Experts say nuclear power is needed to slow warming


Some of the world’s top climate scientists say wind and solar energy won’t be enough to head off extreme global warming, and they are asking environmentalists to support the development of safer nuclear power as one way to cut fossil fuel pollution.

Four scientists who have played a key role in alerting the public to the dangers of climate change sent letters Sunday to leading environmental groups and politicians around the world. The letter, an advance copy of which was given to AP, urges a crucial discussion on the role of nuclear power in fighting climate change.

Environmentalists agree that global warming is a threat to ecosystems and humans, but many oppose nuclear power and believe that new forms of renewable energy will be able to power the world within the next few decades.

That isn’t realistic, the letter said.

“Those energy sources cannot scale up fast enough” to deliver the amount of cheap and reliable power the world needs, and “with the planet warming and carbon dioxide emissions rising faster than ever, we cannot afford to turn away from any technology” that has the potential to reduce greenhouse gases.

The letter signers are James Hansen, a former top NASA scientist; Ken Caldeira, of the Carnegie Institution; Kerry Emanuel, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Tom Wigley, of the University of Adelaide in Australia.

Hansen began publishing research on the threat of global warming more than 30 years ago, and his testimony before Congress in 1988 helped launch a mainstream discussion. Last February, he was arrested in front of the White House at a climate protest that included the head of the Sierra Club and other activists. Caldeira was a contributor to reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Emanuel is known for his research on possible links between climate change and hurricanes, and Wigley has also been doing climate research for more than 30 years.

Emanuel said the signers aren’t opposed to renewable energy sources but want environmentalists to understand that “realistically, they cannot on their own solve the world’s energy problems.”

The vast majority of climate scientists say they are now virtually certain that pollution from fossil fuels has increased global temperatures over the last 60 years. They say emissions need to be sharply reduced to prevent more extreme damage in the future.

In 2011, worldwide carbon dioxide emissions jumped 3 percent, because of a large increase by China, the No. 1 carbon polluting country. The U.S. is No. 2 in carbon emissions.

Hansen, who is now at Columbia University, said it is not enough for environmentalists to simply oppose fossil fuels and promote renewable energy.

“They’re cheating themselves if they keep believing this fiction that all we need” is renewable energy such as wind and solar, Hansen told AP.

The joint letter says, “The time has come for those who take the threat of global warming seriously to embrace the development and deployment of safer nuclear power systems” as part of efforts to build a new global energy supply.

Stephen Ansolabehere, a Harvard professor who studies energy issues, said nuclear power is “very divisive” within the environmental movement. But he added that the letter could help educate the public about the difficult choices that climate change presents.

One major environmental advocacy organization, the Natural Resources Defense Council, warned that “nuclear power is no panacea for our climate woes.”

Risk of catastrophe is only one drawback of nuclear power, NRDC President Frances Beinecke said in a statement. Waste storage and security of nuclear material are also important issues, she said.

“The better path is to clean up our power plants and invest in efficiency and renewable energy,” Beinecke said.

The scientists acknowledge that there are risks to using nuclear power, but say those are far smaller than the risk posed by extreme climate change.

“We understand that today’s nuclear plants are far from perfect.”

  • shinjukuboy

    Nuclear power simply allows us to have our party and leave all the nuclear waste for future generations to take care of. For 10,000 to 1,000,000 years, depending on the expert and type of nuclear waste. There is still no practical way or place to store nuclear waste. Human civilization as we know it has only been around for 10,000 years. We should scale back energy consumption (that is, scale back our big party). The only question now is how terrible the aftermath of our party will be for future generations. I’m betting pretty gruesome.

    • Sam Gilman

      Who told you there is no practical way to store nuclear waste safely? Burying it deep underground in geologically stable rock makes it perfectly safe. The volume of waste produced is manageable like this, until we get the next generation of reactors (which consume nuclear fuel much more efficiently) working on a regular basis. This is part of the point of nuclear power: the fuel is phenomenally energy dense compared to other fuels, producing far, far less waste when used to make electricity.

  • Michael Radcliffe

    This article is spot on. Renewable energy is simply too diffuse and unreliable to produce large-scale base load power. Actually, fossil fuel companies know this very well. That is why they are happy to associate themselves with renewable energy in a faux attempt to ‘diversify’ their business: they know that gas and coal will still be supplying the vast bulk of energy. On the other hand, you will never see a fossil fuel company advertising nuclear power; they know a real rival when they see it. I am always suspicious when I see oil company brochures with pictures of windmills on them.

  • Sam Gilman

    Why do you put “science” in quotation marks? Do you believe the UN is publishing pseudoscience? If so, could you give a reference for that claim?

  • robertwgordonesq

    Correlation is not necessarily causation.

    Just because data is neutral does not mean human interpretations not.

    The data claims that Carbon Dioxide (“CO2”) is rising and also global temperatures seem to be rising as well.


    We can accept that premise.

    However it does not necessarily follow that carbon dioxide emissions are necessarily causing the rise in temperature.

    There could very well be a rise in cosmic temperatures (throughout the solar system) which in itself is causing the release of already sequestered CO2 from the oceans (i.e., it’s also getting hotter on Mars, Saturn, the moon, and Jupiter as well. If so, since there are no known humans on those planets, the rise in temperature cannot be attributed to burning fossil fuels).

    That is a possible interpretation.

    So we have to be careful when interpreting data. Data may be neutral, however the human interpretation of it is not.

    So just because a scientist says something based on data, it does not necessarily follow that the human scientist’s interpretation of the data is correct.

    For example, look at this drawing that this painter is making:

    When you look at the lines objectively from one angle, you see one thing. However, when you look at those SAME LINES simply from a different angle, the interpretation is radically different. The lines (data) has not changed at all, however, the *interpretation* has.

    The same goes for global warming theory. The data might be correct, however, the interpretation may be dead wrong. If so, so too are the alleged solutions stemming from such faulty interpretations. They may be wrong as well.

    So if the interpretation is wrong, building more nuclear power plants will not address the problem (although it might line the pockets of certain vested interests, it won’t stop alleged global warming).

    Interestingly, one thing you don’t hear from global warming advocates is planting more quick growing, carbon sequestering plants (like bamboo). Nor do you hear them talk about curtailing beef production and consumption which is blamed for mass deforestation and hence for removing large portions of carbon sequestering material.

    If global warming is really the serious problem scientists claim it is, why is the so-called solution a one track march to building more nuclear power plants as opposed to a very comprehensive look at all carbon impacting activities?


    For a different interpretation of the origins of global warming, see this video:

    (video argues that the rise in CO2 is a *result* of warming, not the cause of it).

  • Sam Gilman

    That’s interesting. Richard, you’re citing the climate website of Steve Goreham, someone who denies that global warming has anything to do with the use of fossil fuels. He’s an employee of the Heartland Institute. What’s the Heartland Institute?

    The Heartland Institute is the premier example of a PR front organisation for corporate interests. The shill’s shill. Their sponsors have included Phillip Morris and RJ Reynolds – for whom Heartland published material denying the link between smoking and cancer. They also include Exxon Mobil, the Koch brothers (fossil fuel industrialists and primary sponsors of the tea party movement), and the American Petroleum Institute. Heartland duly produce material denying that global warming is caused by human activity. They distributed Goreham’s book for free to hundreds of professional climate scientists, some of whom took to Amazon to express their displeasure.

    The thing is, after you accused me and others of being corporate shills and operatives for national espionage agencies, and insisted everyone should use their real names so you can look them up, I took the implied invitation and looked you up. You advertise yourself on the Internet as Richard Wilcox “PhD”, an activist fighting against “corporate tyranny” and looking at the environment from a “holistic perspective”.

    I came across an online copy of your PhD about environmental activism in Japan, or what seems to be an early draft of it. It contains this quote:

    While the economic costs of global warming will be devastating (Gallon, 2002), climate change is already causing severe and possibly irreversible disruption to the Earth’s atmosphere and may render the planet uninhabitable if global temperatures rise high enough (Goldsmith, 2001). However, according to the logic of capitalism, corporations and high finance, as long as profits and power are to be garnered there is no reason to change the system (Korten, 1995). This behavior is immoral since it excludes benefits to a majority of the world’s people. It is pathological since it must ultimately lead to the destruction of the inhabitable Earth, including habitation for the rich and powerful.

    There’s also this one:

    At the same time, I realize that it is because of this desperate situation that we must
    not panic, must not become paralyzed with fear, indifference or despair, and must maintain our sense of hope and joy in living. Not a delusion that “all will be well in the end,”or a denial such as, “I don’t believe in global warming,” but that hope is a crucial element toward maintaining health, stability and resolve in the face of seemingly overwhelming crises.

    What on earth made you change your mind on global warming, Richard? Did a corporation start paying you money?

  • Sam Gilman

    God in Heaven Almighty, Richard, what have I found? I normally studiously avoid ad hominem attacks (unlike your good self, as your previous post demonstrates), but this is just too far out to avoid.

    On a hunch, after you made repeated reference to global conspiracy theories and Mossad, and given that you have had articles published on the website of notorious propagator of anti-Semitic material Jeff Rense, I googled “Richard Wilcox Jews” to see if you had indeed waded into the crazier end of the conspiracy web, and to see what really lies behind your charges of “liberal” deception. (In general I think it’s relevant to know what your source of distrust is with all the major national and international scientific institutions on global warming.)

    Dear me. Dear, dear me. What did I find? An essay entitled “The True Powers Behind Multiculturalism, Globalization And World War” by Richard Wilcox, Ph.D. published on 17 June 2013. That’s five months ago. (And yes, it’s definitely you).

    Can anyone guess which ethnic group Richard Wilcox thinks is the true power behind it all? Here is a quote to give everyone a clue:

    I am not a WWII expert but I have read, for example, A. J. P. Taylor’s The Origins Of The Second World War. Taylor places blame not only on Germany but equally on France and England. Although Taylor refers to Hitler as “wicked” his actual recounting of Hitler’s actions renders him as the most honorable, reasonable and intelligent statesmen of the time.

    Here’s another:

    There is not a day that goes by without one alternative radio pundit or another, one youtube video or another, one article or another, referring to the Nazis as having been the enemies of all that is held to be good by Americans and freedom loving peoples everywhere. But how much of what we hear is recycled, unsubstantiated, exaggerated or flatly false WWII/Cold War/Zionist propaganda?

    Other references are made to the “mythical” six million, how the Nazis never burned books, and to the “intelligent, courageous and controversial statesman [who] once tried to disagree with the agenda of the Judaic Death Cult, but lost the war and his country.” (a quote appearing in a section entitled “Holocaustianity and Hitlerphobia”.)

    Perhaps most touching of all is this comment:

    Which brings us back to one of my unpublishable letters to the Japan Times. The editors probably did me a favor because even if they may have agreed with me, they didn’t want to get me into hot water or get their newspaper shut down by the Jewish crime network for opening an honest discussion about who was ultimately behind 911: the organized Jewish crime network.


    It appears that what drives your opposition to nuclear power is that you think it’s a plot by international Jewish capital. You believe there was a secret Israeli nuclear weapons facility at Fukushima – nuclear weapons being, in your eyes, a big Jewish plot to devastate the planet to allow the Jews to…er…

    To be fair, in the big fight between anti-Semite Jeff Rense and anti-Semite Henry Makow over what caused the Tohoku earthquake, you’ve sided with Rense in that after careful consideration, you find the suggestion that it was caused by The Jews exploding a nuclear bomb under the ocean “unsubstantiated”. So you’re not all bad.

    Richard Wilcox “PhD”, what’s it like being a full-on Nazi? I don’t think I’ve ever met one before.

    At the end of the day, this isn’t really even ad
    . When you say “UN”, it’s important for people to understand you mean “The Jews”.

  • Sam Gilman

    By the way, Richard, I see that not only have you got the article at rense dot com now deleted,you’re going around trying to get all other versions of it deleted too. It had been reproduced in all sorts of grim places.

    Sorry, but you were too late. There are also webcrawling archives with long memories. And screenshots. And straightforward saving of the webpage, which I still had open when you got it deleted.

    I’ve also cached a few other things you wrote, including comments on the site realjewnews dot com and the “proudly antisemitic” therebel dot org.

    I’m aware you may feel you’re being got at simply for having certain views. It may well feed into your persecution complex. But that’s the problem with being a Nazi in this day and age. People tend not to give you a break about it.

    Oh, and I’m not Jewish. Figure that one out for yourself.