natural trace element carbon dioxide to "stop" global warming.

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About the Author

Max Rheese is the Executive Director of the Australian Environment Foundation.

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All articles by Max Rheese

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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