Is climate change a business opportunity for the nuclear industry?

By Suzy Hobbs Baker

A few months ago, I wrote about the need to have an active dialogue between the nuclear community and the climate change community. Since then, the severity of the drought in the Midwest has continued to worsen and push up food prices, the Mississippi River has been intermittently closed due to low water levels, some private wells are running dry, and the arctic sea ice just hit a new record low.

The symptoms of climate change are all around us.

Since I last wrote on the subject I’ve gotten a great deal of feedback from the nuclear community explaining the lukewarm response to the changing climate, which has been extremely helpful and insightful.

What I’ve realized: Nuclear science and climate science are on the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their methodology. Nuclear deals with the very small, very controlled, predictable materials. On the other hand, climate science deals with innumerable factors, complicated models and a completely uncontrolled environment, namely the Earth’s entire atmosphere. In both scope and scale, these sciences are extremely different. Upon realizing these differences in methodology, the skepticism of many nuclear professionals began to make more sense to me.

Nonetheless, climate science has very important implications for nuclear science. Just this week, climate expert Peter Wadhams called for a nuclear energy “binge” to help solve the climate crisis. Nuclear is the only energy source we have that can replace baseload power without further exacerbating climate change. The problem with trying to apply the same level of precision to climate science as we do to nuclear science is that once the minute details of climate science are fully understood, it will be too late to act. We should take the best recommendations of the top experts on climate change and build policy and business plans, just as we hope that others will listen to the best recommendations about nuclear energy.

As the Shell company sets up shop in the Arctic to tap into previously unreachable gas and oil reserves under the thawing ice, I can’t help but wonder why the nuclear industry isn’t taking advantage of this potentially game-changing business opportunity.

I usually write about nuclear energy from a humanitarian perspective, and that remains my primary concern. However, after Sir Richard Branson recently came out in support of new nuclear technologies, I decided to pick up his book Screw Business as Usual to try to understand the renowned businessman’s motivation.

One of the main themes of Branson’s book is that “doing good is good for business.” So, in contrast to the ethically questionable business opportunity that Shell is pursuing in the Arctic, the nuclear industry has an opportunity to expand its business by helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support sustainable growth, and create high paying jobs.

Nuclear energy also has a unique business advantage as America’s infrastructure ages, and developing nations seek solutions to building infrastructure that can stand up to a changing climate. The radiological components of nuclear require redundant safety systems and hearty containment structures, which work very much to our advantage in extreme weather. As our infrastructure is pitted against more and more extreme weather, nuclear is the only energy source that is already prepared to stand up to the changing circumstances. Current power plants have proven themselves in challenging conditions over the past two years, and new generation designs have even more passive safety built in. I anticipate that being able to offer infrastructure that can stand up to extreme weather is an important emerging issue, and an area where the nuclear industry has a considerable advantage.

So, despite the fact that my support of nuclear energy is based in humanitarian and environmental concerns, reading Branson’s book helped me understand the business opportunities that we are failing to capitalize on as an industry. Showing lukewarm concern for climate change is bad for the planet, and it’s bad for business. Denying climate change is the business equivalent of shooting ourselves in the foot. We need to act on this opportunity to do good, and to do good business.

_________________________________

Hobbs Baker

Suzy Hobbs Baker is the executive director of PopAtomic Studios, a nonprofit organization that conducts educational outreach through the Nuclear Literacy Project. Baker is an ANS member and a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.

41 Responses to Is climate change a business opportunity for the nuclear industry?

  1. Rod Clemetson

    ==> Absolutely YES! And, THORIUM is the very best nuclear fuel option, both economicaly and environmentally.

    The entire nuclear industry needs to remember and renew development of a fifty year old reactor design (thorium fuel molten salt, from ORNL) that is cheap enough to bring the entire world up to the 12MW(e)/year/person of the United States. Thorium reactors will provide electricity, fertilizer, distilled and desalinated water, synthetic fuel, medical isotopes, and backup for renewable energy SIMULTANEOUSLY for the entire world, for at least 1,000 years, while enhancing our food supply and cleaning our air supply. Thorium is everywhere. Pick a cubic meter of dirt anywhere in the world (including your own back yard) and you’ll find 2 grams of thorium. Thorium is dirt cheap — because it IS dirt.

    Ya gotta read this book — Thorium: Energy Cheaper Than Coal —

    http://www.amazon.com/THORIUM-energy-cheaper-than-coal/dp/1478161299/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1346857565&sr=8-1&keywords=thorium+energy+cheaper+than+coal

  2. Your link to Peter Wadhams’s “call” doesn’t go there.

  3. Pingback: Is Climate Change a Business Opportunity for the Nuclear Industry … | Definition Of Global Warming

  4. Climate change may or may not be a business opportunity for nuclear energy but it certainly stands as a fine propaganda opportunity and should be exploited as such. I know the broader pronuclear community has little stomach for this sort of thing but really the time has come to seriously consider reviewing our tactics in this regard. For far too long we have tried to use pure reason alone to advance our agenda and while gains have been made clearly they have not been enough and we are running out of time.

    It hardly matters if climate change is driven by anthropogenic or systemic forces to the utility of the pronuclear argument, as these changes must be dealt with one way or the other. Cheap, abundant energy will be needed to power things like desalination for example and clearly combustion will not be able to meet rising demand from that sector as well as others that will need to be serviced like increased demand for air conditioning. Thus we have the opportunity to push a two-pronged attack: the adoption of nuclear energy may stave off further AGW; and nuclear energy may ameliorate the impacts of a warming planet. This is a chance to make real gains we should not pass up.

  5. If there is a genuine need for carbon free electricity and stronger infrastructure- how is the fact that nuclear meets those needs “propaganda”? To me it seems more like common sense, responsible resource management, good planning and good business…

  6. Suzy is quite right in part of her essay; as proponents of all things nuclear, we are in the catbird’s seat regarding the minuscule CO2 and other emissions compared to other technologies. If most of the energy used to produce the fuel were also nuclear-generated, it would be even better except for the massive quantities of concrete required for construction of nuclear plants. However, many years ago one of the senior officers in my chain of command told me I was simply too honest for my own good (implying for his and his unit’s good as well). I guess that’s still true.

    Denis

  7. We should be careful. Climate change is still an unproven theory. While signs might look like warming, too many other factors (such as sun activity and corresponding temperature increases in other planets in our solar system), contradict this theory. Nuclear Power is very desirable without having links to unproven science just because it makes us look better. Air quality and other hazards of fossil fuels are real and undebatable reasons for expansion of Nuclear Power.

  8. @ Suzy -Propaganda is a form of communication to the public that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position; it is not necessarily a pejorative term. The information need not be false, only carefully selected for its political effect.

    @Jim – Who cares if it is still unproven? Can you assert on that basses that we can continue to use the atmosphere as an unlimited dump for GHG? Do you want to wait to find out the hard way that we can’t before taking action? Politics is not a game played with absolutes, it’s a game of competing opinion, and there is nothing in the rules that say the correct opinion needs to win. For our purposes AGW is enough of a possibility to use it as a reason to promote nuclear energy, it’s not like there is any penalty for being wrong about it that isn’t the same as loosing if we don’t use it.

  9. @Jim,

    Of course there are potential alternate explanations for planetary warming, but they have all been exhaustively investigated. As for solar irradiance, it has not risen in fifty years but rather has slightly declined. More esoteric possibilities such as changes in the solar spectrum have also been investigated and rejected as principal drivers of climate change.

    There has probably never been an issue in science that has had so many expert eyes upon it. The nature of scientific theories is that they are never “proved” in a mathematical sense, but rest on balance of evidence. That does not make them any less useful.

    The Montreal Protocol phasing out the use of gases that damage the ozone layer was agreed to on the basis of incomplete knowledge and has been quite a success. The ozone layer is recovering.

    Continuing the giant geophysical experiment of pumping GHGs into the atmosphere at ever increasing rates could most kindly be described as reckless. Deploying large amounts of nuclear power to reduce that runaway trend would seem to be a very prudent action.

  10. James Greenidge

    Thorium people mean well, god bless ‘em, but their zeal only unwittingly muddies the waters of the public’s tender comprehension for acceptence of nuclear power in general. I’ve seen this blog after blog where pro-nuke arugments are slowly making others reconsider nuclear positively then a Thorium guy throws in his lot like a monkey wrench that only confuses the public even more. It’s frustrating as hell to see your turning people’s nuclear views being undone by techno-bewilderment like that. I wish Thorium people would just hold back so we can get the public to get a grip on the merits and safety of present nuclear plants to pave the way for the acceptance of future new generation plants because believe it, you can hawk the virtues of Thorium all you want but to the public it’s just nuclear with a fancier name, and if they’re skittish of our current crop there’s no way they’re going to accept any “magically perfect” future ones. You really got to break out of techie mode and into human gut perception mode if you want to do something for your own good and that often means supporting the horse before your cart.

    James Greenidge

  11. No it’s not. #Nuclear power still risky, expensive & dangerous i.e. #SanOnofreNuclearStation

  12. DV82XL- While I appreciate you clearing up that you we not using the term propaganda in a pejorative way, I still think that culturally the connotations are overwhelmingly negative and suggest intentional manipulation. There is nothing political about my suggestion that nuclear should looked at as both a technical and business solution to our changing climate.

    When building energy infrastructure nuclear often loses out to other sources due to cost- but, if there are long term factors that will impact cost and even design parameters of our energy infrastructure (& hopefully one day a cost on carbon emissions), it is prudent to take those factors into consideration now. The DoD is taking climate change into consideration in their strategic planning; energy utilities should be too.

    quokka- thank you for chiming in! I completely agree – we already know enough about climate change to justify taking action!

    And James, I do wish there was more unity among Thorium supporters and general nuclear supporters. I think the nuclear community would be stronger if we all worked together, however I also understand the frustrations of the Thorium community being left out of the nuclear debate on the national level for so long.

  13. Suzy – If we lived in a world where all decisions were made for practical reasons, nuclear would already be the major source of energy for electric generation. However we do not. The fossil-fuel industry has never shown any hesitation over leveraging public concern and “polishing the truth” when it come to promoting their products and interests, we should not ether. That doesn’t mean I am calling on nuclear supporters to engage in a dark PR campaign but a bit of cherry picking might be entirely appropriate.

  14. Joseph Somsel

    My recommendation is to AVOID justifying nuclear power based on “climate change.”

    Why? There are so many “tells” from the political push that this initiative is a fraud that if the nuclear industry joins the bandwagon, that an eventual public revelation of the fraud will taint nuclear with it.

    Now, the science remains unsettled and probably will be for decades to come. The critics of the theory have solid evidence and persuasive arguments. The proponents have been clearly been shown to have monetary incentives, fudged data, and dishonest publications. In any case, almost ALL of the proponents refuse to admit that nuclear would have a major role in any response.

    There is a good chance (but not certain) that “climate change” will be considered by a large part of population as a hoax. We don’t want to part of that downside.

  15. By virtue of the many comments already “arguing” the merits of a climate change theory, including a cautionary note to not get nuclear power intertwined too tightly into the climate change argument lest it (climate change) be proven a hoax, I would remind us that the real argument for nuclear is as the baseload replacement for coal.
    Coal is proven to be damaging to the environment on many fronts, including CO2 emissions of course, but should be phased out for other good reasons as well. The low price of natural gas is viewed by most long term planners as a volatile condition too risky to hang your hat on for large baseload plants.And we haven’t seen where the fracking argument will take us, or whether the shale gas bubble may be bursting already, as some believe in my part of the country (the mid-south). Both factors are inhibiting the addition of large scale gas fired generation.
    Since most of the anti-nuke crowd has chosen to ignore the damning issue of “renewable” generation capacity factor penalties, why do we think we can sway them on tieing nuclear to climate change issues?
    They would have to suddenly become reasonable and educable.
    And finally, the folks that support “clean” coal are quite ready to propose the climate change “hoax” argument as a stalling strategy. We should let the climate change argument weigh out, and attack dirty coal for its many obvious reasons, while promoting nuclear along with interim fuel storage and reprocessing as the “package deal” that it must evolve into if we are to be successful in the nuclear program of the future.

  16. Strange then that natural gas sees no issues with advertising their product as one with a lower carbon burden than other fuels. Are you suggesting that they are going to be punished by the market for this stand?

    No one is suggesting that nuclear throw all of its eggs into the basket of climate change, but only that this be incorporated into the mix of reasons why we should go forward with new builds. PR memes are always in flux, and correct in the absolute sense or not, climate change is an issue that the public is sensitive to at the moment. We would be derelict if we did not use it in our campaign.

  17. Joseph Somsel

    Pointing out, as an aside, nuclear’s zero carbon emissions, is only stating the facts and is certainly acceptable. But after years of publicly noting our low pollution footprint, our opponents have always “moved the goal posts” to focus on spent fuel disposal. Don’t expect much love from no CO2. If natural gas becomes more expensive (yet again), it too will see a reduction in market share for electrical generation.

  18. Depressing to read on this website the number of people who think climate change is a hoax of some sort or questionable. The National Academies of Science of the developed nations have twice put out unequivocal statements trying to put this to rest. These are among the best minds the planet has.

    Joseph:’The critics of the theory have solid evidence and persuasive arguments. The proponents have been clearly been shown to have monetary incentives, fudged data, and dishonest publications. ‘

    I believe the truth is precisely the opposite.

    Climate change is a very good argument for nuclear. One of the best. Without any fudging, cherry-picking or anything of the sort.

    I would comment that the idea that nuclear plants are more resistant to extreme weather (as a result of climate change) is not particularly persuasive. I don’t think our infrastructure is all going to be knocked down by tornadoes and it wouldn’t do much good if a nuclear plant were the only thing left standing if that were the case.

    The most serious consequence of climate change would be a significant rise in sea level. This has always been projected to take quite some time, but other changes seem to be happening more quickly that predicted even a short time ago (we weren’t supposed to see open ocean at the North pole until 2100). I expect as a civilization we can make adjustments to other aspects, but flooding the coastal areas of the world, would be an expensive situation with which to deal.

    Anyway, that is getting off the topic. To the general proposition that Climate Change is a good argument for switching to nuclear power generation from either coal or methane, I agree completely.

  19. Climate change is a very good argument for nuclear. One of the best.

    Well, you’re certainly welcome to your opinion, but the numbers tell a different story — at least in the US.

    From Gallup polls earlier this year, we find that:

    – 57% of Americans favor the use of nuclear energy

    (source)

    – Only 30% of Americans worry about Global Warming a “great deal”

    (source)

    It is a shame that we don’t have the necessary data to correlate opinions on these two subjects. However, I’ll note that, even among self-professed “liberals” — who are very often anti-nuclear, sometimes violently so — the number who worry about Global Warming a “great deal” (which I take to mean being willing to actively do something about out it) doesn’t even reach 50%.

    When between 60 and 70% of the population doesn’t think that global warming will pose a serious threat during their lifetime, it’s hard to imagine a popular movement rallying around the global warming banner, especially for something as unpopular with the environmental crowd as nuclear power.

  20. As for solar irradiance, it has not risen in fifty years but rather has slightly declined.

    Er … no. You could not be more wrong. Is there a source for this disinformation, or do “climate” advocates just make up stuff on the fly?

    The reliable data on Total Solar Irradiance (TSI) — which have been available only since 1979, because they’re measured by satellites — shows that TSI fluctuates significantly with the 11-year solar cycle. Underlying that oscillation, however, is a slight upward trend.

    It is now well known than TSI varies in phase with solar magnetic activity, and the modern level of solar activity (i.e., the last half of the twentieth century) has been very high — something referred to in the literature as a “grand maximum.”

  21. Joseph Somsel

    As Mr. Mays shows us, there is limited upside to a nuclear endorsement of the climate change political agenda. As any poker player could tell you, there are tells that at least some institutional and influential advocates of that agenda are dishonest in their actions and motivations.

    For example, Al Gore’s movie “Inconvenient Truth” never uses the word “nuclear” but does show a nuclear explosion. That’s no endorsement of nuclear and is in fact base fear mongering. Another example is the differences in the UN reports between the “executive summary” and the technical appendices. The former tries to scare us while the latter is full of ambiguities and hedges. A third example is the hacked emails about deliberate destruction of raw client data AFTER it had been “normalized” to fit the models. I could go on.

    There is enough evidence of shady business about the climate change movement that the nuclear industry should AVOID endorsing it. There is the downside of risking our carefully built public reputation for honest technocracy.

    As I noted in my original post, the science is unsettled with little prospect of definitive predictions coming from it anytime soon. The time is not ripe for action on climate change. Lets not put ourselves on the wrong side.

  22. Suzy Hobbs Baker

    Brian,

    Show me the PROOF that NOA, NASA, DoD and hundreds of other credible organizations have missed the root cause of this phenomenon. I have not seen another theory that can explain climate change other than greenhouse gases- and the burden of proof is now on the folks still denying that anything is wrong.

  23. I’m still waiting for someone to explain why if it is such a bad idea to invoke this meme to sell nuclear does natural gas uses it to sell their fuel. Pronukes seem always to default to a mindset where they think that somehow this is an academic or legal debate, in which the day is going to be won with reasoned arguments. But this is politics and marketing folks, it just doesn’t follow those rules. This doesn’t mean that we present climate as the only, or even the key reason to switch to nuclear, but it is an arrow in our quiver that should not be ignored.

    Look in this sort of social engineering there isn’t one right way of pushing an idea, there is no one killer reason why everyone will throw their support behind nuclear and as a consequence we must use broader appeals. People that currently support nuclear energy but not AGW will not change their minds if climate concerns are folded into the pitch, but those that do see global warming as an issue but have rejected nuclear to this point might come on side. We really don’t have anything to lose.

  24. Suzy,

    Please calm down. First of all, I never mentioned anything about a “root cause” or any cause for any effect at all.

    I have merely injected some additional information into this forum — once to provide the results of the latest Gallup polls on the topics under discussion and another time to correct a claim that was blatantly false.

    I think that we can all agree that the information presented in a discussion such as this should be, at the very least, factually accurate, regardless of the side one cheers for in this political football match. Surely you don’t disagree with this, do you?

    The argument that you put forward is not at all convincing, because it relies on an appeal to ignorance, which is a logical fallacy. (It also relies on an appeal to authority, another logical fallacy, but let’s take this one step at a time.) It’s like someone in the seventeenth century requiring you to believe in a “thunder god,” because he doesn’t have the scientific sophistication to explain electrical discharge.

    Credible assertions in science require positive proof from evidence, not challenges to prove you wrong.

  25. I’m still waiting for someone to explain why if it is such a bad idea to invoke this meme to sell nuclear does natural gas uses it to sell their fuel.

    Do you really think that people have favorable options of natural gas because they’re hard core environmentalists concerned about climate change? It’s the hard core environmentalists who are fighting fracking tooth and nail these days.

    If you want to appeal to politics and marketing, the first thing that we should admit is that people readily accept natural gas because they are familiar with it.

    I have natural gas in my home. It heats my house in winter and cooks my food. How about you? Millions and millions of people in North America have natural gas in their homes. So when the ads say, “let’s make the switch to natural gas,” these people say, “why not?” A little nudge about “climate change” just reinforces their already held opinion, but I seriously doubt that it had much influence in the decision.

    The “climate change” message doesn’t do so much to help natural gas as it does to hurt coal with increased costs and regulation. Natural gas gets a benefit as the de facto fuel after coal, and it is even straightforwardly marketed that way by the industry along with pie-in-the-sky claims about “renewables” and climate change gobbledygook.

    Nevertheless, the poll numbers don’t like. The majority of Americans favor nuclear power. If this were a question of pure democracy, where the majority gets their way, nuclear power would be doing just fine. It’s the regulations, the moratoriums, and the interventions — the perfect vehicles for a committed minority to exert their will over the majority — that get in the way.

    I agree that it does little harm to point out the substantial benefits of nuclear power when it comes to carbon-dioxide emissions and AGW, and I don’t object to anyone doing so. My point is that you get very little bang for your buck with this route. Unless you can provide a message that can result in tearing down the procedural barriers that have been thrown up in regulation and law, you’re not going to get there, and the poll numbers for the climate change argument don’t appear to have what it takes.

    That’s my two cents.

  26. Er .. that should read, “the poll numbers don’t lie.”

    Stupid typos.

  27. Do you really think that people have favorable options of natural gas because they’re hard core environmentalists concerned about climate change?

    No, but apparently the firms responsible for natural gas public relations and advertising do not see any harm in mentioning it every time they can. I have to assume that an industry as large as NG can afford some of the best Madison Ave. has to offer, and if they think there is something to be gained putting this lipstick on their pig, I can’t see the harm in us making it part of our efforts.

    I am not suggesting AWG should be the cornerstone of our position; it’s just another item on the list of reasons we can put forward.

  28. Suzy Hobbs Baker

    Brian-

    So if 57% of Americans favor nuclear, why does it still only provides 20% of our electricity? Why have we not built new plants for so long with such overwhelming public support? Perhaps because that single piece of information doesn’t tell the whole story. Public opinion on nuclear in America is actually quite complicated, and I’m guessing that stat depends on a very broad definition of “favor” : http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/06/05/1097574/-Nuclear-Power-and-Public-Opinion-What-the-polls-say

    Public “favor” doesn’t necessarily mean people actually understand the technology, or that they active support or demand, in the way that we have seen for renewables. And perhaps because there also needs to be a strong business incentive, not just public support to build nuclear plants, which was the point of my article.

    So, Brian let’s get back to the hard science. I would love for you to show me the statistical likelihood that climate scientists could have made predictions about the environmental impacts of increased greenhouse gas emissions over 30 years ago– and now they have been realized almost exactly as predicted–and prove that something else is causing it– or somehow the science is wrong. Really- because I keep hearing about uncertainty, but climate science has an undeniable track record. The times they have been off, it’s been in cases where the climate actually changed MORE than they predicted at a faster rate- as in the case of arctic sea ice melt. That may mean they haven’t identified all of the factors impacting climate, but it sure as heck doesn’t mean we should just not worry about it in the mean time.

    It doesn’t matter if 100% of people don’t think climate change will have an impact in their lifetime, because it already is having an impact. We’ve broken over 10,000 temperature records this year alone, and quite frankly that is enough proof for me to want to act.

    Lastly, climate denial is a uniquely American phenomenon. Which is an clear indicator is that the real issue with accepting climate science has nothing to do with actual science; it has to do with culture, politics and money. We live in a culture that LOVES to burn fossil fuels. We have burned more fossil fuels in a shorter amount of time than any other culture on the planet. Our power, wealth and influence as a country have been directly rooted in our easy access to cheap fossil fuels. It’s no surprise so many Americans want to paint doubt about climate change. But just like the tobacco industry- the truth will come out in the end- and there is reason to believe that those who strategically disseminate false information that damages public health will be eventually held accountable- In fact there are many people making laying the ground work to make that case right now: http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1095&context=njlsp

  29. Suzy Hobbs Baker

    Just to clarify: I am not implying that individuals will be prosecuted for denying climate change- but that corporations who have intentionally disseminated false information- which has harmed public health and had huge impacts on the market (no cost on carbon, but huge costs on other forms of energy related waste), will eventually have to answer for it.

  30. Suzy Hobbs Baker

    Sorry, I keep thinking of additional reasons this is important! If and when there is a cost on carbon and perhaps even additional litigation against fossil companies, it will dramatically effect the energy market. Full circle to my attempt to put climate change into the frame work of having a business advantage for nuclear in the short and ling term.

  31. Joseph Somsel

    Per Ms. Hobbs Baker:

    “Lastly, climate denial is a uniquely American phenomenon.”

    Baloney. The hacked emails showing the dishonest data “adjustments” were from the UK. That Danish environmentalist who points out the problems of global warming theory and data (forget his name) is not American.

    In any case, it is a logical fallacy.

  32. Multiple inquiries have never turned up “dishonest data adjustments”. These claims have been relegated to the status of mud slinging. In any case they are irrelevant as all the major temperature records show the same thing. All data, source code and documentation for the GISS temperature record have, for a long time, been openly available for free download and the contrarians have had more than enough time to produce some evidence of substantial errors, accidental or otherwise. They have come up empty handed (aside from the mud).

    The anti-science attitude promoted by this sort of stuff fits very neatly into general anti-science attitudes where those parts of science that are accepted or rejected becomes a matter of personal belief. This is hardly likely to help the case of nuclear where the scientific evidence on nuclear safety and radiation risk can be dismissed out had and people like Calidcott can peddle their nonsense with impunity.

    Of course climate change denial is not solely an American disease, but the US infection is fairly severe. As is the lack of respect for science by significant portions of the population. This is a worsening trend that perhaps goes back to the 1970s. This cannot possibly help the case for nuclear power.

  33. Suzy Hobbs Baker

    Joseph,

    Pointing out that American’s are uniquely positioned in the climate change debate is not a logical fallacy. Neither is asking for proof that climate change is not caused by human activity- assuming that we are both human beings capable of thinking and communicating in many ways- not solely via the scientific method.

    What is a logical fallacy is the expectation that nuclear professionals and scientists be treated as the premier source of factual information on nuclear science- rather than activists, politicians, or even scientists from other fields- all of whom often do speak out wrongly about nuclear. But you do not offer that same respect and authority to the climate change community in their own area of expertise.

    Instead some members of the nuclear community who are not climate scientists follow the exact same behavior that plagues the nuclear industry- you become a false expert. This is not just bad for the climate change community- it is bad for the greater science community- because to the public it makes it seem like scientists on the whole are in disagreement on lots of issues, and are generally not good or reliable sources of information, as they often contradict each other.

  34. I guess I need to repeat myself, since it obviously didn’t sink in the first time:

    I agree that it does little harm to point out the substantial benefits of nuclear power when it comes to carbon-dioxide emissions and AGW, and I don’t object to anyone doing so.

  35. So if 57% of Americans favor nuclear, why does it still only provides 20% of our electricity?

    Suzy – I tried to address this in another comment here. Perhaps you could try reading my comment rather than junk written by a certain anti-nuclear propaganda house known as the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS).

    If you are going to continue to reference NIRS as one of your primary sources, then sorry, but I’m just not going to continue this discussion. With friends like you, who needs enemies?

    So, Brian let’s get back to the hard science.

    But you haven’t put forward any hard science. All you have provided is appeals to ignorance and appeals to authority. Your latest comment is nothing more of a continuation of this trend, with some unsubstantiated claims thrown in to demonstrate that you don’t know what you are talking about.

    The only thing that is certain is that a doubling of the concentration of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere leads to an equilibrium rise in the global surface temperature of about 1.2 degrees Celsius. Anything beyond that is due to a collection of feedbacks, both positive and negative, and some of the most important feedbacks are not very well understood. The estimates that are put forward in the popular media come from computer models, which might or might not accurately represent reality.

    You keep hearing about uncertainty, because uncertainty is key to understanding the relative value of a result in any scientific field. A calculation is an estimate, and unless the uncertainty of the estimate has been included and considered, then the estimate is worthless. Those of us who do calculations for a living know this almost instinctively, which is why we keep focusing on uncertainties. Considering that the people who tune these models are some of the most hard-core alarmists, I have serious doubts about the fidelity of these models. This is my opinion, but I am not alone in this opinion.

    It doesn’t matter if 100% of people don’t think climate change will have an impact in their lifetime …

    It matters if you want to change their mind. With an attitude like that, you’re not going get very far.

    Lastly, climate denial is a uniquely American phenomenon.

    And here is where you put on full display your ignorance of this issue. Worldwide, the most outspoken politician when it comes to climate “denial” (as you so pejoratively put it) is probably Václav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic.

    I’m amused and somewhat concerned by the response that a couple of my comments, innocently intended to inject a couple factual points into this discussion, have caused. I had hoped that a forum on an ANS website would be above such emotional and irrational responses. I’m sorry to learn that I was so wrong that someone would resort to citing an anti-nuclear group like NIRS to attack me.

  36. Suzy Hobbs Baker

    Brian,

    What I am getting from you is, sure go ahead, use the climate argument to support nuclear, even though it is essentially BS (” do “climate” advocates just make up stuff on the fly?”). In the next breath you state that it is not actually that great of an argument anyway (“My point is that you get very little bang for your buck with this route.” and go on to say that instead of focusing on climate we should focus on regulation) …this is something one of my friends often refers to as “damning with faint praise.”

    This is why I asked you for specific proof that climate change is not a threat- I am not asking you to go into a lab and use the scientific method to prove a negative- obviously that is impossible and you aren’t a climate scientists to begin with. Communicating about science is not the same thing as doing science. In life outside of the lab we prove negatives all the time. We find people “not guilty” in a court of law based on supporting evidence. We identify diseases by first proving what illness a person does not have (ie: negative for a bacterial infection, must be viral or fungal). One could “prove” climate change is not caused by human activity be providing an alternative theory that better fits the symptoms than GHGs. And that is exactly what I was asking for- an alternative explanation, or piece of information (from a climate scientist) that undermines the current theory of human caused climate change. That was what I was asking for when I said let’s get to the hard science- let’s get past public opinion polls and look at the evidence that climate change isn’t man made, and your subsequent point that I shouldn’t really be focused on this issue in outreach. Here is what I got:

    1) You have accused me of appealing to authority. Appealing to authority is only a logical fallacy if said authority is not in consensus- the consensus on climate is overwhelming at roughly 97-98% of those actively working in the field: http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/22/evidence-for-a-consensus-on-climate-change/

    2) You have asserted that climate models are fallible, but we have climate models that are over 30 years old that have proven extremely accurate, and it is likely that those models have continued to improve over the decades: http://www.universetoday.com/94468/1981-climate-change-predictions-were-eerily-accurate/

    3) You have called me emotional , ignorant, and irrational to undermine my perspective and voice. You have accused me of citing an anti-nuclear group…Ad hominem attacks are what they are. I don’t even know what to say in response other than, wow, that is ugly and absurd. I literally created a nonprofit organization and work full time to improve public understanding of nuclear energy. I am effective in this role in part because I am passionate, I am able to frame the debate as an humanitarian and environmental issue that people can relate to- and this is a strength in connecting with the public, not a weakness. In this role I look to nuclear experts to understand nuclear, and I look to climate experts to understand climate- and no amount of name calling is going to change that. And on that note, I’m not going to engage this dialogue with you any longer.

  37. What I find surprising is the viciousness that seems to surface in this debate not just among nuclear supporters but in almost every domain. Frankly I don’t care anymore what is driving climate change: it could be GHG, it could be cosmic rays, or a clandestine extraterrestrial terraforming scheme for all I care, but it is happening and it will have to be dealt with.

    The biggest impact will be on the carrying capacity of currently populated areas due to shifts in precipitation. This is already being factored in to long term military and economic planning in just about every country because if you thought that crude oil was a driver of conflict wait till you see what water can do in this regard when it is in short supply. The only practical way to avoid the worst of these is with desalination, and the only practical energy source for the volumes of water that will be needed is nuclear. Water is the 800lbs gorilla in the room and we are not giving it the attention it needs.

    No we fight over hard proof for AGW as if somehow that is the important issue. What really makes me sick is regardless of sort of mantle critics of AGW pretend to don, in the end their concern is that they will be economically disadvantaged by any plans to deal with these issues. They are frightened that it will be expensive for them, that they will lose their automobiles, that they will have to change the heating systems in their homes, or that they will lose their jobs. The nearsightedness of this attitude is breathtaking, on top of which it will only make matters worse when the time comes when it will be impossible to avoid the broad impacts of climate change.

    P.S. I’ll be away for a week on tour to the Columbia Icefields among other points in the Jasper/ Banff/Lake Louise area to check out the effects of a shifting climate in the Canadian Rockies. No one should interpret a failure by me to answer a post in this thread as having made your point.

  38. Suzy Hobbs Baker

    Well said, DV82XL- we are now at a point that we are actually dealing with the impacts of climate change, and water shortages are a big problem. Desalination will be central to effectively managing drought and it’s far reaching social consequences, and I agree nuclear is fit for the job.

    I’d also like to add, that the reason I care about the cause of climate change, is because if it is in fact related to human activity- we have the power to stop exacerbating the problem. If it’s aliens ;) or solar flares, or something we cannot control- I would love to know that so I can stop worrying about it, and focus on humanitarian responses (like nuclear for desalination). I’m not asking for evidence of another cause of climate change rhetorically. The implications for dealing with climate change are dramatically different depending on if humans are, or are not, the primary contributing factor.

    Of course, every climate scientist I have had the pleasure to work with has reiterated that humans activities are the primary cause, and I am going to stand with them on this issue, just like I stand with nuclear professionals on nuclear.

    Safe travels to the Rockies- I hope it’s fun and informative.

  39. Suzy,

    You continue to disappoint. First of all, you misrepresent what I have written, then you repeat your baseless appeals for more information as if you had actually put forward something substantial in your reply. I’m afraid that I’ll have to handle the venomous arrows that you sling at me one at a time.

    You have accused me of appealing to authority. Appealing to authority is only a logical fallacy if said authority is not in consensus

    Nonsense. An appeal to authority is always a logical fallacy. For example, the Catholic Church had, for centuries, a “consensus” of experts (i.e., those working in the field) that agreed that the Earth was made in seven days. Until the 1960’s, when they finally acquiesced, the Church’s consensus was that the sun revolved around the Earth. Do you want to back that “consensus”?

    You have asserted that climate models are fallible, but we have climate models that are over 30 years old that have proven extremely accurate, and it is likely that those models have continued to improve over the decades

    I assert that any model is fallible, because it is a model, not reality. Have you ever developed a model? Have you ever studied a model, such as a climate model? I can tell you from experience with such models that they have their shortcomings, and the more complicated the model, the more room for error.

    You have called me emotional …

    Well, I’ll leave that to the readers of this exchange to judge, but I think that your comment above has adequately demonstrated what I was talking about.

    … ignorant …

    There is no shame in being ignorant. Ignorance simply means that you are uniformed about a particular subject. It is neither an insult nor an ad hominem attack, as you claim. I’m ignorant about many topics; however, I try to avoid making statements on the topics that I don’t know very well until I have learned something about them.

    … and irrational to undermine my perspective and voice.

    You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts. It is your own shrill attitude and narrow perspective that is undermining your voice. I’m sorry that I have to be the one to point this out to you.

    You have accused me of citing an anti-nuclear group …

    Er … did you or did you not provide a link to an article written by Michael Mariotte, the Executive Director of Nuclear Information and Resource Service? Well, the answer is clearly available above in the form of a hyperlink. This is not an accusation; it’s merely a statement of fact. You did.

    As a member of the American Nuclear Society, I’m a little embarrassed that the society allows you to post on its blog. Your articles are somewhat innocent — although some of your recent stuff has been framed in the form of a challenge for a fight — but the way that you have chosen to handle even mild criticism in the comments demonstrates a certain immaturity that probably should not be allowed to continue on the website of a highly respected professional society.

    In other words, save the vitriol for your own blog. You are embarrassing us.

    And on that note, I’m not going to engage this dialogue with you any longer.

    Well, at least you have spared this website from another link to a NIRS diatribe.

    Thank you.

  40. Suzy Hobbs Baker

    Brian- I apologize for not realizing the Daily Kos article was written by Michael Mariotte. That was my mistake. I did realize the author was not taking a pronulcear position (the Daily Kos has both pro and anti writers), but found the compilation of multiple polls to be telling. If you go through and look at the polls themselves, small changes in how the questions are written do heed dramatically different results. I stand by my point that a majority “favor” of nuclear in an opinion poll does not mean that we don’t have a PR problem, nor does it mean that nuclear truly has active public support. But when you treat your supporters the way you have treated me here, perhaps that’s not a big surprise.

  41. Hide The Decline.
    Indeed. Nuclear energy advocates would do well to keep at arms length the likes of the IPCC “scientists” and their integrity issues.
    Integrity is our license to do what we do.
    We fire people and terminate business relationships over integrity.
    I won’t ramble on, everyone knows where I’m coming from.
    If you’ve been in this industry, had background checks, criminal history, credit checks, drug testing, and in some cases Security Clearances by federal agencies – one might suspect that a qualification to work among us is the avoidance of the appearance of impropriety.
    “This is the business we have chosen.” Hyman Roth, from The Godfather