Britain's plans to build new coal-fired power stations as part of the country's efforts to address its looming energy crisis will completely undermine the Bali agreement on climate change and discredit Gordon Brown's commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, according to one of the world's leading climate scientists.

The warning will be made directly to the Prime Minister this week in a letter from James Hansen, the director of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, who will urge Mr Brown to block plans to build up to eight new coal-fired power stations – the first in 30 years.

Dr Hansen, one of the first scientists to warn of climate change 20 years ago, said that coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel and that building new power stations that burn it without capturing waste carbon dioxide will tip the planet towards irreversible warming. He said that coal presents the biggest challenge in the fight against climate change because governments around the world appear to be dead set on using it as a cheap and easy source of energy without thinking about the long-term consequences.


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