Camden CSG protest meeting hears many views, but little science

October 3rd, 2014

Thursday night’s CSG meeting at Camden was remarkable for two things: The enormous disparity of views among the celebrity cast gathered for the event – and the common disinterest in paying the slightest attention to the findings of the NSW Chief Scientist, announced two days earlier.
The fresh news which should have been central to the meeting – that the NSW Chief Scientist had given a cautious green light to CSG development —was barely mentioned. Climate change, global warming, wind farming, gas, coal, workers, jobs, and politics were the main topics, and with little sign of agreement.

On the dais were TV and radio personalities of considerable standing, complemented by a union rep and a Mosman protest convener doing her best to manage the meeting. A Greens MP, a State electoral candidate and a council hopeful in the audience did their best to join the argument, but had difficulty holding the floor.

There was disagreement about the usefulness of wind as an energy source, which was described as a drag on taxpayers’ funds. Global warming was questioned. Even the numbers in the room were challenged in twitter accounts of the meeting.

The greatest success from the organisers’ point of view was probably that the meeting was concluded without any focus on the inconvenient truth of the NSW Chief Scientist report.

What the meeting should have been told was that two days earlier, the most senior science officer in NSW delivered the findings of 18 months of global research: That there is no evidence of a causal link between CSG and human harm, and that the gas industry had proven its ability to manage risks such as aquifer protection – over a 13-year history, in the case of the Camden project. If there was any doubt of the interpretation of the report, the attendees at the meeting need only have read the previous day’s Daily Telegraph or Australian Financial Review to get to the facts. As the Telegraph headline read: ‘Yes we can: CSG is safe’.

In an interview on ABC Radio National today, the Chief Scientist was specifically asked whether the science is proven on the key element of water and salt management. She replied “Yes, I think the science is in.”

There’s no denying the report is independent and, with all the contributing papers to the final report, it is a solid tome of work.

Hopefully open public discussion of the Chief Scientist’s report and other independent research being conducted by respected institutions like CSIRO will lead to a more balanced debate than occurred at Camden last night.

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