Friday, June 14, 2013

A Brief Review of Pandora's Promise

Robert Stone behind the camera.
It was back in 2006 that NEI Nuclear Notes published its first post with the title, "Another Environmentalist for Nuclear Energy." At the time, I could certainly have understood how a statement like that might seem more than a bit unbelievable.

Environmentalists? Supporting? Nuclear? Energy? Wasn't the environmental community unanimously opposed to nuclear energy? 

But what I had begun to see at the time was a growing understanding on the part of a number of thoughtful people about the size and scope of the challenge before mankind. How do you support a world with a growing population that aspires to enjoy the same standard of living that we've grown accustomed to in the developed world? And how do you do it without causing catastrophic damage to the planet?

It's was that conundrum that led environmentalists like Patrick Moore, James Lovelock and the late Rev. Hugh Montefiore to reconsider their position on nuclear energy. What began as a trickle has since become a flood, which is why filmmaker Robert Stone has spent the past several years making Pandora's Promise, a film tracing the journey of five environmentalists as they reconsidered their beliefs about nuclear energy.

Many of the individuals featured in the film will be familiar to the readers of NEI Nuclear Notes. Stewart Brand is the founder of the Whole Earth Catalog and one of the leading lights in the counter-cultural movement of the 1960s. Richard Rhodes is a journalist well known for his work chronicling the race to build the first atomic bomb. Gwyneth Cravens is an author who cut her teeth fighting the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant on Long Island in the 1970s. Mark Lynas is a veteran of the U.K. environmental movement who at times has been best known for episodes of bombastic public behavior.

So what can you expect out of Pandora's Promise? As I wrote earlier this week, it was impossible not to be heartened to see nuclear energy talked about in terms of the benefits it delivers instead of its supposed shortcomings, and to see that story be told in such a skillful manner. I think the world has a lot to learn from the five principal figures profiled in the film. It takes a lot of guts to seriously examine your beliefs, and decide, as Brand does near the start of the film, "that everything you thought about nuclear energy was wrong."

The driver for their change of heart, of course, is the fear that rising levels of atmospheric carbon are contributing to potentially calamitous changes in the earth's climate. Here at NEI, we're not climate scientists and have never taken a position on anthropogenic global warming. But like Pandora's gang of five, we've come to the conclusion that if you're looking for a zero emission source of baseload power, then nuclear energy is the only option that fits the bill. As Stone himself said in a post-screening discussion on Monday night in Pleasantville, NY, "To take nuclear out of the equation when we need it most is irresponsible."

Pandora's Promise opened in New York City on Wednesday night, and premieres in 15 other cities nationwide today, with additional screenings being added all the time.




10 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Here at NEI, we're not climate scientists and have never taken a position on anthropogenic global warming."

You are not physicians, but do you take a position on whether human reproduction occurs through sex or via a stork?

The scientific consensus is that anthropogenic global warming is and has been happening.

Take a position which reflects the scientific consensus. EVERYONE should do that.

Everyone is also free to publish any study they've done in a scholarly scientific journal to shift the scientific consensus.

We should all be proud and stand behind the scientific process and denounce those who work to undermine it.

Bob Applebaum

Don Kosloff said...

If everyone takes a positon which reflects the "scientific consensus", then the scientific method (or process) ceases to exist. Everyone should continually challenge any claim of "scientific consensus". If everyone takes a position which reflects the "scientific consensus", then no one would ever do a study that might shift the "scientific consensus". That is especially true when a "scientific consensus" is driven by government grant money and feelings and when the people who create the "scientific consensus" hide their research and seek to prevent other scientists from publishing anything that might shift the "scientific consensus." Also, when a "scientific consensus" has no experimental support and is driven by failed models, it is particularly important that such a consensus be vigorously challenged. If such a consensus is robust, then it would be able to withstand any challenge.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I don't do conspiracy theories. I already wrote that everyone is free to publish any study to shift the scientific consensus. There is no guarantee it will be shifted, otherwise the scientific process (filtering out bad ideas for better ideas) would come to a halt.

If you have any evidence to refute anthropogenic climate change, go publish.

Bob Applebaum

Karen Street said...

I reacted to the same statement. One doesn't have opinions on facts, one reports them.

Do you have opinions on whether Earth is a sphere (more or less)? No, you report the facts.

Why does NEI have such difficulty with this? World Nuclear Association does not, IAEA does not.

Anonymous said...

Karen, it's because IAEA and WNA don't have members who are also invested in fossil technologies.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps NEI is more interested in engineering and science. As for peer-reviewed papers doubting the link between anthropogenic CO2 emissions and climate, here's a compilation of more than 1000 such papers: http://www.populartechnology.net/2009/10/peer-reviewed-papers-supporting.html

As for the consensus, here's a petition signed by more than 30,000 scientists and engineers similarly doubting the hazards of anthropogenic CO2 production:
http://www.petitionproject.org/

I cannot personally sign it because I work for a company that sometimes does business with NASA and I have no desire to get my company blacklisted.

My own comment is to ask a question. If you doubted the efficacy of astrology, would you confine your questions to only include professional astrologers?

CAGW is not a conspiracy, it's a culture

Anonymous said...

No, getting lists of people who doubt the anthropogenic global warming is not how science is done.

You don't understand the scientific method.

Bog Applebaum

Don Kosloff said...

It appears that, for some people, the scientific method gets science done by getting lists of people who feel that anthropogenic global warming is happening while avoiding comparing climate computer models to empirical evidence. It also appears to include a lot of wild projections about what the negative effects of anthropogenic global warming might be. Oh, and by the way, it is better to call it "anthropogenic global climate change", that way any observed variation in climate conditions can be blamed on "anthropogenic global climate change". "Global warming" is just to restrictive.
Personally, I prefer Dr. James Lovelock's assertion that 300 nuclear power plants must be immediately built in Great Britain alone. I realize he may have backed off a bit from that, but why take any chances.

Mark Lynas said...

I don't get why so many pro-nukers are also climate change deniers. If CO2 is no problem, we might as well burn coal and gas forever and give up on nuclear fission, given all the opposition from greens. It doesn't make sense, except as an old political position reflecting the pro-nuke heritage on the anti-environmental right. I see Pandora's Promise therefore as a challenge to all vested ideologies - not just to the greens. I hope that comes through with my participation in the film.

Don Kosloff said...

Mark,
How many is "so many"? Do you have any data to support what you assert about what you "don't get"? If a person supports the scientific method by maintaining the appropriate skepticism of an unsupported theory, does that make such a person a "climate change denier"? Could CO2 be a problem without being the problem that some assert that it is? Do you actually know the past and present poltical positions of any of the people who you charactize as climate change deniers? You assert that the downside of burning coal and gas relates only to CO2. Do you think that natural gas explosions (e.g., New London, Texas) and other actual disasters like Buffalo Hollow have no impact on the human environment? What about Donora and the Black Fog in London? How many "Greens" even know what it is like to live in an area where a lot of coal is burned or mined? Better yet how many people live in an area where coal was mined but now it is burning underground on its own? Do you remember the "Greens" cheering when Zimmer was converted from a nuke to dirt burner?