The Real Climate Consensus: Nuclear Power

The scientific debate between warmists and skeptics makes for good media headlines, but policymakers and the American public should be told more about an important consensus between the two camps: the desirability of nuclear power.

A large number of prominent scientists warning about a climate crisis publicly support nuclear power as a zero-emissions power source. A large number of Democratic public policymakers warning about a climate crisis support zero-emissions nuclear power.

And conservatives and skeptics who warn about the high costs and unreliability of wind and solar power support nuclear power as a reliable, cost-effective zero-emissions power source.

Scientists across the political spectrum support nuclear power. The Huffington Post explains why:

“Some 65% of AAS scientists favor building more nuclear power plants—a clear though not overwhelming consilience. Why? Because nuclear power generates green energy and does not rely on fossil fuels. A group of scientists, journalists and policy wonks calling themselves eco-modernists, have laid out a green case for nuclear energy in numerous forums.

“Nuclear fission today represents the only present-day zero-carbon technology with the demonstrated ability to meet most, if not all, of the energy demands of a modern economy,” the group declared in what has come to be known as ‘An Ecomodernist Manifesto.'”

Many of the most prominent scientists advocating government action to address global warming support nuclear power. The list of scientists who have voiced support for nuclear power is a virtual who’s who of prominent warmists. Here is a small sample of such scientists:

  • James Hansen – James Hansen is considered the godfather of the global warming movement. Hansen was the star witness in the 1988 U.S. Senate hearings that brought the global warming issue into the public consciousness. Hansen led NASA’s Goddard Center – the arm of NASA dealing most directly with climate issues – for more than 30 years. He is currently Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is also well known for leading civil disobedience protests against coal power plants.
  • Kerry Emanuel – MIT meteorologist and climate scientist Kerry Emanuel is one of the world’s most knowledgeable experts on atmospheric science, with a special focus on hurricane research. He is also one of the media’s most sought-after experts regarding global warming issues. Emanuel, who self-identifies as a Republican, has voiced doubts about his party’s direction as a result of its position on global warming. E
  • Tom Wigley – Tom Wigley is a senior scientist with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), a group of more than 100 universities with a special focus on atmospheric science. Wigley, who is also a fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is “one of the world’s foremost experts on climate change and one of the most highly cited scientists in the discipline,” according to UCAR.
  • Ken Caldeira – Ken Caldeira is an atmospheric scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology. New Scientist named him a “science hero” for his work on mitigating carbon dioxide emissions. Caldeira has served as a co-author of comprehensive climate reports published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.S. National Academies of Sciences.
  • Richard Muller – Richard Muller, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, runs the Berkeley Earth climate program. He is also a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Muller generated media headlines by writing editorials in the Wall Street Journalemphasizing that Berkeley Earth temperature compilations support significant recent global warming.
  • Richard Somerville – Richard Somerville is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He is also on the Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which lists global warming as serious threat to human survival. Somerville frequently writes articles advising warmists how to press their argument, such as “Thanksgiving advice: How to deal with climate change denying Uncle Pete.” Distinguishing nuclear weapons – whose existence is strongly opposed by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists – from nuclear power, Somerville told the 2015 annual meeting of the American Nuclear Society that we will not be able to address global warming without a significant increase in nuclear power.
  • Ernest Moniz – Ernest Moniz, a professor of physics at MIT and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative before becoming Secretary of Energy under former president Barack Obama, is one of the most vocal scientists supporting nuclear power as a necessary means to address global warming. For example, “Electricity generates more carbon dioxide in the United States than does transportation or industry, and nuclear power is the largest source of carbon-free electricity in the country,” Moniz wrote in Foreign Affairs.
  • Pushker Kharecha – Pushker Kharecha is an associate research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute. He is also Deputy Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Many prominent Democratic policymakers support nuclear power for its zero-emissions power.

These include:

  • Former President Barack Obama (“Investing in nuclear energy remains a necessary step” to address climate change.)
  • Obama administration EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy
  • U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
  • U.S. Senator Al Franken
  • U.S. Senator Corey Booker
  • U.S. Senator Tom Carper
  • U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (though she emphasizes the importance of safe disposal of nuclear waste)

Other prominent environmentalists and global warming activists who support nuclear power include former Executive Director of Greenpeace Stephen Tindale, former President of Greenpeace Canada Patrick Moore, former Labor Party Chair of the UK Environment Agency Chris Smith, former Green Party candidate for the UK Parliament Chris Gooddall, and the UK Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change Sir David King.

Tying together these scientists, environmentalists, and Democratic policymakers is the realization that nuclear power is an essential component of any serious effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Conservatives and skeptics similarly support nuclear power. Nevertheless, the government has erected and maintained monumental roadblocks to nuclear power generation.

The federal government has imposed prohibitively expensive regulatory requirements on nuclear power plants. The federal bureaucracy takes years to review proposals for innovative new nuclear power designs that minimize or eliminate nuclear waste and meltdown concerns. At the state government level, so-called renewable portfolio standards mandate ineffective wind and solar power while discouraging nuclear power.

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Comments (3)

  • Avatar

    David Lewis

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    If climate change were a real problem, nuclear power would be the only way to go. Wind and solar are more expensive and unreliable, and can’t generate enough power to meet the needs of an industrial world.

    However, releasing carbon dioxide is not a problem and fossil fuels are cheaper than nuclear power. Therefore we should mainly rely on fossil fuels. However, nuclear power should be part of our energy mix so the technology is fully developed to keep our options open.

    Reply

  • Avatar

    Rhee

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    The big problem of US nuclear energy is the entrenched anti-nuke bureaucracy that makes it impossible to build plants. Thus SC just abandoned a project partway this week. Unless and until those bureaucratic regulations are abolished, nuclear will dwindle away. Sad that the great grand hopes of the atom have come to naught in the last half century.

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  • Avatar

    Sonnyhill

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    No one would go so far out on a limb to say fossil fuels are infinite. Nuclear is feasible far into the future and should continue to be part of the energy mix. What if all the money squandered on Green Dreams was spent on fusion development?

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