Sometime in the 1970s I learned about the greenhouse effect in geography class. In 1992 world leaders in Rio de Janeiro agreed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. So we should have been building out low-carbon nuclear electricity generating capacity, to replace the energy we got from fossil fuels, in 1992, more than three DECADES ago.
In 1997 in the Kyoto Protocol world leaders agreed, after five years of greenhouse gas emission increases, that they ought to start doing something about climate change before the consequences grew too great, before the damage became too problematic.
So, in 1997 I thought we would probably start building the low-carbon generating capacity, we should have started more than five years earlier.
But the answer was, “NO! Never nuclear.” — “Soon we will be able to make all our energy with windmills and PV panels.” That was twenty-six wasted years ago.
And when, unsurprisingly, that revolution did not happen, by 2007 I thought, “After fifteen years of increasing carbon output, we have made less than no progress on carbon emissions. Shouldn’t we start building some meaningful low-carbon baseload generating capacity?” And keep in mind that reactors started in 2007 would probably be online by now actually depreciating fossil fuel use.
But the anti-nuclear lobbyists said, “NO! Nuclear scares us! We refuse to understand it. We have no useful sense of the risk/benefit ratio. NEVER nuclear. Besides wind and solar are getting ‘cheaper.’ [for some definition of cheaper that is one or two orders of magnitude too expensive] We can do this with ‘renewables.’”
Another wasted decade passed and in 2017 I thought, “Ok, after twenty five years of increasing carbon emissions. Wind and solar have not magicked the problem away yet. We can wish that they may someday. But right now we need to build lots and lots of low-carbon generating capacity. Could we do that now? So far we haven’t done anything useful. We should do something.”
Them, “NO! Nuclear is an archaic technology. With ‘renewables’ and ‘green energy’ investment we don’t need it. Besides even though wind and solar are only an insignificant fraction of unreliable generating capacity we can pad those numbers out with hydroelectricity and this great new biofuel technology. We can build dams and flood vast ecosystems. And we can cut down forests to make wood chips, cook those in bioreactors to make carbon fuel and burn it! It is all so ‘RENEWABLE!’”
Me, “OMG! those are terrible ideas! New hydroelectricity development is environmentally catastrophic. We cannot ethically expand hydro development. And biofuel‽ That is taking a low-energy-density fuel source that is otherwise a carbon sink and turning it into a source of additional carbon. Wood burning is already a major source of atmospheric carbon globally. We need to reduce its use, not increase it. This is making the problem worse, just with extra steps.”
Them, “But it is not nuclear. NEVER nuclear.”
Me, with some exasperation, “but we have a climate emergency. We need to solve this. We need to do something real and effective because the consequences are fast upon us.”
Them, “We already have the solution to the climate emergency. You just have to BELIEVE that a solar panel on the roof of an apartment block in Scandinavia in the winter at night can produce all the energy that building needs.”
And it turns out that the dream of wind and solar coming in deus-ex-machina to save us, in all likelihood is a logistical impossibility while, at the same time, even fifty year old CANDU technology could still do the climate-mitigation-heavy-lifting, as was always the case.
It is 2023, the world’s hottest year ever recorded. We have seen climate catastrophe after climate catastrophe, flood, fire, famine. And it is already certain that coming years and decades will be worse even if we were to hit net-zero today. Thirty-one years have passed since the Rio Earth Summit and we have continued to do nothing that has even begun to make any difference. And most of that is because of our stupid, ignorant resistance to using a proven, safe, reliable, and cost-effective energy technology versions of which were fully resolved in the 1970s when I first learned about climate heating and the need to build low-carbon electricity generating capacity.
How cool would it be if all green-energy activists and Green Parties pulled their collective heads out of their asses, as they have done in Finland, and started following honest evidence-based policies that could actually achieve the climate change mitigation that they say they want?