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Could the green energy exhibit at the Science Museum be compromised by funding from fossil fuel sources?
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Could the green energy exhibit at the Science Museum be compromised by funding from fossil fuel sources?

This project aims to uncover humans’ past and present endeavors to reduce carbon emissions in our daily lives. It will showcase a blend of historical artifacts and interactive exhibits, demonstrating how our sustainable energy systems are influenced by creative thinking and advances in technology.

However, the recently opened Energy Revolution gallery at the Science Museum, also known as the Adani Green Energy Gallery, has been met with disapproval from environmental groups.

Last week they picketed the ­gallery’s private opening party and confronted guests with ­banners denouncing the London ­museum’s decision to accept sponsorship from the Indian energy group Adani, arranged through its renewables subsidiary, Adani Green Energy.

According to the Fossil Free Science Museum coalition, the company’s involvement in Australian coal mines undermines their sponsorship. They believe that no museum or public institution should support such a harmful corporation in building its reputation.

The assertions are predicted to spark another significant debate regarding museum funding – and how corporations are addressing the necessary decarbonization of our planet. Some support the demonstrators, while others align themselves with the museum.

India is a large nation that heavily relies on coal for its electricity system, according to Bob Ward, the policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change. He states that India recognizes the need to transition away from fossil fuels and has implemented a highly ambitious solar power program. Adani Green Energy, the biggest renewable energy company in India, is actively involved in this transition.

Activists protest opposite the Science Museum in 2021 against sponsorship by fossil fuel corporations.View image in fullscreen

According to Ward, who is a part of the planning team for the gallery, it is not feasible to abruptly transition from coal to solar energy. Therefore, arguing against the new gallery because India still uses fossil fuels is unreasonable. Ward believes that these environmental activists are attempting to dissuade individuals from visiting the gallery, which aims to bring attention to the urgent issue of climate change, which is detrimental and counterproductive.

However, according to Chris Garrard, a member of the coalition known as Fossil Free Science Museum, the protest was justified. Garrard believed that although the curators at the museum play an important role, their efforts have been constantly hindered by the museum’s leaders, who have accepted sponsorship from Adani, a company known for its coal mining and burning activities.

Garrard stated that the Science Museum had disregarded the numerous protests from stakeholders. He declared that this leaves no choice but to urge for a boycott of the gallery.

Extinction Rebellion activists outside the Science Museum View image in fullscreen

The leader of the museum, Ian Blatchford, explained that he and his team understand that some activists are opposed to sponsored partnerships and want complete disengagement from certain industries. However, the board members do not agree with that perspective and have clearly stated their method in urging companies, governments, and individuals to take action in reducing the use of carbon in the global economy.

According to Oxford University’s Climate scientist, Professor Myles Allen, companies such as Adani are taking steps towards reducing their reliance on fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy sources, which is commendable. Therefore, he believes it is unfair to single out these companies for criticism.

The issue is that there is no obligation for companies to disclose their plans for addressing the contribution of their products to global warming. Merely branching out into renewable energy sources is not enough if companies continue to sell fossil fuels. Furthermore, making promises to divest from fossil fuel assets by 2049 is not an effective solution. We need companies to provide concrete strategies for dealing with fossil fuels, rather than just rearranging them. Hopefully, this new gallery will clearly reveal which companies are on the path to achieving net zero emissions, which would be beneficial.

Regarding the gallery that has sparked this debate, its purpose is clear. It was created to showcase the technologies necessary to combat global warming and prevent its rapid progression towards a crisis. This crisis has the potential to cause droughts, ice cap melting, coastal city flooding, mass migrations, and significant loss of biodiversity.

“This is a new, permanent gallery,” said its curator, Oliver Carpenter. “In 10 years, its content will still have to be relevant. So putting ­renewable energy in a historical context has been crucial to our planning.”

One prominent illustration is shown through the demonstration of an electric taxi created in 1897. This taxi was made by the Great Horseless Carriage Company and over 70 of them were used to transport passengers in London for a number of years. These taxis were nicknamed Bumble Bee cabs due to their vibrant yellow and black color scheme. Each taxi was operated by a lead-acid battery which was then recharged at the company’s coal-powered power plant after every use.

According to its creator Walter Bersey, the cabs he designed boasted of being odorless, quiet, cool, vibration-free and completely safe. However, they were eventually discontinued in 1899. Interestingly, it took over a century for the electric taxi cab to reemerge, with Transport for London announcing last year that over half of the city’s 14,700 hackney carriages have now adopted “zero emissions” capabilities.

Carpenter emphasized that the gallery aims to showcase the potential impact of significant factors such as the presence of both Henry Ford and the discovery of oil and gas fields in America at the same time. Without their convergence, the outcome could have been greatly altered.

Other developments on the road to a low carbon future include some of the machinery that formed the world’s first public electricity network, created by Thomas Edison, in London in 1882 as well as some of the remains of Zeta, a nuclear fusion experiment created in the late 1950s by British scientists. They thought, incorrectly, that it would bring cheap, abundant, low-carbon energy to the world in a few years.

“We have accumulated numerous insights regarding energy production throughout the years and, as evidenced by the gallery, we have yet to acquire even more knowledge,” Carpenter noted.

Source: theguardian.com