Fmr Extinction Rebellion activist: No climate change if world embraced nuclear energy decades ago
A former UK Extinction Rebellion activist has rejected the idea that renewables are the only way towards emissions reduction and has hit out at “boomer” environmentalists for demonising nuclear energy.
Ms Lights has become a key voice in support of nuclear energy after leaving Extinction Rebellion in 2020, arguing that the group “lost their way”.
Extinction Rebellion has gained infamy across the world since its formation in 2018 with activists gluing themselves to city streets and destroying public property in the name of climate change.
“It’s no good just telling people all the time that things are bad and this is a bad thing that’s happening, and you should just feel bad,” Ms Lights told Sky News Australia’s Chris Kenny.
“That’s actually a really bad motivator for change anyway, so I think that they’ve lost their way a little bit, and that was part of my departure from that group.”
Ms Lights’ exit from the controversial group came amid a global push for greater action on climate change after President Joe Biden’s election in 2020.
World leaders are due to meet in Glasgow in early November to discuss plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050 in a bid to limit global warming by 1.5 degrees on pre-industrial levels.
Ms Lights said reducing emissions and maintaining a sustainable global energy supply cannot be done “with renewable energy alone”.
“A key part of protecting the natural environment for my children is nuclear energy, that is just a fact,” she said.
She said there was a growing push to adopt nuclear power by younger climate activists who were “open to any solution” rather than the “older boomer generation of environmentalists”.
“Frankly, those environmentalists have failed us. If we had embraced nuclear technology decades ago, we would not have climate change.
“We need to start building, and this kind of goes against what traditionally environmentalism kind of stands for. But it’s the only solution. If you’re building huge solar farms with huge wind turbines, that’s still building. So, I don’t see why that’s okay, and that’s seen as green but nuclear energy isn’t.”
Nuclear power has long been tarnished by concerns over safety partly due to memories of disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima as well as Cold War sentiments around nuclear weapons.
Ms Lights said people in the environmental movement had for a long-time “confused energy with weapon”.
“The environmental movement was kind of borne around that time, out of the Cold War era, lot of worry about weapons,” she said.
“People who have lived through that are some of the most prominent, vocal environmentalists. So, they just hear nuclear and they just shut down, they just think of bombs.
“Once that fear is there it’s very hard to get rid of it, it’s very hard to unpick that.”
Ms Light’s support for nuclear power comes amid growing support within the Coalition government to pursue the baseload alternative to renewables.
Five Nationals MPs were at the centre of a push in February to give the Clean Energy Finance Corporation the weight of $1 billion to invest in nuclear generators as well carbon capture and storage technologies.
But a moratorium on a domestic nuclear industry introduced during the Howard government has prevented any development in that space despite Australia’s large uranium deposits.
Ms Lights said Australia’s refusal to develop nuclear power surprised her and did not “make sense”.
“You (Australia) could have abundant energy and energy independence, and not rely on anybody, and you could be a world leader in showing how things are done,” she said.
“If you really want to stick it to the boomer environmentalists that are telling us all to live with less, you could show them how you can create a decarbonized future that still gives everybody abundant energy, high quality of life, but just isn’t causing climate change.
“You’ve got loads of space as well, you’ve got more space than we have, so I do find it baffling and I’m not sure why that is over there.”
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