Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Meteorologist and Grist author Eric Holthaus thinks the only way to save the planet from rising CO2 emissions is to embrace nuclear power.
It’s time to go nuclear in the fight against climate change
By Eric Holthaus on Jan 12, 2018
After holding steady for the past three years, global carbon emissions rose in 2017by an estimated 2 percent. That increase comes amid the largest renewable energy boom in world history.
That irony points to what I see as an inescapable conclusion: The world probably can’t solve climate change without nuclear power.
Something big has to change, and fast, in order to prevent us from going over the climate cliff. Increasingly, that something appears to be a shift in our attitudes toward nuclear energy.
By nearly all accounts, nuclear is the most rapidly scalable form of carbon-free power invented. And, the technology is rapidly improving. But lingering concerns about waste and safety have kept nuclear power from staying competitive.
Solar power has grown at a whopping 68 percent average rate over the past 10 years, but still accounts for less than 2 percent of total U.S. electricity generation. The 99 reactors in the U.S. generate about 10 times that amount. Roughly 30 nuclear facilities are set to retire in the next few years because those plants have become economically infeasible. (California regulators voted unanimously Thursday to shutter Diablo Canyon, the state’s last remaining plant, in 2025.) That’s despite these facilities producing more than double the amount of electricity than all the solar panels in the United States combined.
The sheer urgency of climate change demands an all-of-the-above approach to making carbon-free energy.
“If we discovered nuclear power today, we would be working like mad to make it as safe and cheap as possible,” Stanford University climate scientist Ken Caldeira tweeted last summer.
But resistance by mainstream environmental organizations has helped stymie that progress. And the most ardent supporter of climate change legislation in last year’s presidential election, Bernie Sanders, ran on an anti-nuclear platform. (In December, Shellenberger announced he is running for California governor as an explicitly pro-environment, pro-nuclear independent.)
If we were smart, we’d see nuclear power for what it is: A good bet to save the world.
Note the quote “resistance by mainstream environmental organizations” above links to the anti-nuclear policy of the Sierra Club.
I always find it encouraging when greens advance rational arguments for embracing nuclear power, even if those arguments are based on misconceptions about climate change. Reason is the keystone of climate skepticism.