Ask and you shall receive.
Yesterday I called for proof of liberal/left misuse of science with respect to the risks of nuclear power, and now, George Monbiot has delivered. He calls out longtime anti-nuke activist Helen Caldicott for her claim that nearly 1 million people were killed by the Chernobyl disaster:
For the last 25 years anti-nuclear campaigners have been racking up the figures for deaths and diseases caused by the Chernobyl disaster, and parading deformed babies like a medieval circus. They now claim 985,000 people have been killed by Chernobyl, and that it will continue to slaughter people for generations to come. These claims are false.
The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation(Unscear) is the equivalent of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Like the IPCC, it calls on the world’s leading scientists to assess thousands of papers and produce an overview. Here is what it says about the impacts of Chernobyl.
Of the workers who tried to contain the emergency at Chernobyl, 134 suffered acute radiation syndrome; 28 died soon afterwards. Nineteen others died later, but generally not from diseases associated with radiation. The remaining 87 have suffered other complications, including four cases of solid cancer and two of leukaemia.
In the rest of the population there have been 6,848 cases of thyroid cancer among young children – arising “almost entirely” from the Soviet Union’s failure to prevent people from drinking milk contaminated with iodine 131. Otherwise “there has been no persuasive evidence of any other health effect in the general population that can be attributed to radiation exposure”. People living in the countries affected today “need not live in fear of serious health consequences from the Chernobyl accident”.
Caldicott told me that Unscear’s work on Chernobyl is “a total cover-up”. Though I have pressed her to explain, she has yet to produce a shred of evidence for this contention.
Ouch. You can read Monbiot’s full piece here. It’s pretty convincing. He draws the climate denial analogy at the end:
Failing to provide sources, refuting data with anecdote, cherry-picking studies, scorning the scientific consensus, invoking a cover-up to explain it: all this is horribly familiar. These are the habits of climate-change deniers, against which the green movement has struggled valiantly, calling science to its aid. It is distressing to discover that when the facts don’t suit them, members of this movement resort to the follies they have denounced.
I greatly admire Monbiot. I had the pleasure to be on a panel with him in Copenhagen in December, 2009. I particularly applaud his attempt to hold his allies to the same intellectual standards to which he holds his adversaries.
So while I have not independently investigated this subject, I’m pretty convinced–both by his argument, and by the trust I have for his previously demonstrated ability to weigh scientific evidence–that Monbiot has documented a case of misuse of science, by the left, to attack nuclear power. However, there remains the question of extent. Are these claims about nearly 1 million deaths from Chernobyl are widely accepted today on the left? Are U.S. Democrats uttering them?