It’s fair to say that plenty of politicians and organizations on the right or far-right are considered to be almost inherently anti-scientific. Facts don’t mean as much as feelings to people like Trump or enormous corporations like ExxonMobil, who see issues like climate change and environmentalism as inconveniences at best and global conspiracies at worst. This is well-known, and their avoidance of scientific facts and evidence is often called out by the media.
However, groups and individuals who generally represent “the left” can be just as anti-science. Not only are their views sometimes just as erroneous as their counterparts on the other side of the fence, but they can also be just as dangerous if enough people listen without pausing to question them.
Greenpeace is a perfect example of this. Revered by plenty of left-leaning people – 2.8 million, according to their own website – this organization’s wide-reaching mission is certainly a noble one, in that it wishes to prevent environmental degradation and mitigate climate change, whatever it takes. Many agree, and to its supporters, this group represents the “voice of the people”.
Yet Greenpeace adherents despise nuclear power, which happens to be a powerful weapon in the fight against climate change. They (correctly) point to the fact that buried waste is a problem, but their objectivity, and sense of perspective, seems to stop there.
“While nuclear power is considerably more risky than the industry will actually admit, our opposition to new nuclear is predicated upon the opportunity costs involved, not upon fear,” Dr Paul Johnston, the principal scientist of Greenpeace’s Science Unit at the University of Exeter, told IFLScience.
A quick look at Greenpeace’s website on nuclear power brings up an ominous banner saying: “It’s time to end this nuclear nightmare”, with a direct reference to Fukushima. This certainly looks quite fear-inducing, but does nuclear power deserve it?
First of all, we are now five years on from the Fukushima event, and there has not been a statistically significant increase in cancer rates in the region. Significantly, this is only the 3rd nuclear incident in human history, with only Chernobyl – a result of poor oversight and lazy, unregulated construction – being a disaster that truly shook the world.
In over 16,000 cumulative years of commercial nuclear power, less than a hundred or so have died from related radiation sickness. Compare this to the tens of millions of people that die every year from fossil fuel-based pollution, and add that to the millions more that die as an indirect result of fossil fuel-driven climate change, and it is clear that the threat of nuclear power is massively overstated.