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Leading environmentalist says only nuclear power can save the planet.

'Only nuclear power can now halt global warming'
Leading environmentalist urges radical rethink on climate change
By Michael McCarthy Environment Editor
24 May 2004


Global warming is now advancing so swiftly that only a massive expansion of nuclear power as the world's main energy source can prevent it overwhelming civilisation, the scientist and celebrated Green guru, James Lovelock, says.

His call will cause huge disquiet for the environmental movement. It has long considered the 84-year-old radical thinker among its greatest heroes, and sees climate change as the most important issue facing the world, but it has always regarded opposition to nuclear power as an article of faith. Last night the leaders of both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth rejected his call.

Professor Lovelock, who achieved international fame as the author of the Gaia hypothesis, the theory that the Earth keeps itself fit for life by the actions of living things themselves, was among the first researchers to sound the alarm about the threat from the greenhouse effect.

He was in a select group of scientists who gave an initial briefing on climate change to Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Cabinet at 10 Downing Street in April 1989.

He now believes recent climatic events have shown the warming of the atmosphere is proceeding even more rapidly than the scientists of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) thought it would, in their last report in 2001.

On that basis, he says, there is simply not enough time for renewable energy, such as wind, wave and solar power - the favoured solution of the Green movement - to take the place of the coal, gas and oil-fired power stations whose waste gas, carbon dioxide (CO2), is causing the atmosphere to warm.

He believes only a massive expansion of nuclear power, which produces almost no CO2, can now check a runaway warming which would raise sea levels disastrously around the world, cause climatic turbulence and make agriculture unviable over large areas. He says fears about the safety of nuclear energy are irrational and exaggerated, and urges the Green movement to drop its opposition.

In today's Independent, Professor Lovelock says he is concerned by two climatic events in particular: the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which will raise global sea levels significantly, and the episode of extreme heat in western central Europe last August, accepted by many scientists as unprecedented and a direct result of global warming.

These are ominous warning signs, he says, that climate change is speeding, but many people are still in ignorance of this. Important among the reasons is "the denial of climate change in the US, where governments have failed to give their climate scientists the support they needed".

He compares the situation to that in Europe in 1938, with the Second World War looming, and nobody knowing what to do. The attachment of the Greens to renewables is "well-intentioned but misguided", he says, like the Left's 1938 attachment to disarmament when he too was a left-winger.

He writes today: "I am a Green, and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy."

His appeal, which in effect is asking the Greens to make a bargain with the devil, is likely to fall on deaf ears, at least at present.

"Lovelock is right to demand a drastic response to climate change," Stephen Tindale, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said last night. "He's right to question previous assumptions.

"But he's wrong to think nuclear power is any part of the answer. Nuclear creates enormous problems, waste we don't know what to do with; radioactive emissions; unavoidable risk of accident and terrorist attack."

Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, said: "Climate change and radioactive waste both pose deadly long-term threats, and we have a moral duty to minimise the effects of both, not to choose between them."
23 May 2004 21:02

homepage: homepage: http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/environment/story.jsp?story=524313

Nope 23.May.2004 19:43

Rebecca

We would not go with it when the union of nuclear scientists all threatened the end of civilization in the 80's and we won't buy it now.

You are asking us to trust a very dangerous and poisonous technology created and run by the engery corporations. That's akin to letting the wolf in the sheep pen. The slaughter will be horrendous.

We know that you are raising the price of oil so you can stuff nuclear power down our throats...too bad...we won't buy it. No way Mr. Cheney even if you got Ralph Nader to say that Nuclear power will save us from ourselves...we will say no way!

Doesn't Matter - USA Plutocracy Doesn't Acknowledge Climate Change 23.May.2004 20:44

anyway

it's too late -

Peak Oil will be kicking in hard long before the severe effects of global warming/climate change have.

Gaia is a widely debated and discredited scientific theory, and Lovelock is way past his time offering credible 'advice' on environmental concerns.

looking at it practically - yes, we need to minimize greenhouse gas/fossil fuel emissions, but even if the environmental contamination from nuclear power could be conceivably dealt with it could never economically sustain itself:

nuclear fission and is fuel cycle is the most over-subsidized, cost-concealed method of power generation ever devised. If the true costs of nuclear-fission kilowatt hours -

from uranium ore mining>enrichment>fission>boiling water>electric turbine>fuel decon>spent fuel disposal>reprocessing

were ever held to capitalist accounting, none of it would ever have happened. It's the all-time biggest boondoggle in the history of human technology.

as always -

nuclear power remains the most ludicrously expensive, inefficient, RubeGoldberg-way to boil water.

Not oil, coal. 23.May.2004 20:47

sui

They aren't rising the price of oil to force people to go Nuclear. The price is going up because China and India for the first time in history are now coming "online", and gobbling up millions of barrels of oil out of the world supply. There are only about 2 billion people in these two countries who want to buy a car and drive around. That would economically impossible, but even if 1 percent manage to buy a car and drive, the price of oil will go through the roof.

If we go to anything in this country it will be coal. The US is the Saudi Arabia of coal. Its dirty, smelly, adds to world CO2, but its here and its ours and it will be mined and used, you can count on it.

I do find it interesting that the father of modern day environmentalism is calling for Nuclear power.

It's truly sad that things have come to this 23.May.2004 20:53

bikerx

How can anyone talk about nuclear energy solving the problem while people are driving SUV's around. The sad thing is that the average person would rather go nuclear than making lifestyle changes. I think the challenge of dealing with global warming is immense, since politicians won't do shit about the problem and corporations are free to wreck the climate at will. Nuclear energy is probably the only "solution" which would be implemented, since some energy companies would make a profit off of it. One idea, which is rather small and absurd is trying to turn on people to respecting cyclists. This could be achieved by taking a lightweight racing or mountain bike and letting car drivers feel how light it is. The technological marvel of it might make drivers less inclined to plow cyclists, since they will see that anyone can bike fast with the right equipment. It would also destroy the mythos that people have that cycling is drudgery and hard work, left to the strong few.

Coal not feasible 23.May.2004 21:01

sandi nista

remember- coal is not readily portable, and it can be used for only generating electricity. There is no way to power aircraft using coal, and as we all know, electric cars are limited. Nuclear is only useful at generating electricity, as well. And let's not forget that petrochemicals made from oil are used as fertilizer, and food costs will go through the roof, once oil becomes more scarce.

Americans won’t do mass transit, not alone biking. 23.May.2004 21:06

me

Biking is fun, puts you in great shape, but for the average guy and gal, its not really a practical solution to get around in the US and here is why.

Americans won't ride buses, or light rail because its too inconvenient.

Most of America has very hot summers and very snowy cold winters. Biking to work in 2 feet of snow doesn't cut it.

America was built way too spread out. If we had it to do all over again, maybe we would build our cities and suburbs in a more structured manner, but nobody is going to rebuild them, and the sprawl continues, which makes biking damn near impossible.

Mr. and Ms. America won't go grocery shopping, take Janey and Mikey to soccer practice, ride to and from work on a bike. They just won't do it. And they will vote against any politician who tries to make them, and vote for anybody who tells them they don't have to.

I like to bike (I own a Trek), but in most areas of the country its not practical for it to be your primary vehicle.

Japan is almost totally nuclear 23.May.2004 21:09

tyrone

Japan uses nuclear energy almost exclusively.

They don't seem to mind, and given how WWII ended, that is suprising.

Gasoline can be made from coal. 23.May.2004 21:13

me

During the late1970s there were a few government sponsored programs to get oil companies to take coal and transform it into gasoline.

It worked fine, but the problem was it cost about $3.50 a gallon to make so it went nowhere then.

If gas keeps going up you may see these transformation refineries start popping up.

Let me clarify 23.May.2004 21:24

bikerx

I wasn't suggesting trying to get people to cycle. That can never be done. I just was thinking of a way to encourage people not to kill cyclists. Ofcourse, you are always going to have your hard core idiots who think god gave them the roads for them to own. I'd just like to see things being safer for people who chose to ride. Go to biketowork.com to see how far some people are willing to commute by bike. Ofcourse, no one is going to be biking until gas gets to be around $20/gallon.

- Dr. Amory Lovins on Nuclear Power - 23.May.2004 21:27

rocky mountain institute

Nuclear Power

 http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid305.php

RMI's position on nuclear power is that:

It's too expensive. Nuclear power has proved much more costly than projected—and more to the point, more costly than most other ways of generating or saving electricity. If utilities and governments are serious about markets, rather than propping up pet technologies at the expense of ratepayers, they should pursue the best buys first.

Nuclear power plants are not only expensive, they're also financially extremely risky because of their long lead times, cost overruns, and open-ended liabilities.

Contrary to an argument nuclear apologists have recently taken to making, nuclear power isn't a good way to curb climate change. True, nukes don't produce carbon dioxide—but the power they produce is so expensive that the same money invested in efficiency or even natural-gas-fired power plants would offset much more climate change.

And of course nuclear power poses significant problems of radioactive waste disposal and the proliferation of potential nuclear weapons material. (However, RMI tends to stress the economic arguments foremost because they carry more weight with decision-makers.)


Downloadable RMI Publications
These and other publications can be downloaded from the Energy section of the Library  http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid171.php.

"Profiting from a Nuclear-Free Third Millennium"—Op-ed by Amory Lovins in the British journal Power Economics (November 1999).
 http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid171.php

Related Newsletter Articles
These and other articles can be found in the Newsletter Back Issues  http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid330.php.

Summer 2002—"Least Cost Security: As the U.S. awaits another terror episode, RMI offers a few thoughts on security"
 http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid586.php

Spring 2002—"Time for a Switch: RMI Helps Reframe U.S. Energy Policy"
 http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid585.php

Fall/Winter 2001—"Cleaner Energy, Greener Profits: Fuel Cells as Cost-Effective Distributed Energy Resources"
 http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid518.php

Spring 2000—"Return of the Nuclear Salesmen: Global Warming Gives Them a New Sales Pitch"
 http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid236.php

Summer 1995—"A Treaty Whose Time Has Come: The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Is So Far Out It's In"
 http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid382.php


provisional ethics is where it's at 23.May.2004 21:36

realist

yuck, i don't like it either, but what kind of options do we have? if it turns out that lovelock's analysis is correct, then i would support it. but, i'd have to see a lot of peer review first. even highly intelligent people can take wing-nutty turns.
the fact is that, in the world we live in, there are precious few choices that can be presented in stark, black-and-white type of terms. if that were so, the world would be an easier place to live in. in fact, the ruling elite i think knows that people would perfer easier answers- that's why they were able to get away with the iraq war, because people were scared of al-qaida enough that they were willing to accept a quick fix, when in fact the war has not made ANY of us a damn bit safer in that a lot of autonomous muslims have heeded bin laden's call to act against the united states and they don't nessesarily need bin laden alive for them to wreck havoc on a lot of innocent people. i opposed the war, but it wasn't lost on me that in madrid on march 11th, the terrorists didn't discriminate between the ruling elite of spain and the majority of spanish people that opposed the war.

Dear realist, 23.May.2004 21:53

pensive

who are "the terrorists"?

wow 23.May.2004 22:23

ronnie dobbs

>who are "the terrorists"?

that's deep.

*hits bong*

"Waste" 23.May.2004 22:27

gk

Our gov't definitely DOES know what to do with the "waste." They take the depleted uranium from it and put it in our weapons' systems, spreading radiation upon contact, after propelled. It will NEVER go away. It is now in little children of Iraq, who play in it, and it is in the air, water, and sand. It is tragic. Soldiers, who return from Iraq, will begin experiencing symptoms in about 5 years, just as those from Viet Nam did with Agent Orange. But with DU in a body, there is NO medical cure. None.

Conservation you idiots 23.May.2004 22:47

red suspenders

1) Imagine that instead of 70 degrees year round we heated houses stores and offices to 60, and in the summer only cooled them down to 80...

2) Imagine that more people would prefer a really well made 1500 sq ft. house on a small lot Or (no lot at all but next to a nice city park) in an area served by public transportation and having work, store, etc nearby, rather than a 3000 sq. ft vinyl sided monstrosity an hour of bad traffic away from anywhere. (And that this could become an affordable option for ordinary people and families, rather than just a wasteland of burned out california yuppie scum like NW portland)

3) Imagine we didn't use a five thousand pound iorn box (average private automobile) to move each 170 pound person.


It's not that hard people. (OK #3 was pretty far out)

In the late 70's President Carter went on TV wearing a sweater and asked Americans to join him in turning down the thermostat a few degrees. Anybody else remember the "Energy Ant" stickers they put on the light switches?

Alternatives 23.May.2004 22:48

George Bender

When the cost of gas went up in the 70s people bought smaller cars, which used less gas and produced fewer emissions. The same thing can happen again. My only concern, since I don't own a car, is the effect on poor people. I would like to see some kind of offsetting refundable tax credit for them. And/or give them free bus passes and bicycles. If you live in the right place, with bike lanes, biking can be quite viable for much of the year. Eugene, for example. For long commutes public transit is better, but a lot of the trips we take for shopping, entertainment, visiting, etc. are short ones, a few miles or less. People might be more willing to bike if it were presented as an alternative to being fat.

Some years ago I read an interesting column which said that most emissions are produced by old cars. The writer advocated giving people who own those old cars, mainly poor people, newer cleaner cars in exchange for their clunkers, then junking the clunkers. This would also save on gas, provided the newer cars were smaller ones, since newer cars are lighter and more fuel efficient. We could also legislate higher fuel efficiency standards.

There are also other ways to use less oil, more efficient appliances, etc. As oil becomes more expensive, solar and wind power will become more competitive financially. Technology, I've read, is gradually bringing down the cost of solar panels.

More nuclear power is out of the question. The high-level waste it produces is lethal for tens of thousands of years, and we have no safe way to dispose of it.


. 24.May.2004 00:03

.

Nuclear Power is not a useful option.

A number of people have mentioned the problem of nuclear waste, which is a deadly problem (just look at Hanford)

The other problem, not mentioned, is that if the world switched to nuclear power, it would only last for a few decades before uranium became scarce.

The real solution, is for human beings to change themselves. This is inevitable. Either we choose to change, or it is forced upon us (though potentially humanity could go extinct).

yawm 24.May.2004 01:52

Teddy Ruxpin (the lousy typist)

It never ceases to amaze me how people can totally overlook the obvious. Solar power is totally green and cheap, and once it is set up it becomes even cheaper as there are no fuels to buy (unlike Nukes, Coal, etc).

Costal power is mostly green (can be used 100% green if properly installed and maintained). Coastal power is built near the coast using floats. When the tide comes in, the floats go up. When the tide goes out, the floats go down. This motion is used to generate power and turn turbines, and unless the moon goes away it will never run out of fuel.

Windmills work great, and can be used not jsut for power generation but for mechanical use as well.

Anyplace that has a coast can use coastal power. If there is no coast in that area (like say, Nevada), you can almost certainly use solar. If neither solar or coastal is available, then it is probably a frickin' windy place and windmills will work. Most places in this country can use more than one of these techs at once. No meltdowns, no fuel costs and no pollution. Ever.

The only expensive part is building them, which is pretty steep. But once they are up, you just need to pay people to maintain them, dust them off and whatnot. Civil power is easy and cheap if you are smart enough to NOT allow power to be provided by C. Montgomery Burns.

Mass suicide would save the planet too 24.May.2004 02:51

Hi

Let's not rule out mass suicide to save the planet.

true.... 24.May.2004 10:28

ronnie dobbs

you can never have too many suicides.

Mass Suicide 24.May.2004 10:41

Dr Strangelove

You must be reading Herr Kissinger's old position papers on depopulation needs. The new slow-go or soft kill mass genocide is the new position paper. Pollute water, air and food. Create synthetic solutions to corporate created problems and voila you have a New World Order plan for command and control. Their signature is framing the debate as to the solutions to the problems they created. Of course their Greens man would support their energy solution to their created problem.
Can anyone say Three Mile Island?

We need a new 24.May.2004 13:48

Manhattan Project

Not to build a bomb, this time, but to go all out to replace hydrocarbon fuel technologies. Imagine if all the money going into the Iraq war, NASA, and most other government pork went into a massive effort to develop alternate fuel technologies. Get rid of burning oil, coal and natural gas and you've solved a lot of problems. You could get rid of the terrorists who are funded by oil, the Saudi royal family could go back to herding goats and the CO2 emissions would be eliminated.

... 24.May.2004 15:55

this thing here

i would agree that there are way WAY more things we could do before we have to throw up our hands and use nuclear energy exclusively.

personally, want to know what a good start would be?

GEE, USE ENERGY MORE EFFICIENTLY FOR A START. hmm, like more efficient combustion engines. like buildings that heat and cool more efficienctly. like water heaters that work more efficiently. like windows that insulate better. like HVAC systems that either work more efficiently, or use no energy at all except the sun and the wind.

there is just so so much more societies can do if they would get up off their fat lard asses and put their minds to work. personally, i think i big part of the problem is a massive, lazy and unthinking technological and technical mind set that sits like a giant wet blanket over our society, which simply wants to sit around all day and think "we've acheived perfection, there's no room for any more improvement, turn off our minds and shut down the computers, let's go on permanent vacation". rather than toughing it out and putting minds to work.

i simply cannot beleive that technologically advanced societies, such as ours, one that sent humans beings to another planet 36 FREAKING YEARS ago, still drives around using inefficient combustion engines based on technology that really hasn't changed or become more efficient for over 100 years. something is wrong with this picture. it is preposterous, unbelievable.

the technlogical laziness has got to end if we expect to have any chance...

no, doc (strangelove).... 24.May.2004 21:47

ronnie dobbs

i was talking about actual suicide, not genocide.

pfff.... "genocide"

*rolls eyes*

If you really cared, you'd kill yourself right now. 25.May.2004 08:40

noki

If you don't kill yourself right now, it just shows that you really don't care. I know I don't really care, but at least I can admit it.

Nuclear Fusion 25.May.2004 15:29

John Thielking pagesincolor@aol.com

If we must go nuclear how about Nuclear fusion? I know they have spent decades researching this and have yet to get more power out than they put in. But if it were to be funded better maybe there would be some results worth mentioning. Of course one of the problems is that the inertial confinement fusion tech is dual use as it can be used to do nuclear weapons development. The radioactive waste problem is greatly reduced with fusion and the fuel used is heavy hydrogen. Unfortunately it appears that political wrangling, etc will delay the first productive fusion reactor (magnetic confinement type) until about 2013.