Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Point of Inquiry - a talk with Lynas

Chris Mooney interviewed Mark Lynas on Point of Inquiry.  Lynas is an environmentalist and until relatively recently a vocal and actively critical of genetically modified crops.  However, Lynas made waves when he changed his opposition to GM crops based upon his review of the scientific evidence.  

Lynas described how some environmental activists are concerned about global warming, and yet are opposed to some of the best and readily available methods of lowering carbon output.  Lynas indicated that 30% of carbon releases are related to agriculture, so one would think this would mean support to grow food more efficient and less land use intensive would be a popular policy position.  However, many of this same group desire food production methods that require less efficient land use in order to be organic or at least more traditional.  In regard to energy production Lynas pointed out in Germany a coal fired electric plant is coming on line in part to allow a nuclear power plant to taken off line in the name of the environmentalism.  Therefore, a carbon neutral method of energy production is making way carbon intensive method of electrification.  

SkepReview HQ is within the zone of doom.
I am aware of the pros and cons of nuclear power, and it can get quite heated.  Nuclear power is carbon neutral, but when things go wrong they can go really, really wrong.  I live within the zone of doom of the infamous Three Mile Island, and I recall my first grade self being whisked away from school by my mother at the time of the accident.  Luckily, nothing overly awful occurred, but it was a close shave.* Yet, natural gas, that does not have the same risks as nuclear, and also is has a less of a carbon footprint than coal is also opposed by those concerned with global warming according to Lynas. 

Lynas and Mooney share that many in the environmental movement are motivated by emotion, which is great but it should not get in the way of the best evidence. 

An interesting side note is Lynas describing how environmental positions of conservatives and liberal in the U.K. differ from the kin in the U.S.  An example is the GM crop opposition has a lot of support in the British right, while in the U.S. right it is not such an issue.   

It was interesting to get a look behind the current of those who are obvious of good intent, but whose facts are to an extent cherry picked to back up set position.  Lynas compared it a bit to global warming deniers.  I thought 'ouch' at that comment. The discussion of difference between issues of the mother country and her offspring are different between the parties was intriguing.  An entire episode could have occurred on that issue alone.  I recommend this episode.  It is less than forty minutes long and thought provoking.  Mooney does try to not get sidetracked by his favorite topic of Republican vs. Democratic mind too much.  The discussion was more than just on GM crops, but on where some in the environmental movement don't always rely upon the best evidence.  I am sure Lynas and Mooney had more than a few upset listeners on this episode.  

*My dad was a practicing physician at the time, and the governor asked that all medical personnel stay in the area just in case.  So, my mom, sister, and I went off to our grandparents, and dad stayed behind.  At some point we spoke to dad on the phone and he shared that he was now glowing green.  Not a funny joke to a first and fourth graders, luckily we can still joke about it now.  The whole thing was traumatic, we could have been Japan thirty years earlier. 

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