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Environmental activists risk efforts to tackle climate change

22 August 2008

Andrew Furlong, Director of Policy at the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) has criticised some environmental campaigners, suggesting they are guilty of presenting inaccurate and misleading information to both the media and public: “It’s much easier for an army of flag waving activists to get media coverage than it is for the reasoned engineer or scientist.”

Environmental activists risk efforts to tackle climate change
Environmental activists risk efforts to tackle climate change

“But do green activists always use these opportunities to offer a balanced and thoughtful account of the situation? I have my doubts,” said Furlong.

The comments come as hundreds of protestors head to Kingsnorth in Kent to campaign against the proposed construction of a new coal-fired power station.

The protest – organised by the ClimateCamp – is, according to Furlong, a perfect example of the challenge that confronts the science and engineering communities: “ClimateCamp seeks to reduce the debate to, ‘renewables clean and good versus coal dirty and bad’ if only life were that simple?”

“If we’re going to keep the lights on in the UK, we’re going to need renewables and fossil fuels and nuclear power and plenty more besides,” said Furlong.

The Institution of Chemical Engineers has already backed proposals for the new Kingsnorth power station, on condition that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology is implemented at the earliest possible date.

“We’re locked into using fossil fuels for some time to come - a premise that is accepted by world leaders at the G8, but ignored by the protestors. The priority now should be to begin work on the new power plant and implementing large-scale CCS technology to stop CO2 release into the atmosphere but the protestors insist on more debate and delay.

“ClimateCamp has described CCS as ‘science fiction’, but it’s already happening in China, North Africa, Canada and Norway on a large-scale with other trial projects taking place all over the world – millions of tons of carbon dioxide have already been locked away – this is fact not fiction. We know of at least four ways of capturing carbon dioxide and what’s really needed is action by government and business to make it happen not a stunt that grabs headlines but ultimately changes nothing.”

“The time for action is now and chemical engineers are ready to act. Instead we are faced with blocking tactics by protestors who, in many cases, aren’t fully aware of the facts or if they are, simply choose to ignore them!

“I fully support people’s right to protest but only if they understand the implications of what they’re protesting about in the first place,” Furlong concluded.

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