The U.K. government’s chief scientific adviser, Mark Walport, argues in his flagship annual report that there are many examples throughout history where the hasty adoption of new technology has had disastrous impacts on health and the environment – and he suggests fracking could be one of them. Walport says in no uncertain terms: “Fracking carries potential risks on a par with those from thalidomide, tobacco and asbestos.”

Anti fracking, fracking, walport report, protesters, climate change, news, shale gas, fossil fuels

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron backs fracking, saying recently that the U.K. is “going all out for shale.” Yet his chief adviser seems to be more cautious, to say the least. Walport’s report likens fracking to a number of problematic materials: “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…”

Related: The Birthplace of Fracking Just Banned Fracking

Walport’s view is shared by many environmentalists who do not think sufficient research into the long-term risks of fracking has been undertaken. Anti-Fracking protesters argue that fracking could contaminate water supplies, bring heavy-goods vehicle traffic to rural areas, divert spending from renewables and speed up global warming. Co-author of the report Professor Andrew Stirling, from the University of Sussex, also suggests that the U.K. and the world could tackle climate change with green technology, but that vested interests are slowing progress to that end. He sees the “clear feasibility of strategies built entirely around energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

However, a spokesman for the Royal Academy of Engineering, which produced a 2012 report regarding the safety of shale gas extraction concluded that the risks were very low, if regulated correctly. “Our conclusion was that if carried out to highest standards of best practice, the risks are very low for any environmental contamination. The most serious risks come in the drilling and casing and surface operations rather than the fracturing itself.” The Shale Safety Report goes on to state, “You can’t eliminate the risk of something going wrong, but you can monitor very closely and be very open and transparent about what’s going on.”

Whatever view you take, the controversy surrounding fracking does not seem to be going away for ministers in the U.K. Louise Hutchins, Greenpeace U.K.’s energy campaigner, commented that the report’s publication “is a naked-emperor moment for the government’s dash to frack.”

Via The Guardian

Photos via EPA and Shutterstock