Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Nuclear energy lobby gains unexpected scienti -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Broadcast: 30/05/2006

Nuclear energy lobby gains unexpected scientific boost

Reporter: Brett Evans

TONY JONES: When Prime Minister Howard called recently for a "full-blooded" debate about nuclear
power in Australia, he might have had Professor James Lovelock, in mind as a participant. Described
by 'New Scientist' as "one of the great thinkers of our time", James Lovelock first came to
prominence for his Gaia hypothesis - the theory that Planet Earth itself is a living,
self-regulating system. It was an idea that made him one of the most influential figures in the
environmental movement. But James Lovelock alienated many former disciples when he came to the
conclusion that nuclear energy was the best way to save the planet from man-made global warming.
His latest book, 'The Revenge of Gaia', claims that climate change has brought humanity to the
brink of destruction. We'll explore that issue with him in a moment, but first, this background
report from Brett Evans.

BRETT EVANS: The classic 'Mad Max' movies offer a frightening vision of the future - civilisation
brought to its knees, life reduced to an endless struggle for fuel. George Miller's trilogy of
action films are popular with audiences around the world but are they also prescient? One of the
world's leading environmentalists certainly thinks so. Professor James Lovelock claims that
man-made climate change will soon cost us the earth.

PROFESSOR JAMES LOVELOCK, SCIENTIST AND AUTHOR (LATELINE 18 OCTOBER, 2004): I don't think people
understand. If we get this 6-degree Celsius rise of temperature by the end of the century, we're
talking about billions of deaths.

BRETT EVANS: By continuing to burn fossil fuels and pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,
Professor Lovelock is convinced a grim future awaits the human race. From the sanctuary of his farm
in Devon, the 86-year-old scientist foresees a world of rising oceans, collapsing ecosystems,
vanishing farmlands; a new dark age ruled by brutal warlords.

JONATHON PORRITT, ENVIRONMENTALIST: Jim Lovelock is extremely pessimistic about this. I still
believe that we have perhaps 10 years, perhaps 15, to put the world on a sustainable energy path.

BRETT EVANS: He is revered in the environment movement for his Gaia Thesis, which argues that all
life on earth is interconnected.

DR. TIM FLANNERY, AUTHOR 'THE WEATHER MAKERS': Well, he's always been one of my great heroes. He's
a - he's someone who's inspired political action on climate change at a very early stage - he was
the one who got Margaret Thatcher moving and interested in the topic.

BRETT EVANS: But Professor Lovelock has broken ranks with many of his fellow greens on a key issue.
He is a passionate advocate of nuclear power, arguing it's the only major source of carbon-free
electricity. He's the sort of thinker Prime Minister Howard would like to hear more from.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: The scene on nuclear energy is going to change significantly in our
country and I want a full-blooded debate in Australia about this issue and I want all of the
options on the table.

BRETT EVANS: Australian environmentalists say Professor Lovelock has got the science of climate
change right and applaud his sense of urgency, but they view his pro-nuclear stance with
scepticism.

DR IAN LOWE, PRESIDENT, AUSTRALIAN CONSERVATION FEDERATION: I don't think nuclear power is a
sensible response to climate change - it's too expensive, it's too slow, it makes too little
difference. Nuclear power, as a solution, is getting out of the greenhouse frying pan into the
nuclear fire.

BRETT EVANS: The nuclear option has always been a tricky issue for greens. Physicist Ian Lowe was
once a supporter.

DR IAN LOWE: I was reasonably positive about nuclear power 30 years ago, but that was before the
age of terrorism and before we had as many countries developing nuclear weapons as we have now.

BRETT EVANS: Meanwhile, fellow climate change expert Tim Flannery is moving in the opposite
direction.

TIM FLANNERY: I think personally that nuclear power may be part of the solution, but, in a sense,
the free market has to decide that, once we factor in all of the costs.

BRETT EVANS: But Dr Flannery is insistent that the Prime Minister's nuclear power debate should
really be a broad debate about the growing climate change emergency.

TIM FLANNERY: For me the first danger of the nuclear debate is that it'll sidetrack the real debate
about climate change. But also, you know, let's treat it as we would any of the other power sources
and look objectively at its pluses and minuses.

BRETT EVANS: So, what's in store for the human race? A soft landing courtesy of nuclear power?
Salvation through renewables? Or a deadly carbon crash? Brett Evans, Lateline.

(c) 2006 ABC