TRUE believers in the idea that windmills and solar panels offer the only responsible way to heat and cool the planet are out to end any other forms of electricity generation. Atop their list, of course, is coal. Natural gas, once deemed “the clean alternative” to coal, isn't clean enough and so it's also in the crosshairs.
And so is nuclear energy, which makes environmentalists nervous because of the risk of reactor meltdowns. Remember Three Mile Island in 1979? They do! Not to mention concerns over waste storage and the security of nuclear material.
But green forces have received interesting news from scientists they would usually consider sympathetic to the cause. Four of the world's leading climate scientists, men who have warned of the dangers posed to Earth by climate change, sent a letter recently to environmental groups and politicians. The message: Wind and solar energy won't forestall extreme global warming, and they need to consider nuclear power as a way to reduce fossil fuel pollution.
It isn't realistic, they said, to believe renewable energy alone will be able to keep the lights on and the air conditioners running within the next few decades.
“Those energy sources cannot scale up fast enough” to provide the amount of affordable and reliable power the world needs, the scientists said. They added that “with the planet warming and carbon dioxide emissions rising faster than ever, we cannot afford to turn away from any technology” that could potentially reduce greenhouse gases.
“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” to help build a new global energy supply, the letter said.
To be clear, these aren't men who have been squishy about their belief that the planet is warming. One of the letter signers is James Hansen, who formerly worked at NASA and has for 30 years been publishing research on the threat of global warming. Earlier this year, Hansen was arrested during a climate protest in Washington, D.C.
The other letter signers are Tom Wigley of the University of Adelaide in Australia, a climate researcher for 30 years; Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Ken Calderia of the Carnegie Institute, who's contributed to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which has long warned of the threat from greenhouse gases.
These guys really want a cooler planet. But environmentalists need to understand that “realistically, they cannot on their own solve the world's energy problems,” Emanuel told The Associated Press.
Hansen was more blunt, telling AP: “They're cheating themselves if they keep believing this fiction that all we need” is renewable energy.
Fiction. His word, not ours.