No one would accuse climate researchers James Hansen, Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira, and Tom Wigley of moderation when it comes to banging the climate crisis drum. The four have now issued an open letter challenging the broad environmental movement to stop fighting nuclear power and embrace it as a crucial technology for averting the possibility of a climate catastrophe by supplying zero-carbon energy. From the letter:
As climate and energy scientists concerned with global climate change, we are writing to urge you to advocate the development and deployment of safer nuclear energy systems. We appreciate your organization's concern about global warming, and your advocacy of renewable energy. But continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity's ability to avoid dangerous climate change.
We call on your organization to support the development and deployment of safer nuclear power systems as a practical means of addressing the climate change problem. Global demand for energy is growing rapidly and must continue to grow to provide the needs of developing economies. At the same time, the need to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions is becoming ever clearer. We can only increase energy supply while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions if new power plants turn away from using the atmosphere as a waste dump.
Renewables like wind and solar and biomass will certainly play roles in a future energy economy, but those energy sources cannot scale up fast enough to deliver cheap and reliable power at the scale the global economy requires. While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize the climate without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power.
Well, yes. Just last week, I argued that solar and wind power are "Not Ready For Prime Time Renewable Energy Technologies."
The whole letter makes interesting reading.
Back in 2009, I pointed out "The Cultural Contradictions of Anti-Nuke Environmentalists," in which they were proud of the fact that they had killed off the nuclear power industry. Had the industry developed as projected, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions that they worry about would already be at least one-third lower than they are now.
One other observation: Using current technologies, nuclear socialism is more likely to result in adequate energy supplies than is solar socialism.
For more background, see Reason contributor John McClaughry's review of Superfuel: Thorium, the Green Energy Source for the Future.