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Curb Climate Change: Buy Less, Go Nuclear

On October 30, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board holds an evidentiary hearing in Crawford, Nebraska, to hear the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s argument that Crow Butte Resources should not be allowed to expand its in situ uranium mining in Dawes County. The board will also take public comment in a “limited appearance” session on October 28 at Chadron State College.

We may need to tell our Oglala Sioux friends to stand down and let us save the planet.

The grim new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says, among other things, that if the globe’s dominant species, whose distinguishing trait now appears to be its capacity for denial, does nothing to bend the curve of anthropogenic climate change, twice as many species lose over half of their habitat, twice as much fishery output may be lost, twice as much ecosystem may transform (do you want to roll the dice that South Dakota becomes scrubland or swamp?), and several hundred million more people may be susceptible to poverty.

Grist summarizes the kitchen-sink policy actions we’ll need to take just to reduce the damage of our decades of mostly heedless burning of fossil fuels and emphasizes that we’ll all have to give up something to save the planet:

…If we want to prevent the likely consequences of climate change — food shortages, forest fires, and mass extinctions — we’ll need to deploy the popular solutions as well as the some of the unpopular ones, the report concludes.

That means turning off coal plants and building lots of renewables, but also devoting more acres to growing biofuels. It means reducing consumption (fly less, drive less, and eat less meat) but also increasing our use of nuclear power.

The danger is so great, in other words, that the IPCC’s team of 91 scientists and policy experts suggest we consider all of the above. Whatever works. They came up with 90 different mixes of solutions that would keep warming limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, but none of them work without biofuels, atomic energy, and reigning in consumerism [Nathanael Johnson, “The U.N.’s Climate Report Has Something to Piss Everyone Off,” Grist, 2018.10.09].

Looks like I’d better keep my computer screen dim, even when plugged in.

The IPCC identifies various downsides to nuclear power, including ongoing risk of nuclear arms proliferation, local thermal pollution of water used for colling nuclear power plants, legacy cost of waste and abandoned reactors, and mixed health impacts:

In spite of the industry’s overall safety track record, a non‐negligible risk for accidents in nuclear power plants and waste treatment facilities remains. The long‐term storage of nuclear waste is a politically fraught subject, with no large‐scale long‐term storage operational worldwide. Negative impacts from upsteam uranium mining and milling are comparable to those of coal, hence replacing fossil fuel combustion by nuclear power would be neutral in that aspect. Increased occurrence of childhood leukaemia in popoulations living within 5 km of nuclear power plants was identified by some studies, even though a direct causal relation to ionizing radiation could not be established and other studies could not confirm any correlation (low evidence/agreement in this issue) [IPCC, “Chapter 5: Sustainable Development, Poverty Eradication and Reducing Inequalities,” Global Warming of 1.5°C, drafted 2018.05.23, released October 2018].

In return, we get stable baseload power supply, less price volatility, nuclear energy jobs, and a third of the carbon emissions we get from gas power plants and a tenth of what burps forth from coal plants.

On the hopeful side, MIT engineers are moving us closer to graduating from nuclear fission to fusion power:

A class exercise at MIT, aided by industry researchers, has led to an innovative solution to one of the longstanding challenges facing the development of practical fusion power plants: how to get rid of excess heat that would cause structural damage to the plant.

The new solution was made possible by an innovative approach to compact fusion reactors, using high-temperature superconducting magnets. This method formed the basis for a massive new research program launched this year at MIT and the creation of an independent startup company to develop the concept. The new design, unlike that of typical fusion plants, would make it possible to open the device’s internal chamber and replace critical components; this capability is essential for the newly proposed heat-draining mechanism [David L. Chandler, “A New Path to Solving a Longstanding Fusion Challenger,” MIT News, 2018.10.09].

The MIT researcher call their design “advanced, robust, and compact”—ARC reactors, just like Iron Man has.

But let’s not think superheroes are going to save us. The immediate solutions will be the technologies we have in hand—nuclear plants, biofuels, energy efficiency—plus a lot of sacrifice—specifically, buying less stuff, driving fewer miles, and accepting some net declines in GDP… with maybe a few more uranium mines and borehole disposal sites.

39 Comments

  1. Jason 2018-10-16 07:22

    ust ahead of a new report from the IPCC, dubbed SR#15 about to be released today, we have this bombshell- a detailed audit shows the surface temperature data is unfit for purpose. The first ever audit of the world’s most important temperature data set (HadCRUT4) has found it to be so riddled with errors and “freakishly improbable data” that it is effectively useless.

    This is what consensus science brings you – groupthink with no quality control.

    HadCRUT4 is the primary global temperature dataset used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to make its dramatic claims about “man-made global warming”. It’s also the dataset at the center of “ClimateGate” from 2009, managed by the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University.

    The audit finds more than 70 areas of concern about data quality and accuracy.

    But according to an analysis by Australian researcher John McLean it’s far too sloppy to be taken seriously even by climate scientists, let alone a body as influential as the IPCC or by the governments of the world.

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/10/11/bombshell-audit-of-global-warming-data-finds-it-riddled-with-errors/

  2. leslie 2018-10-16 07:58

    Feb 2017 NYT “Murky Future of Nuclear Power” says cost vs safety is issue and US potential failure of world leadership and privatization incapability have brought progress to a halt. Borehole wariness locally is similar to Crow Butte and Edgemont area resistance.

    As always Indians trying to protect what is theirs, bring focus to short-term mining for profit that will dump pollution on the public and walk away from inadequate local regulation (eg Brohm’s Superfund mess threatens safety at Gilt Edge gold mine just east of Lead/Deadwood, now back in news).

  3. Donald Pay 2018-10-16 08:27

    Going nuclear? No way.

    Nuclear power doesn’t fit into a democratic free market system. Nuclear power fails in every free market system. It requires massive government subsidies and a huge international bureaucracy to make it work. The only countries that are increasing nuclear power currently are dictatorships and oligarchies, which force nuclear plants on local populations and massively subsidize them. Going nuclear requires going in the direction that Trump would take us: loss of rights, loss of free markets and loss of federalism.

    Don’t believe me? What are we seeing in North Dakota now? Because the Pierce County Commission had the courage to stand up to the borehole test, a bill was put in last year in North Dakota to strip counties of their power to have a say in these nuclear development decisions. That bill didn’t pass, but it has been the subject of a legislative study, and the current proposal is not sitting well with Pierce County and their REPUBLICAN representatives. That’s right: Republicans are leading the charge to stand up for local “consent.” Like more local control, less federal control? Don’t support nuclear power.

    There is no technical solution to the long-term isolation of waste products of nuclear power, which are vastly more dangerous than those of solar and wind, and even more problematic than coal. I doubt there ever will be. Efforts to “recycle” nuclear waste actually increase the volume and danger of those wastes. Wastes from solar and wind are or will be recycled. Since there is no technical solution to the nuclear waste problem, the commonsense conservative and liberal response is obvious: don’t create more wastes with no disposal solution.

    We are now over 70 years into the nuclear age. The only good thing that has happened as a result of nuclear power is that opposition to it helped crack the communist Wall in Eastern Europe. It is a failed 20th century technology. It is far better to use 21st century solutions like wind and solar. They create far more jobs and could produce far more energy. Combine that with better efficiency standards and we solve the climate problem.

  4. mike from iowa 2018-10-16 08:34

    Curious about WUWT website, accuracy and bias?

    https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/watts-up-with-that/

    You have every right to be skeptical and downright disbelieving, not only because Jason drug it up, but, just for general principles. Right wingers depend on, shall we say, unverified/unverifiable info.

  5. Donald Pay 2018-10-16 08:42

    By the way, my electric utility informed me in their recent newsletter that my bill will decrease next year because they are bringing more wind and solar projects on line. If they were bringing nuclear power online it would vastly increase.

  6. Darin Larson 2018-10-16 09:08

    I love Jason’s laugh of the day post. A Phd candidate publishes a paper and suddenly 97% of the world’s scientists are wrong. Millions and millions of data points conclusively establish the fact that our planet is warming but a graduate student finds some errors in a handful of data points and suddenly we are to question the work of thousands of Phd’s who have been working on this issue for decades. It’s a vast Phd conspiracy I assume spearheaded by Al Gore and Hillary Clinton in concert with China and the United Nations.

    Jason, I think you should get the word out to your flat-earth science denying friends that the debate on whether the earth is warming is over. What you have left to debate is humanity’s role in the warming (that’s pretty well established as well) and whether we are screwed anyway because of what we have already done to our atmosphere so we might as well just keep partying like its 1999.

  7. Robert McTaggart 2018-10-16 12:46

    Do we want to solve climate change or not? We need nuclear energy to provide a lot of the carbon-free energy that we will need. Powering the world out of poverty will not happen without a lot of energy.

    Cost is certainly an issue. But you cannot ding nuclear for costs if your policy prevents them from adapting and building the smaller reactors that work well with renewables.

    It escapes me why the metric is not costs per kilowatt-hour, if not total cradle-to-grave costs over a 100 year time frame…oh I know why…because nuclear does much better in that comparison! That includes the costs for throwing away larger volumes of waste and not recycling, and the costs of needing to emit carbon from natural gas as a backup.

    And avoiding small nuclear as a back-up for renewables is a problem. Once we squeeze out what efficiency we can get (and nothing is ever 100% efficient), our energy use will grow…particularly if we demand electric cars.

    Any geopolitically, would we rather be dependent on oil from the Middle East than power electric cars with nuclear energy? Really (and I mean like a Seth Meyers kind of “Really?” ).

  8. Jason 2018-10-16 12:52

    We’re on mission impossible to solve global warming

    By Robert J. Samuelson
    Columnist
    October 14 at 7:34 PM

    What is to be done?

    My own preference is messier and subject to all the above shortcomings. I would gradually impose a stiff fossil-fuel tax (producing not a 10 or 15 percent price increase but a doubling or maybe a tripling of prices) to discourage fossil-fuel use and encourage new energy sources

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/

    You will have to look up the link yourself since I don’t have access.

    That should really help the lower and middle class.

  9. Donald Pay 2018-10-16 13:05

    Jason is stuck in the 1970s. He’s like that old drunk uncle that says, “far out,” and you think to yourself, “Hey, how were the drugs back then?” The world has moved on, Jason. Try to keep up.

    The global climate change debate was a real thing in the 1970s. One camp staked out a position in the global cooling side, and they had the upper hand for a few years. The problem was they never really proposed a convincing mechanism for global cooling. Science moved on, models were refined, data gets collected, new studies come out and a new hypothesis was developed. Scientists proposed global warming. It better fit long-term data and there was driver, greeenhouse gases. By the early 1980s the data and models had piled up on the global warming side, and it keeps piling up. What little controversy about the science is now is related to fine points of the modeling or data collection, not the overall conclusion. That controversy is a necessary part of science, but people with little understanding or a special interest to protect or a political ideology to push try manufacture doubt, when there is none.

    There is no question now that the global climate is warming. There will always be refinements to models that can be made, but there is no question that greenhouse gases are a major driving force.

  10. Donald Pay 2018-10-16 13:13

    Jason,

    I used to follow this closely. Every carbon tax measure I have seen has a mechanism through the income tax that provides some relief from the carbon tax for the poor and middle class, as well as a means to encourage lower cost renewable sources. Both of those mechanisms would about average out.

    You could do a similar thing with an idea that came out of a conservative think tank: cap and trade.

  11. bearcreekbat 2018-10-16 14:01

    I read Jason’s link. The author’s quarrel seems to be with how to charactize exactly what 97% of climate scientists agree upon. The article states that the only real agreement is:

    If you look at the literature, the specific meaning of the 97% claim is: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that there is a global warming trend and that human beings are the main cause–that is, that we are over 50% responsible.

    That statement alone indicates that Jason lied about the truthfulness of Darin’s statement and misrepresented the actual content of Jason’s linked Forbes’ article. While the Forbes’ author is critical of particular scientific methods or some of the published descriptions characterizing the conclusions of 97% of scientists, nothing in the article even remotely suggests that any of Darin’s statements are inaccurate, let alone a lie.

    One point that the author omits addressing is the correct percentages (presumably less than 97%) of scientitists he believes have accurately stated we need to cut back emissions, etc. If not 97%, then perhaps 95%, or 85%, or 75%, etc? It seems clear that the author cannot attempt to rebut the conclusion that a very hefty majority of climate scientists have concluded our present actions, if left unaddressed, constitute a significant danger to our children and grandchildren, and maybe even some of our current younger adults.

  12. dave 2018-10-16 14:51

    Alexander Joseph Epstein is an American author, energy theorist, and industrial policy pundit. He is the founder and president of the Center for Industrial Progress, a for-profit think tank located in San Diego, California. Wikipedia

    hmmmmm…. for-profit think tank….. who is paying? bias?

  13. mike from iowa 2018-10-16 15:26

    Here is the link for Jason’s comment @ 12:52. I ran it through Tiny URL and shrank it from 172 characters to 28:

    https://tinyurl.com/ya6ry3sg

    Not sure what his point was and his copy/pasted paragraph was towards the end of the column.

  14. Porter Lansing 2018-10-16 16:04

    You could take a hundred seventh graders and ask them to read The FreePress for only one week. By Saturday, ninety nine would agree that Jason’s assertions and links are consistently invalid. (The other one would be asleep.) To assess Jason’s lies and what his intellect means to the blog, I’ll quote his hero. “Who cares?”

  15. Robert McTaggart 2018-10-16 16:41

    I am not sold on carbon taxes or cap and trade. Devil is in the details…will the monies support infrastructure that reduces the total carbon that we emit (despite economic and/or population growth).

    Just make more clean energy sans carbon whenever people need it or want it.

  16. bearcreekbat 2018-10-16 16:50

    To clarify, my earlier post at 14:01 only addresses Jason’s Forbes’ link above at 12:18. I have not reviewed his second Washingtion Post link as I am not currently a paid subscriber to WaPo.

  17. mike from iowa 2018-10-16 17:16

    bcb- try the tiny url link. This is not behind a pay wall.

  18. mike from iowa 2018-10-16 17:18

    The link Jason had went to a home page or something and I couldn’t find the article he wanted link to. So I found it by investigative journalism and voila!

  19. Donald Pay 2018-10-16 17:20

    The details matter. That was my point. The carbon tax or cap and trade are designed to capture the socialized costs of carbon. Rather than having, for example the atmosphere providing a free service to the coal utilities that has a present and future cost to us all, a tax or cap and trade attempts to monetize that free service in order to reduce current and future input.

    It’s pretty basic stuff, but it requires thinking of our environment the way an economist or entrepreneur would. The environment is providing a service that has costs, but no one is charging for it. Why? It was an interesting concept back when conservatives thought it up and proposed it as a way to solve the problem of chloro-flurocarbons degrading the ozone layer. Environmentalists first reacted against the idea, but then came around to realizing it might actually work.

  20. bearcreekbat 2018-10-16 17:39

    mfi, I tried your tiny URL a couple times but same result for me – no access unless I buy a subscription (it’s a pretty cheap price).

  21. Porter Lansing 2018-10-16 17:54

    Hi, BCB. If you sign up for the Daily Headlines e-mailed to you daily, you get ten free articles a month as well as truncated versions of the days news stories. It’s free. The NYTimes does the same thing. Here’s where you sign up.
    https://subscribe.washingtonpost.com/newsletters/#/newsletters

  22. chris 2018-10-16 18:01

    Hey whatever happened to the SD Republican hucksters’ plan to use cheap SD electricity to run their cronies’ cryptocurrency mining scams? That was the mumbling Marty Jackley was apparently making during his failed primary run. And it is the mumbling the new mayor of Sioux Falls was making during his run. Have they all gone quiet? Getting new investors on board?

  23. bearcreekbat 2018-10-16 18:11

    Thanks Porter!

  24. Jason 2018-10-16 18:14

    Bear must not have read the whole article.

    I will post it here.

    Where did most of the 97 percent come from, then? Cook had created a category called “explicit endorsement without quantification”—that is, papers in which the author, by Cook’s admission, did not say whether 1 percent or 50 percent or 100 percent of the warming was caused by man. He had also created a category called “implicit endorsement,” for papers that imply (but don’t say) that there is some man-made global warming and don’t quantify it. In other words, he created two categories that he labeled as endorsing a view that they most certainly didn’t.

    The 97 percent claim is a deliberate misrepresentation designed to intimidate the public—and numerous scientists whose papers were classified by Cook protested:
    “Cook survey included 10 of my 122 eligible papers. 5/10 were rated incorrectly. 4/5 were rated as endorse rather than neutral.”

    —Dr. Richard Tol

    “That is not an accurate representation of my paper . . .”

    —Dr. Craig Idso

    “Nope . . . it is not an accurate representation.”

    —Dr. Nir Shaviv

    “Cook et al. (2013) is based on a strawman argument . . .”

    —Dr. Nicola Scafetta

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexepstein/2015/01/06/97-of-climate-scientists-agree-is-100-wrong/#2a2560303f9f

  25. Jason 2018-10-16 18:15

    97% Study Falsely Classifies Scientists’ Papers, according to the scientists that published them

    To get to the truth, I emailed a sample of scientists whose papers were used in the study and asked them if the categorization by Cook et al. (2013) is an accurate representation of their paper. Their responses are eye opening and evidence that the Cook et al. (2013) team falsely classified scientists’ papers as “endorsing AGW”, apparently believing to know more about the papers than their authors.

    http://www.populartechnology.net/2013/05/97-study-falsely-classifies-scientists.html

  26. Porter Lansing 2018-10-16 18:16

    Chris … There’s not nearly enough cheap energy in S.D. for crypto mining. It takes the massive amounts only obtained free from The Columbia river in WA (residents near the river pay nothing for electricity) or in Iceland where thermal is more than abundant.
    BCB … The ten free a month even work with Google searches of WAPO articles.

  27. Robert McTaggart 2018-10-16 18:22

    The carbon tax and cap and trade attempt to employ market forces to change behavior. However, consumers cannot plug into a different grid that offers a lower carbon output and a lower carbon tax whenever they demand energy. Instead we only shift the carbon around instead of not emitting it.

    The closest we come to a market-based correction is setting different prices at different times of the day to defer energy use to when renewables are available. You can do that with some things, but not others.

    Primarily consumers are going to try and reduce their carbon tax via efficiency or not using energy in the first place…and it is the latter that is the problem if you want to promote economic growth.

  28. bearcreekbat 2018-10-16 19:03

    Jason’s new linked article by “Andrew” purports to identify about 15 scientists (if I counted corrected) that indicate their papers were incorrectly classified in the Cook study. Assuming for the sake of argument that this is accurate, it seems relevant that the Cook study apparently analyzed “11 944 papers written by 29 083 authors and published in 1980 journals.”

    The abstract states:

    We analyze the evolution of the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, examining 11 944 climate abstracts from 1991–2011 matching the topics ‘global climate change’ or ‘global warming’. We find that 66.4% of abstracts expressed no position on AGW, 32.6% endorsed AGW, 0.7% rejected AGW and 0.3% were uncertain about the cause of global warming. Among abstracts expressing
    a position on AGW, 97.1% endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming. In a second phase of this study, we invited authors to rate their own papers. Compared to abstract ratings, a smaller percentage of self-rated papers expressed no position on AGW (35.5%). Among self-rated papers expressing a position on AGW, 97.2% endorsed the consensus. For both abstract ratings and authors’ self-ratings, the percentage of endorsements among papers expressing a position on AGW marginally increased over time. Our analysis indicates that the number of papers rejecting the consensus on AGW is a vanishingly small proportion of the published research.

    http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024/pdf

    If “Andrew” is correct, the question remains, if not 97%, then what is the percentage of these scientists that would agree they have concluded that there is in fact global warming and that one of the causes is human activity? 96%, 95%, etc? It seems as if the percentage quarrel is an attempt to distract rather than face the underlying problem that a strong majority of climate scientists have recognized.

    And why isn’t the full name and qualifications of the author of Jason’s linked article given? It appears to have been put together by someone named “Andrew?”

    As for Jason’s quote from the earlier Forbes’ article, I saw nothing that supported his claim against Darin.

  29. mike from iowa 2018-10-16 20:00

    Sorry about that, bcb. I don’t have a subscription and the link works fine for me. Such is life.

  30. Darin Larson 2018-10-16 21:45

    BCB, Thanks for sticking up for me in my absence from DFP earlier today. Jason’s response to my original post is telling. He doesn’t stick up for his citation to work by a Phd student picking nits in order to make a mountain out of a mole hill. He focuses on my 97% comment as if anything less than 97% proves that climate change is a hoax. Oh, I guess if it’s only 95% of climate scientists then we can go back to belching burnt coal into the atmosphere. No worries!

    Jason’s typical M.O. is to make an assertion that is quickly refuted. Then, he ignores the original point and starts a new front in his one person war on the truth.

  31. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-10-17 06:03

    On the global policymaking level, if we could get everyone (and at this point, that just means getting the United States, because everyone else is still sticking with the Paris agreement and real science) to take serious action on increasing energy conservation, wind and solar and other renewable installation, and reduced consumerism, I would accept increased reliance on nuclear power as part of the global effort to save the planet.

  32. Jason 2018-10-17 07:09

    Under the Paris deal, each country put forward a proposal to curtail its greenhouse-gas emissions between now and 2030. But no major industrialized country is currently on track to fulfill its pledge, according to new data from the Climate Action Tracker. Not the European Union. Not Canada. Not Japan. And not the United States, which under President Trump is still planning to leave the Paris agreement by 2020.

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/11/06/climate/world-emissions-goals-far-off-course.html

  33. Jason 2018-10-17 07:13

    I wonder how China and the rest of the world is doing on their part?

  34. jerry 2018-10-17 09:50

    Yes, with Ford Motor Company. “Ford Motor is counting on the SUV – and a new electric car tie-up – to turn around its flagging fortunes in the world’s largest car market. The Territory model will be the first of several SUVs Ford is rolling out in China to win customers who are passing on the company’s ageing line-up amid a trade war that has further dented demand by boosting prices of imported models.

    Ford also plans to launch a range of electric small cars in China with Anhui Zotye Automobile to tap the growing demand for new-energy vehicles, Peter Fleet, Ford’s president of Asia-Pacific, said on a conference call Tuesday.

    The efforts are key to turn around sagging sales for the Dearborn, Michigan-based carmaker in China, where sputtering economic growth and a tit-for-tat tariff war with the US are threatening to push the car market into its first contraction since at least the 1990s.

    Ford, Volkswagen and other carmakers are still pouring in billions of dollars to make electric cars in China as policy initiatives encourage more consumers to adopt the pollution-free vehicles.”

    Ford clearly sees that the American market is soft and going backwards, China and Europe are where the big breakthroughs will be. Hydrogen trains made in France on German railways as we read.

  35. Robert McTaggart 2018-10-20 11:36

    Nuclear Pride Fest in Germany???

    https://www.nucnet.org/all-the-news/2018/10/18/in-anti-nuclear-germany-environmentalists-get-ready-to-rally-for-nuclear

    “They say the Nuclear Pride Fest will be the first time environmentalists have rallied in favour of nuclear. Their goal is both to urge the continued operation of nuclear plants and to confront what they say is an irrational stigma.

    Germany is closing its fleet of commercial nuclear power units, but organisers of Sunday’s rally say this is leading to huge environmental damage, including the destruction of ancient forest to mine coal and by the pollution released when that coal is burned.”

    “They note that France, which has a fleet of 58 commercial nuclear plants, produces twice as much energy from clean sources as Germany and consumers pay half the price for their power.”

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