With each passing day, I gain a greater measure of respect for the hard headed rationality with which George Monbiot approaches controversial topics. He was a long time opponent of the use of nuclear energy, but began a personal journey of discovery several years ago as a result of his search for real solutions to the problems caused by fossil fuel consumption.
It seems that the more he looks, the more clearly he realizes that the widely publicized and retold horror stories about nuclear energy pushed by the antinuclear movement are in direct opposition to the evidence, science and reason by which he guides his decision making.
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.
About a week ago, debated Helen Caldicott on Democracy Now. During that debate, Dr. Caldicott was insistent, rude and frequently guilty of talk show-style interruptions. She claimed that the work of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) was part of a massive nuclear industry led cover-up regarding the actual effects of the Chernobyl accident. Then claimed that the accident actually resulted in 2 million deaths which in itself is more than double the number produced by her single, widely discredited source.
Caldicott’s claims shook Monbiot and encouraged him to dig deeper. He wrote about that investigation in a blog titled Evidence Meltdown that is a must read for anyone who is interested in good journalism governed by reason. Here is a quote from his concluding paragraphs:
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.