CONSULTANTS and advisers to the fracking and other fossil fuel industries cannot continue to deny the “catastrophic” effects they have on the world’s climate following the COP26 conference, a leading Scottish academic has said.

Professor Andrew Watterson said many will already be aware of decades of research that revealed the industries’ role in global climate change, as well as contributing to air pollution morbidity and mortality, which has already been acknowledged by the sector.

He said those continuing to advise and support fracking and its development – including engineers, environmental consultants, scientists, lawyers and planners – are usually members of professional organisations.

While these bodies have codes of conduct or ethics and practice that sometimes address environmental matters in general terms, he said most do not directly address the ethical dilemmas of working for, or with, “industries that contribute to adverse climate impacts and climate change”.

Watterson, a researcher in public health at the University of Stirling, said they now should.

“The issue isn’t necessarily about shutting the industries down at a stroke – unless there’s just transition – nor is it about demonising the workers within those industries or the engineers needed to keep plants running,” he said.

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“The issue is can those who assist or approve new fossil fuel/oil and gas developments in the light of the climate crisis in any way ethically justify their actions?”

Watterson said the defences used by some of the professionals to support their position ranged from, “it’s legal to do this work”, to “someone has to do it” and the last resort of “we were just obeying orders”.

However, writing on the Drill or Drop website, he said such arguments were no longer convincing when we are faced with “an urgent existential crisis, created by fossil fuels, that has already destroyed many lives, livelihoods, and environments”.

He said codes that did touch on the ethical dimension sometimes “suggest”, “advise”, or “recommend”, but only occasionally “require” members to act sustainably and protect the public, the environment, and future generations.

Watterson added: “The public health and environmental grounds for no longer supporting new fossil fuel developments, including fracking projects, is incontrovertible, based on the climate change and other evidence available.

“The associated ethical grounds look equally strong for engineers, scientists, environmental consultants, planners and lawyers no longer supporting fracking developments.

“The professional bodies representing them should, therefore, now ensure their codes of conduct, practice and ethics always include requirements to address climate change, sustainability and public good considerations for present and future generations.”