Want to Save the World? Start in China

Within a few days, Yale e360 published two extremely interesting analyses of China’s recent environmental and social problems: China’s Great Dam Boom by Charlton Lewis and China at Crossroads by Ed Grumbine. Both fascinating in their own right, these articles show that if you want to save the world from a looming environmental catastrophe, you have to start in China. Continue reading

Nuclear Power or Fossil Fuels?, Revisited

More than two years ago I wrote here a piece about nuclear power. I critisized in it a commentary authored by Bjorn Lomborg, who argued that nuclear power is the all-environmentally friendly energy source. Then, I replicated a “green dogma” and wrote that

first, we cannot but abandon both [nuclear power AND fossil fuels], and, secondly, it is not necessarily true that we cannot afford a switch to renewables.

I do not longer think this is true. While still not sharing Lomborg’s and others’ enthusiasm about nuclear fission, I view it as the lesser evil. Continue reading

Lessons from Doha

Last week, the 18th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Doha, Qatar went to an end. Similar to most of the COPs held since 1994, when the Kyoto Protocol was signed, it was not successful – unless you count as success the fact that it did not end in disaster. As a Polish commentator put it, the COP18 saved the international community’s honour, but it did not save the climate. Continue reading

The Climate Is Too-Big-to-Fail

How is it that we really do care about too-big-to-fail banks and largely embrace the sacrifice-laden efforts of governments to bail them out, but apparently don’t care enough about our too-big-to-fail climate system to accept personal and collective sacrifices needed to “bail it out”, i.e. to keep catastrophic climate change at bay? Well, this is a question psychologists and sociologists are better suited and trained to answer than I am. Instead, I would like to sacrifice a few minutes of my spare time in an attempt to sketch the consequences of the fact that our climatic system is too-big-to-fail in conjunction with the fact that we have not really cared to stop dangerously interfering with it so far. Continue reading

Is Greenpeace Cornucopian?

Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, WWF and numerous other environmentalist organizations have been long pressing for a committed global effort to tackle climate change. It is clear that the major issue here is energy production – we desperately need low-carbon energy to keep the Earth’s climatic system in balance. However, these environmentalists also fight nuclear power, one of the two established low-carbon technologies in energy production (the other being hydropower) that are the only ones so gar that provide baseload electricity. At the same time, Greenpeace & Co. have long dismissed the idea (or, rather, ideology) called Cornucopianism which states that human ingenuity and free markets will provide solutions to every challenge humanity shall ever encounter – so we don’t have to worry about climate change, acid rain, the ozone hole, overpopulation, dwindling resources etc. – there will always be a backstop technology to save us. Continue reading

Is Nuke the Lesser Evil?

Among environmentalists, nuclear power belongs, together with genetic engineering and geo-engineering, to the group of the most dogmatically condemned technologies humanity ever has developed. There are exceptions from this paradigm, perhaps the most notable being the British environmental journalist Mark Lynas. But most members of the environmentalist movement hate the nuke, fearing the radiation, Chernobyl-like accidents, peak uranium, conflict with renewables, adverse environmental consequences of uranium mining, terrorist dangers and the like. However, when confronted with recent insights from climate science, one should ask: isn’t nuke the lesser evil? Continue reading

The Dilemma of a Do-Gooder

Readers and visitors may have noticed that my general view of humanity’s environmental, social and related problems is that no real solution can be achieved without widespread acceptance that we must change. We must change the way we are living, the way we are consuming, housing, travelling, communicating etc. Prolonging the status quo of attitudes, values and life styles will only provide half-baked solutions. However, I recently have been thinking about this (I still am) and I realized that the problem is even deeper than I had thought in the first place. Continue reading

Externalities of Energy Generation

Because of repeated discussions of this subject in comments under my posts, I decided to make a list of externalities for various energy generation forms. For this I chose the most popular energy generation methods as currently in use, i.e. I excluded for example geothermal and solar thermal energy. The list is hardly complete, so you are welcome to add further points in comments (also for further energy generation methods). Continue reading

The Nuclear Solution to Climate Change

I argued repeatedly that nuclear power should not be considered a solution to climate change – due to environmental and financial concerns (for a summary, see here). Today I found an interesting article concerning the financial side, which is very important, since it is often argued that nuclear is the cheapest energy source we have. Here an excerpt:

There has been ample discussion in recent years of a “nuclear renaissance,” and many politicians and energy analysts believe that a meaningful response to climate change must include a new fleet of nuclear plants in the United States. The long-term planning studies that routinely come out of utilities, advocacy groups, and the Department of Energy now commonly include new nuclear units. However, many of these studies use nuclear and utility industry cost estimates for new nuclear plants, rather than estimates based on the actual experiences of companies currently trying to build nuclear power plants. Given the dollars and the environmental impacts at stake, it is critical that planners make resource decisions using the best information available. [more]

Nuclear Power or Fossil Fuels?

Here an update Nuclear Power or Fossil Fuels?, Revisited, including a changed attitude toward the problem.

I already almost have specialized in commenting on articles by Bjørn Lomborg, the (in)famous “Skeptical Environmentalist”. Today I will do it one more time.

It is a sad true that we often have to choose between alternatives which we don’t like – deciding on what is better, not what is good. In his recent article my favourite politologist argues that we have to make a decision: do we want to rely on electricity generation from nuclear power or from fossil fuels?, since renewables are still too expensive and cannot close the gap if we would like to abandon both. As one can think, I don’t agree with Mr Lomborg – otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this post. I will argue that, first, we cannot but abandon both, and, secondly, it is not necessarily true that we cannot afford a switch to renewables. Continue reading

Some Words about Nuclear Power

What is now happening in Japan is terrible. The earthquake, the tsunami, now the near-catastrophe in the nuclear power station of Fukushima. All the people suffering after having lost relatives, homes, and now being in danger of losing their health or even life. One may say that Japan is the country best prepared for such a calamity. It is probably true, but this doesn’t really alleviate suffering of the affected part of the Japanese population.

While the attempts to limit the negative consequences are ongoing, it is time to think about the catastrophe and its causes: It is clear that we have no influence on earthquakes and tsunamis. They are independent of our doings. We may be able to contain the damages – that is something the Japanese are really good at. However, the nuclear catastrophe is not independent of us. All in all, it is men who build power stations and use nuclear fission to produce electricity. Continue reading

A Bridge Technology to Where?

President of the Federal Republic Germany, Christian Wulff, signed the bill about (inter alia) prolonging the exploitation time of German nuclear power stations by on average 12 years. Other regulations involved in the bill (it actually is a comprehensive “energy concept” of the CDU-FDP coalition government) are less problematic. But the “bridge technology” that nuclear power is according to the government is a problem. One that makes the whole concept worthless. Continue reading

Nuclear Power in Germany – Why Not?

Today members of the German Bundestag will decide whether to prolong the running period of nuclear power stations in Germany. There are many controversies around the voting (e.g., the fact that the government would like to avoid a subsequent voting in the Bundesrat, where it hasn’t the majority, while there are legal opinions claiming that the Bundesrat has to co-decide). Many of them are of legal or economic nature. But I wanted to give a brief overview over why nuclear power is an irresponsible and counter-productive source of electricity. Continue reading