Blame anti-nuke activists for climate change

Here's an argument for you: Environmentalists who lobbied successfully against nuclear power in 1970s are partly responsible for potentially catastrophic global warming because they forced policymakers to rely more heavily on dirty carbon-producing coal plants.

This argument is the starting point for Jason Mark in a long piece in The Utne Reader which looks at the tension within the green movement over the role of nuclear energy in an era when climate change is the greatest threat to the planet:

The argument over nuclear power reveals a long-standing tension in the environmental movement between those who say there are technical fixes to the greenhouse gas challenge and others who believe that we need a wholesale restructuring of society if we are to avoid global meltdown. To embrace a new round of nuclear reactor construction is to say that we can have our climate and eat all the energy we want, too; it is, in some ways, maintenance of the status quo. To oppose nuclear power is to suggest that we need to reform the ways in which we live, for if we can find a way to create lifestyles that don’t demand as much electricity, then the nuclear question is moot.

…A number of prominent environmentalists—among them Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jared Diamond, and Gaia-theory promoter James Lovelock.

After decades of decline, the nuclear industry is on the upswing, cheered along, oddly enough, by green activists who once fought the industry but now say that nukes are better than coal given the global threat of climate change. Among those leading the charge in favour of nukes is Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore: “Yes, I was an opponent of nuclear energy all through my Greenpeace years,” Moore says. “But when I do the math, it’s very clear to me that renewables can’t do the job themselves, and that’s why nuclear has to be part of the mix. . . . As an environmentalist, I choose nuclear.”

One thought on “Blame anti-nuke activists for climate change”

  1. There was a recent Ideas series (on that other network) featuring Prof. David S. Scott on his book “Smelling Land“. Among the interesting things he talks about are the benefits of nuclear energy and the use of hydrogen as an energy currency – allowing wind power and solar power a way to store the energy for future use.
    I don't know for sure, but I'm pretty certain of two things:
    1) The developing world won't accept caps on energy usage or development, although I believe that there is a possibility that there is an opportunity for 'green' development.
    2) Providing health care, education and housing to a global population will require substantial amounts of energy, even if we moderate energy usage expectations.

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