Renewables can’t do it: The new form of climate denial

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After the signing of a historic climate pact in Paris, we might now hope that the merchants of doubt – who for two decades have denied the science and dismissed the threat – are officially irrelevant.

However, a new, strange form of denial has appeared on the landscape, falsely asserting that renewable sources can’t meet our energy needs.

Oddly, some of these voices include climate scientists, who insist that we must now turn to wholesale expansion of nuclear power. Just this past week, as negotiators were closing in on the Paris agreement, four climate scientists held an off-site session insisting that the only way we can solve the coupled climate/energy problem is with a massive and immediate expansion of nuclear power. More than that, they are blaming environmentalists, suggesting that the opposition to nuclear power stands between all of us and a two-degree world.

That would have troubling consequences for climate change if it were true, but it is not. Numerous high quality studies, including one recently published by Mark Jacobson of Stanford University, show that this isn’t so. We can transition to a decarbonized economy without expanded nuclear power, by focusing on wind, water and solar, coupled with grid integration, energy efficiency and demand management. In fact, our best studies show that we can do it faster, and more cheaply.

The reason is simple: experience shows that nuclear power is slow to build, expensive to run and carries the spectre of catastrophic risk. It requires technical expertise and organization that is lacking in many parts of the developing world (and in some part of the developed world as well). As one of my scientific colleagues once put it, nuclear power is an extraordinarily elaborate and expensive way to boil water.

The guardian: Naomi Oreskes: 17 December 2015

Key Words: Climate Change, denial
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