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Chief Scientific Advisor Compares Fracking Risk to Asbestos

December 2, 2014
Environmental Protection

frackingA report by Professor Sir Mark Walport, the government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, has compared the potential risks from fracking to those posed by asbestos, thalidomide and tobacco. In his annual report to the government, Professor Walport says, “History presents plenty of examples of innovation trajectories that later proved to be problematic — for instance involving asbestos, benzene, thalidomide, dioxins, lead in petrol, tobacco, many pesticides, mercury, chlorine and endocrine-disrupting compounds. In all these and many other cases, delayed recognition of adverse effects incurred not only serious environmental or health impacts, but massive expense and reductions in competitiveness for firms and economies persisting in the wrong path.”

The document goes on to recommend that innovations and technological advances should be fully assessed before being adopted, and that more should be invested in renewable energy sources. Fracking has been widely supported by the government despite concerns from environmentalists that it will contaminate water supplies and accelerate global warming. In 2012, a report from the Royal Academy of Engineering concluded the risks from fracking were very low provided the practice is strongly regulated. However, last month the UK Energy Research Centre warned that its unlikely that fracking would cut household energy bills in the long run and that the government were guilty of ‘over-hyping‘ its value.   

You can read the full report ‘Innovation: Managing risk, not avoiding it. Evidence and case studies’ here