Like many, I have spent far too much time patiently (most of the time) demolishing the zombie arguments of climate change denialists – using evidence to put cherry-picked ‘sceptic’ claims into context. Then, a couple of years ago I read The God Species by Mark Lynas which challenged the green movement to apply the same trust in scientific evidence that we take in climate science to contentious issues such as nuclear energy and GM. It was one of those reads that rocks you back on your heels – and I swore I would attempt to be as objective as I could in all environmental issues.
It was this maxim which gets me in trouble over fracking. I’m not a cheerleader for fracking, but my gut instinct against it is tempered by the review of its implications by the The Royal Society and The Royal Academy of Engineering which concluded the technology is safe as long as it is done properly. Without some pretty robust arguments you can’t use the Royal Society as a bulwark against climate change scepticism but ignore it when it tells you something you don’t want to hear.
That doesn’t mean that science doesn’t make mistakes, but to move forward to sustainability at pace, we’ve got to work on the basis of our best current understanding, tempered by the precautionary principle. Yes, some people in the US claim that fracking makes them ill, and we must investigate such claims, but others have claimed wind turbines make them ill and the green movement didn’t give that too much thought (rightly, it turned out, but for the wrong reasons).
We’ve got to be rational about sustainability – a little more head, a little less heart.