Page last updated at 10:51 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Nasa man's 'extinction' warning

The proposed new Kingsnorth power station
E.ON said it wanted to use carbon capture from day one at its new plant

Carbon emissions from new coal-fired power stations could contribute to mass extinctions, a leading climate scientist has warned.

Nasa scientist James Hansen said the only way to prevent a "disaster" for future generations was to phase out use of the dirtiest fossil fuel.

He was speaking ahead of a protest in Coventry against energy firm E.ON's plans for a plant at Kingsnorth, Kent.

E.ON said it had urged the government to fund technology to capture carbon.

Dr Hansen said there must be a moratorium on new coal plants that did not capture the carbon emissions, and action to phase out the use of coal over the next two decades.

The scientist is joining a day of action by Christian Aid, Cafod, the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition and the World Development Movement on addressing global warming.

The campaigners are highlighting the plight of millions of people in developing countries who have already been suffering from the effects of climate change, such as drought and floods.

The protest will include a visit to the headquarters of power company E.ON who are hoping to build the new coal-powered station at Kingsnorth.

'Dangerous zone'

Dr Hansen said: "What has become clear from the science is that the climate system is much closer to dangerous consequences than we had realised even a few years ago."

He said that reserves of readily available oil and gas, which people would continue to use, were already enough to push the planet into the "dangerous zone" of emissions.

"The only way we can prevent disaster for our children and grandchildren is to cut off the biggest source, coal," he added.

A spokesman for E.ON said: "We are talking about one coal-fired power station that will hopefully be built in the UK in a 30-year period.

"In China and India they are building the equivalent of Kingsnorth every two weeks."

He added: "However we recognise that we have to de-carbonise. Earlier in the week we called upon the government to fund carbon capture storage from day one in some form.

"Once one power station has managed carbon capture the technology can be exported. It's not just a problem in Kent it's a problem facing the world."

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