The stories have included some other interesting information that bolster the notion that nuclear energy can make a decided difference in mitigating climate change. Here’s the Detroit News:
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.”
Even the nuclear energy industry doesn’t call nuclear energy a climate woe panacea. I’m pretty sure no one does: and the letter does posit a role for renewable energy – it simply stresses that nuclear energy is here now.
The Hill catches this aspect, too:
Climate activists that oppose nuclear power say scaled-up use of green energy sources like wind and solar power, expanded efficiency, and other tools can bring steep carbon emissions cuts without constructing new nuclear plants.
And climate activists who support nuclear energy say: Do both. It’s not so complicated. It really doesn’t have to be an article of faith to support or oppose nuclear energy.
Ansolabehere has it right: where nuclear energy was once utterly rejected in the environmental movement, it is now “very divisive” – which may not seem like progress but is indeed. It allows scientists as prominent as these to make a case for nuclear energy and not have to give back their environmental decoder rings.
Gristmill’s John Upton writes about their prominence as a value:
Not everyone in the green movement is likely to unreservedly agree with these climate scientists’ call for nuclear action. But with voices of this pedigree getting behind nuclear, you can bet the debate will only get hotter starting … now.
And that’s because nuclear energy is now a permissible topic.
Ars Technical gives a straight report on the letter, but adds a note, again speaking to the issue of prominence: “Full disclosure: Ars has covered the work of Caldeira, Emanuel, Hansen, and Wigley multiple times in the past.”
ThinkProgress took a look and, as you’d expect, did not like the letter much. Much of its response is just boilerplate anti-nuclear stuff with a bit of concern trolling, but this was striking:
A 2007 Keystone report concluded that just one wedge of nuclear power “would require adding on average 14 plants each year for the next 50 years, all the while building an average of 7.4 plants to replace those that will be retired” — plus 10 Yucca Mountains to store the waste.
But we need at least 12 to 14 wedges to avert catastrophic climate change. So it’s pretty safe to say that most of those wedges will be non-nuclear — and most of those can begin aggressive deployment now.
The wedge game! There’s nothing wrong with the wedge game, created by Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow to calculate the elements need to develop an effective carbon emission strategy. But people use it to make complex ideas simple, not to take the full measure of complex issues. Many factors weigh into policy and most of those factors don’t figure into the wedge game. (And I wonder how many turbines it takes – and land mass for those turbines – to make a wedge.)
All of the coverage has been highly respectful of the men who wrote it and their qualification, no matter how much the writers disagree with their view on nuclear energy. Fine – you would expect no less. But it’s great to see the issue engaged. That’s what we were hoping for when we saw this letter – and that’s what we’ve got.