Our three biggest problems solved

Although I had said I would not post any more items about James Hansen, this is clearly a promise I cannot keep because the second-half of his book is astonishing for two things – the brutality of his criticism; and the simplicity of the solution he proposes. It is brutal because he criticises: — (1) the failure of the UNFCCC Kyoto process (i.e. emissions target have not been met by anybody); — (2) special interest groups for manipulating politicians (i.e. policy inaction is the goal of those that dispute global warming); and — (3) governments for lying to themselves and us (i.e. catastrophic climate change can only be avoided by phasing out coal and not developing unconventional sources of fossil fuel). With regard to (1), Hansen is particularly dismissive of cap and trade schemes like that in use in the EU and that proposed for the USA. He favours a fee and dividend approach (i.e. one in which the government takes a fee from producers [who then put up their prices] and distributes a dividend to all taxpayers). With regard to (2), this was covered in previous posts on Richard Lindzen. With regard to (3), Hansen sees this as being the result of governments being caught between pro-fossil fuel lobbyists and anti-nuclear lobbyists who have ensured that, over the last 20 years or so we have pursued one and shunned the other – the complete opposite of what we should have been doing. However, the simplicity of Hansen’s solution (one of which I was actually already aware but was nonetheless surprised to find him asserting) is almost breath-taking, because it solves our climate change problem, our energy crisis, and our radioactive waste legacy: Fast neutron reactor (FNR) programmes (cancelled in the UK and US in 1989 and 1994 respectively) should be re-instated because FNRs can be fuelled by: — (1) the 99% of the Earth’s uranium that thermal reactors cannot use; — (2) our existing legacy of long-lived high-level radioactive waste (producing a much smaller volume of shorter-lived, less-radioactive waste); and — (3) uranium extracted from seawater (where it is universally present at greater concentration than its average crustal abundance). Therefore, if you are asking yourself why FNR programmes were cancelled and/or why we are not pursuing this course of action already, the answers are that this is (1) because of the success of anti-nuclear campaigners in the 1980s (who are still demonising nuclear power today); and (2) because it is not in the interests of the fossil fuel lobby for us to stop burning their sh– —————– UPDATE: Tomorrow and thursday I will provide a two-part history of decision-making in the UK regarding nuclear energy, which demonstrates the validity of Hansen’s argument in favour of Fast Neutron Reactors. N.B. In the UK, they tend to be called Fast Breeder Reactors, which is a reference to their ability to generate more fuel than they use (another advantage) – see ‘Fast Neutron Reactors’, World Nuclear Association (2010).


About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Climate Science, Economics, Energy Crisis, Environment, James Hansen, Politics, Storms of my Grandchildren and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Our three biggest problems solved

  1. Pingback: I’m nothing if not controversial « Anthropocene Reality

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  4. pendantry says:

    Your link to the World Nuclear Association would be persuasive but for my belief that the nuclear power industry has lied to us on too many occasions (and continues to do so (see: Fukushima). 😦


    • Anthropocene Reality says:

      What about Fukushima? Please do not post any links from Greenpeace on this subject. What I would like to see is facts – not ideology. Every year, more people die trying to get dressed in the morning than die as a result of nuclear accidents. Notwithstanding all of that, I am willing to concede that Japan is not a good place (tectonically) to build nuclear power stations. However, 20-30 years ago they did not have much choice. However, now that they have choices, I agree they should reduce their dependence on nuclear power ASAP.


      • pendantry says:

        Here’s the latest on Fukushima I’ve read. Yes, it’s hearsay, not authoritative; but as I’ve said I’m very reluctant to believe anything put out by the nuclear industry; I trust their views on the subject about as much as it seems you trust those of Greenpeace. (Speaking of links, your ‘more people die’ anecdote would be more believable with a link than with bold; those numbers depend very much on with whom you speak.)


      • Anthropocene Reality says:

        Pendanty, are you forgetting that I am a supporter of Greenpeace? I just happen to disapprove of the ideological nature of their opposition to both GMOs and Nuclear Power. However, I would support their opposition to both if they chose instead to focus on the fact that both GMOs and Nuclear Power are elitist, high-tech, solutions that are most likely to perpetuate technological dependency (as opposed to help to achieve sustainable development in poor countries).


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