Unlike Talk Fracking, the Greenpeace vehicle that has already decided the outcome of the shale debate even before their celebrity backers juggle private jet schedules between second and third homes to see if they can attend, there was a genuine forum to discuss shale gas in detail at the Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam last month.
The IASS workshop “Shale Gas in Europe – A Transdisciplinary Approach” that took place on May 21-22 aimed to identify and assess key issues of a possibly emerging shale gas industry in Europe while facilitating communication amongst key stakeholders and improving the understanding on all of the pertinent issues involved. The participants came from Germany, the USA, the UK, France, Poland and Ukraine, and included representatives from science, governments, civil society and industry.
Apart from Carlo Rubbia, Nobel Laureate in Physics, fifty or so interested and engaged industry, government and academic figures, from Europe and North America attended. But who didn’t show up? Greenpeace, WWF, FoE, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and Food and Water Watch Europe all found themselves unable to attend, where they even had the courtesy of replying to the invitation from Doctor Rubbia. Perhaps they figured that scientists even of his reputation wouldn’t quite get how dangerous shale gas is and how the North American experience showed that we needed to study it further or ban it entirely.
Environmentalists were represented by the US Natural Resources Defence Council from California and the Environmental Defense Fund from New York. Perhaps it was those open minded US environmentalists who have actual experience of shale that scared the European extreme Greens off? After all, if they already have decided that Gasland is science, why muddy the waters by getting into a debate with US experts or amateur Nobel has beens when one can get expertise from David Icke?
The overall consensus was, aligning both Doctor Rubbia and Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, we can’t argue with the laws of physics. No one denied global warming and no one denied carbon must be reduced as soon as possible, but there was widespread agreement that renewables alone do not provide a current answer.
So what was decided?
Overall, the current public debate on shale gas is often not sufficiently grounded on a fact-based understanding of the issue. The same often applies to the projections of the proponents of shale gas exploitation. Therefore, a transdisciplinary approach is required to discuss scientific evidence and societal perspectives to make informed decisions.
While Stephen Fry, Paul McCartney and Bianca Jagger have a right to their opinions, perhaps they should also work with facts. Perhaps they should actually show up when there is a proper exchange of views that seeks honest answers instead of giving their reputation to an essentially dishonest charade which has already decided the outcome of the debate before it happens.