Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change

James Hansen, Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira and Tom Wigley co-authored an article entitled Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change, that was published by The Guardian during the Paris COP.  In it, they argue that “to solve the climate problem, policy must be based on facts and not prejudice.  Alongside renewables, Nuclear will make the difference between the world missing crucial climate targets or achieving them.”

Each of these venerable climate scientists has reknown expertise in an area of climate science and none are associated even loosely with the nuclear industry. Yet, perhaps by virtue of their ability to crunch the numbers, calculate quantities and evaluate trend lines, they see the writing on the wall. By any measure, they could have titled this article “The Other Inconvenient Truth: We need nuclear power.”

It is a rare thing and for that reason, almost shocking, that four such respected scientists would put their names to a call for a particular solution, because scientists too often consider themselves mere interpreters of data. In this case, their interpretations of the data compelled these scientists to step out of their comfort zone to clarify what the data calls for: the bigger clean energy guns nuclear power provides.

This article inspired a legion of pronuclear activists. Until this time, almost no one was out there pounding the pavement in support of nuclear energy. But the fact that the same scientist who opened the nation’s eyes to the threat posed by carbon emissions back in 1986, whose testimony to a Congressional committee effectively initated the process by which the United Nations launched the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, called for politicians to recognize nuclear’s critical role, made a major shift in the dynamics for nuclear power.

At the same time, many environmental groups, finding this message just too inconvenient, tragically opted simply to discard this guidance. Many, contrary to their avowed assertion that they care to address climate change, have even continued working to prematurely shutter existing nuclear and allow natural gas to mushroom instead.

“To solve the climate problem, policy must be based on facts and not on prejudice. The climate system cares about greenhouse gas emissions – not about whether energy comes from renewable power or abundant nuclear power. Some have argued that it is feasible to meet all of our energy needs with renewables. The 100% renewable scenarios downplay or ignore the intermittency issue by making unrealistic technical assumptions, and can contain high levels of biomass and hydroelectric power at the expense of true sustainability. Large amounts of nuclear power would make it much easier for solar and wind to close the energy gap.

The climate issue is too important for us to delude ourselves with wishful thinking. Throwing tools such as nuclear out of the box constrains humanity’s options and makes climate mitigation more likely to fail. We urge an all-of-the-above approach that includes increased investment in renewables combined with an accelerated deployment of new nuclear reactors.”

Please read the full article published more than five years ago in The Guardian, Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change, by Drs. James Hansen, Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira and Tom Wigley, published December 3, 2015.