Biomass france nuclear power

Published on November 5th, 2013 | by Joshua S Hill


Leading Scientists Promote Need For Nuclear To Slow Global Warming

November 5th, 2013 by  

Four of the world’s leading climate scientists have published an open letter “to those influencing environmental policy” stating that wind and solar energy simply won’t be enough to halt the slide of global warming, and they’re asking environmentalists to support the growth of safe nuclear energy as a means to weaning society off its reliance upon fossil fuels. 

The letter was written by Dr. Ken Caldeira, a senior scientist in the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution, Dr. Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. James Hansen, a renowned climate scientist at the Columbia University Earth Institute, and Dr. Tom Wigley, a climate scientist from the University of Adelaide and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

“As climate and energy scientists concerned with global climate change, we are writing to urge you to advocate the development and deployment of safer nuclear energy systems,” they write, adding that “continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change.”

Authors of the letter. From left to right: James Hansen, Tom Wigley, Kerry Emanuel, and Ken Caldeira.

Their case is a strong one, made not least because of their reputations and qualifications. The development of wind and solar energy as alternative energy solutions has been a central tenant of CleanTechnica’s coverage over the past few years, not to mention a significant driver of industry in countries like China, Japan, India, Germany, and the United States.

In the US alone, both wind and solar have continued to make huge strides. A recent report by the EPA showed that wind energy has dramatically cut global warming pollution in the US. While recent numbers released by NPD Solarbuzz at the beginning of October showed solar PV installations reaching a record high of 9 GW for Q3’2013.

It’s all good growth — good development, installation, publicity, public and political support. But as the authors of the letter note, “renewables like wind and solar and biomass” simply “cannot scale up fast enough to deliver cheap and reliable power at the scale the global economy requires” in time to make a significant impact on the rising global temperature.

“While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize the climate without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power.”

The author’s are quick and repetitive in their need to reassure the intended recipients that the need for nuclear is a need for ‘safe’ nuclear, calling for “the development and deployment of safer nuclear power systems” and acknowledging that “today’s nuclear plants are far from perfect.”

“Fortunately, passive safety systems and other advances can make new plants much safer. And modern nuclear technology can reduce proliferation risks and solve the waste disposal problem by burning current waste and using fuel more efficiently. Innovation and economies of scale can make new power plants even cheaper than existing plants.”

The call for an alternate solution to a carbon-heavy energy system is obvious. For several years now, politicians, energy advocates, and those like myself have repeatedly called for a focus on renewable energy. Not only does it benefit the environment and wean us off our reliance upon atmospheric-destroying fossil fuels, but it’s arrival on the industrial scene has meant it is an economically sound and beneficial solution, allowing many companies around the world — not to mention thousands of homeowners — to divest themselves from the utility monopoly.

The call came to late, however, and with 2020 nearing ever closer and a 2- to 3-degrees Celsius increase over industrial revolution temperatures looms on the horizon, growing ever large. Despite the press dedicated to wind and solar’s growth, it is all relative — the growth is impressive, but it is nowhere near what is needed to banish fossil fuel-driven energy.

“While there will be no single technological silver bullet, the time has come for those who take the threat of global warming seriously to embrace the development and deployment of safer nuclear power systems as one among several technologies that will be essential to any credible effort to develop an energy system that does not rely on using the atmosphere as a waste dump,” the authors note. “With the planet warming and carbon dioxide emissions rising faster than ever, we cannot afford to turn away from any technology that has the potential to displace a large fraction of our carbon emissions.”

The authors are well aware of the spectre of nuclear disasters, but are clear in sidelining those fears where they belong: “Quantitative analyses show that the risks associated with the expanded use of nuclear energy are orders of magnitude smaller than the risks associated with fossil fuels.”

In the end, it is public calls for action such as this letter — available to read in full here — that will spark public interest and create political dialogue. The key is to not allow these public calls to be sidelined as inconvenient.

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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.

  • Wayne Williamson


  • Cosette

    Renewables versus nuclear development rate :

    (in french) with tables.

  • Altair IV

    After reading the article again, to my mind these strike me as the main flaws.

    [But as the authors of the letter note, “renewables like wind and
    solar and biomass” simply “cannot scale up fast enough to deliver cheap and reliable power at the scale the global economy requires” in time to make a significant impact on the rising global temperature.]

    So renewables can’t do the job *in time*, but they then go on to argue that we can build a huge fleet of nuclear reactors instead, faster and easier? This is particularly ludicrous since the only really safe designs are still in the trial stage at best, and pipe-dreams at worst.

    [“While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize the climate
    without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to
    climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for
    nuclear power.”]

    I maintain that this is just a complete lie. Tell me, exactly what in the following is unfeasible?

    1) Build up a distributed mix of solar, wind, and other generating sources (tidal, geothermal, etc. as geography and economy will allow), enough to cover the population’s energy needs. It’s been pointed out before that the potential resources for both solar and wind are enough to supply the entire planet’s needs many, many times over.

    2) Throw in a reasonable amount of storage (batteries, pump-up) and long-range transport lines for time-shifting and space shifting supply and demand as needed. Use intelligent micro-gridding to balance out supply at a local level too.

    3) Put some resources into demand management. Encourage efficiency and active control systems to lower demand wherever feasible.

    That’s it. That’s all we need to power the planet almost 100% with renewable energy, except perhaps in a few areas like jet aircraft where high energy density is needed, and these will eventually be solved with biofuels.

    Try as I might I can find nothing in the above that isn’t already possible using existing technology. The only questions involved concern economics and the political will to do it. But if renewables can’t hack it there, how can we really expect nuclear to make the grade instead?

    • Bob_Wallace

      I think you’ve got it absolutely correct.

      It’s sad that some of our brightest scientists have moved out of their areas of expertise and muddied the water with bad advice. They obviously aren’t even moderately educated as to the state of nuclear and renewable energy.

  • Wayne Williamson

    Wow this is the most active thread on clean tech I’ve ever seen.

    Just stating this up front so I don’t get bashed to badly…

    I’m on this site because I believe that solar/wind/geo/hydro are the way to go…
    that being said….

    I’m not opposed to nukes, just the current ones we have and even the ones they are currently trying to push on us.
    I do think that ones like lftr might be workable. Tomorrow on CNN at 9pm est there is a doc on nukes…haven’t seen it yet so have no idea if its any good or not…knowing myself, I won’t like it.
    I guess my main point is that If we can build something that is non polluting(includes wastes) and can supply energy I’m for it. I also support the ITER project that will probably go nowhere, but what is better than having the sun on earth.

    • Bob_Wallace

      There’s no reason to believe that any of the purposed designs can be built faster or cheaper. Possibly safer, but the radioactive waste problem wouldn’t be solved.

      The current reactor being built in Georgia was suppose to be a faster build, but after less than a year of construction they are over a year behind schedule. And they are far over budget.

      The best price we have for new nuclear is 16 cents per kWh. Wind and solar are around 5 – 8 cents per kWh and should be under 5 cents by the time a new reactor could be built. The first question one should ask is what are the odds that a new nuclear plant could produce electricity for 5 cents per kW or less? Somehow someone would need to find a way to make reactors for less than 1/3rd what they now cost.

      That, to me, would require a magic wand. And we don’t even have a magic wand working prototype at this time….

      • Wayne Williamson

        I did say the existing designs suck…That doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up on them. The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor looks very interesting…. Just like any science they should be proven before being built.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Fuel cost is a very small driver of the cost of nuclear-electricity. According to the Nuclear Energy institute the average *fuel cost* at a *nuclear power*plant in 2012 was 0.75 cents/kWh.
          The cost of the reactor that the UK is negotiating is 16 cents/kWh. If fuel costs could be cut by 99% the cost of electricity would still be over 15 cents. Just not going to find a cost solution in the type/price of fuel that would make nuclear competitive.

          • Wayne Williamson

            Watched the CNN “special” last night and it was just the same old crap…

  • CaptD

    So four scientist out of how many scientists have a “viewpoint”, Zzzzzzzzzz.

    Remember all the scientists that said that the Earth is flat?

    Wake up readers and start to promote for RISK-FREE non nuclear Energy, if we all do that, then the marketplace will provide it, despite what the nuclear industry says!

    • JamesWimberley

      Please cite any scientist after Aristotle (or even just any educated person, since there were scarcely any scholars we would call scientists between 400 AD and 1500 AD) who wrote that the earth is flat.
      The Venerable Bede (d. 735):
      “For truly it [the Earth] is an orb placed in the center of the universe; in its
      width it is like a circle, and not circular like a shield but rather
      like a ball, and it extends from its center with perfect roundness on
      all sides.”

  • MercedLoverPeakOilAdvocate

    PS: Yes we need nuclear but huge amounts of fossil fuel go into their construction.

    • Bob_Wallace

      We have no need of nuclear. It’s expensive. It takes a long time to build. And it brings a unique danger and waste disposal problem along with it.

      A few years back it looked like we might need nuclear. But then the price of wind and solar plummeted and we started making progress with better storage technology.

      Nuclear, like coal, is a dead man walking.

      • mzso

        We need nuclear. For prolonged cloudy weather and such.
        Another “Year Without a Summer” (1816) might also happen.

        Also very high energy applications would have use for it that only use energy scarcely.

        • A Real Libertarian

          “Another “Year Without a Summer” (1816) might also happen.”

          Then use other renewables?

          “Also very high energy applications would have use for it that only use energy scarcely.”


          • mzso

            “Then use other renewables?”
            Don’t be silly. Nothing will magically replace the solar capacity.
            Also other renewables are mostly BS. Maybe outside hydro and wave energy.

            You can’t very well just arbitrarily increase the output a couple gigawats in an instant with solar power.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Hydro is BS?

            Geothermal is BS?

            Biomass is BS?

            Sorry, Charlie. You’re posting BS.

          • A Real Libertarian


          • mzso

            Most certainly. Every penny spent on wind instead of solar is a penny wasted.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “Most certainly. Every penny spent on wind instead of solar is a penny wasted.”

            What are you talking about?

          • mzso

            I specifically excluded hydro. Learn to read…
            Geothermal is undeniably BS. It looses power after some years becaue the earth’s crust cools down in that location. Also it’s not actually renewable it just cools down the earth’s (probably nuclear powered) core more quickly.

            Biomass is titanic BS. It’s like solar power with 99% of the energy wasted by default…

          • Bob_Wallace

            mzso, you’ve simply started posting silly stuff.

            We make an attempt to have meaningful conversation here. Please step up your game, this is not junior high.

          • mzso

            Don’t insult me. None of you were capable of talking rationally. Granted “A Real Libertarian” is way worse than you.
            If you don’t want reason start an eco church.

          • A Real Libertarian

            Are you using Ayn Rands definition of “rationally”, because if not, then WOW, could have fooled me.

          • JamesWimberley

            I have news for you: the whole universe is slowly running down. But the death of the sun, and the cooling of the earth’s core (one estimate of the rate is 100deg C per billion years, or 0.0000000000001 deg C per year), are billions of year in the future. Meanwhile, we have a problem with a 50-year horizon to save civilisation.

            Geothermal plants do extract heat from a quite small volume of rock, so local depletion is a risk. However, even if a particular well has to be abandoned, the resource will be eventually be recharged from the mantle. The Lardarello field in Italy has been running sustainably for exactly 100 years.(/

          • mzso

            The sun is actually increasing it’s output. It’ll probably gobble up the earth as it expands too. But that’s not relevant. Prolonged periods of low sunlight can happen.

            “Meanwhile, we have a problem with a 50-year horizon to save civilisation.”
            How do you imagine that? 🙂 To many bad dreams?

          • A Real Libertarian

            mzso, I need to do something very important for me.

            You see that wheel on your mouse? I want you to push it up until the picture on the monitor stops moving and then read the article that pops up.

            Can you do that for me?

          • mzso

            It’s funny that you still think you can afford to be snarky after talking so much nonsense.

          • A Real Libertarian

            So you didn’t do it, huh?

          • mzso

            How about coming up with a point. The article just argues that you need nukes to phase out coal.

          • A Real Libertarian

            The point is that the “problem with a 50-year horizon to save civilisation.” is climate change.

          • mzso

            That’s called FUD. The doomists are always discredited. Sure there will be negative effects eventually, but that’s it.
            Also it’s funny that this site neglects news that proves otherwise, but accepts others from the same source (IPCC):

            By the way even if the worst happened civilization wouldn’t just die.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “You can’t very well just arbitrarily increase the output a couple gigawats in an instant with solar power.”

            What energy source can?

            P.S. Solar will still work.

          • mzso

            If you fire up a nuke reactor then you can have some gigawatts like that.

            “P.S. Solar will still work.”
            Nope. It won’t have magically several times the capacity.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “If you fire up a nuke reactor then you can have some gigawatts like that.”

            Do you have any clue how long it takes to start a nuclear reactor?

            And solar still works in a “Year Without a Summer”.

          • mzso

            Several times faster than building a solar farm…

            “And solar still works in a “Year Without a Summer”.”
            Yeah. And produces a fraction of the energy needed.

          • A Real Libertarian

            OK, let’s say 12 months to build a solar farm.

            “Several times faster” = 10x, therefore it takes over a month to take a reactor from off to 100%.

            Yeah, going to need something a little more responsive then that.

          • mzso

            This post doesn’t have any coherence or meaning.
            If You get about half the solar energy then you don’t only need a measly farm you need to double capacity, Which of course is technologically and economically impossible.

            Nothing’s stopping a nuclear reactor being activised in a couple days if it’s kept in a ready state.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “Nothing’s stopping a nuclear reactor being activised in a couple days if it’s kept in a ready state.”

            You just said it’s several times faster to start up a nuke plant then to build a solar farm. I did the math and it says a month.

          • mzso

            That passes for math in your area? You pulled out of the air two numbers. Plus a solar farm takes years.
            Regardless you don’t just need a solar farm.

          • A Real Libertarian

            OK, Let’s say 2 years.

            That’s 24 months, divide by 10, 2.4 months for a nuclear so even longer to take a reactor from off to 100%.

          • mzso

            How about not “Let’s say” compleletely arbitrary stuff.

            Also what the hell is whit that completely retarted “calculations” and ramblings?
            I see now you INCREDIBLY stupidly and arbitrarily defined several as 10.

            I didn’t catch on this because it’s so mind-numbingly imbecilic.

            And you keep “calculating” startup times by dividing an arbitrary time with 10… Jesus christ….

          • A Real Libertarian

            OK, let’s say several equals 5.

            24 months, divide by 5 equals 4.8 months for a nuclear reactor to go from off to 100%.

            So the math is even worse.

          • mzso

            Okay I give up on you now. Apparently you’re stuck at second grade level. You keep calculation nonsense from numbers manufactured by yourself. And you can’t comprehend the meaning of the word several.
            The simple fact is that it takes years to add another 50% or such solar power. Find an area, prepare the area, manufacture all the panels, manufacture all the support structures for them. Build up the power infrastructure, etc And you expect it to happen immediately when an abnormally low sunlight condition persists.

            “So the math is even worse.” It hurts you can’t even use the word math properly.

          • A Real Libertarian

            OK, according to you how long does it take to build a solar farm and what number is “several”?

          • mzso

            Several is not a number. It just means it takes many times longer. Anyway I already wrote that it takes years for any significant size. Anyway you can’t go even several months without sufficient power and have no grave effects.
            The point is if nuclear reactors are designed and built to be backups they cold provide power as soon as they are started in case of a “renewable drought”.

          • A Real Libertarian

            So, you claim it takes months for a nuclear plant to get to full power.

            That there’s gave effects for going for months without sufficient power.

            And then conclude more nukes?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Solar farms are built in months. Commercial solar is installed in days.

            Large wind farms are generally built in less than two years, sometimes less than one.

          • mzso

            Yes. If the panels turbines and all the other components were already produced previously. And if the land was prepared previously. And the electricity infrastructure was already built to handle the farm.

          • A Real Libertarian

            And all that doesn’t apply to nukes?

          • mzso

            Not if they’re already built as back-ups. Try to pay attention…

          • Bob_Wallace

            Building a wind or solar farm includes land prep and transmission installation. Panels and turbines are purchased and not counted as part of the build time.

            When we talk about the years to build a nuclear reactor we do not include the time needed to mine the ore, smelt steel, and form the pipe along with all the other components which are created outside the build process.

          • mzso

            Why can’t you get the point? The point is if you get abnormally low renewable energy you can’t just snap you fingers and double capacity.
            But if you have nuclear plants built, you can start them up and have gigawatts of power.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Again, stop this foolishness. You aren’t even paying attention to the crap you write.

            Overfuel a nuclear reactor in order to increase power higher than design? That, my friend, will cause a melt-down. Plus you can’t spin the turbine faster than the design allows.

          • mzso

            Where did you gathered that? Seriosly…

            No-one talked about anything like that but you. I was talking about reactors ready for action in case of need as a fallback for solar or in case of other need.

        • Bob_Wallace

          No, we actually don’t. It’s been well documented using several years of wind and solar output along with real world demand from a major grid that we can build a grid with only renewables and storage. There’s no need for nuclear.

          During a future ‘year without summer’ we would also have a large decrease in demand (air conditioning).

          • mzso

            And increase in heating…
            Just how cool would it be. Ooops the batteries ran out. First thing on tomorrows itinerary: collapse of society.

          • Bob_Wallace

            The wind blows harder in the winter.

            But thanks for playing….

          • mzso

            Wind is a piece of shit. Also it has nothing to do with winter. Lack of solar solar energy reaching the earth won’t be compensated with wind power.
            Also wind is solar power transiently. The sun warms up the earth at some point and that’s why the wind blows.
            Your foolish.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “Your foolish.”

          • mzso

            Precisely the “rational argument” I thought you had…

          • A Real Libertarian

            This isn’t rational time, you proved that very well.

            This is poo-flinging monkey time, and I’m the zookeeper.

          • mzso

            No your the fool, who tries to hide his lack of understanding and intellect with downtalk.

          • A Real Libertarian

            “No your the fool, who tries to hide his lack of understanding and intellect with downtalk.”

          • Bob_Wallace

            mzso, you’re approaching the line that should not be crossed.

            You’ve been proven wrong multiple times. And now you’re resorting to insult.

            This is your only warning. Clean up your act.

          • mzso

            Really now?
            I’m still waiting for someone to ACTUALLY disprove anything. And no just spit beliefs.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let’s see if this is “actual” enough for you…

            “The time it takes to build a project varies with the size of the project, the number of turbines, and other factors. Most utility-size projects take over a year to complete. However, in certain cases, the construction time is much less. The 80 MW Llano Estacado Wind Ranch™ at White Deer, for instance, took only three months to construct.”


            Here you will find a list of large solar farms built by First Solar. Construction times range from 4 to 14 months.


          • mzso

            OK that re-enforces me.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, mzso. That proves that you were wrong and this last post proves that you are a liar.

          • mzso

            Keep living your delusion. The equipment needs to be manufactured as I said already. They won’t just appear with a snap of a finger.
            80MW is nothing if you have to compensate to a significant percentage of energy deficit

          • Bob_Wallace

            Perhaps you don’t realize that nuclear reactors also have to be built. It is very expensive to build a nuclear reactor.

            The cost of building solar and wind farms and nuclear reactors plays a major role in the price of electricity they produce.

            That is why nuclear electricity is about 3x the cost of wind and solar electricity.

          • mzso

            Yes de do have to be built. Building renewables increased energy prices everywhere so-far. Becuse they’re underdeveloped technologies. (Wind is just plain poor)
            Nuclear was made expensive eco-nut FUDD and idiotic regulation.

            “That is why nuclear electricity is about 3x the cost of wind and solar electricity.”
            That’s so far is only in the eco-religious people’s imagination. Add batteries to the concept so it would be actually a quazi-complete solution and that increases the cost multi-fold.



            It’s funny that arguing here is quite similar to NBF. But with eco-religious people instead of nuke-religious.

          • Bob_Wallace

            High penetration (>40% of grid total) will require storage.

            High penetration of nuclear (>15% of grid total) also requires storage.

            Back when we were building reactors in the US we also built 21 GW of pump-up and CAES storage in order to move surplus off-peak nuclear electricity to peak demand hours.

          • mzso

            “High penetration of nuclear (>15% of grid total) also requires storage. ”
            Not necessarily. Depends on design. Old designs aren’t particularly good from this aspect.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I suppose your alluding to load-following designs.

            I suppose you also haven’t realized that load-following makes nuclear even more expensive.

            Nuclear reactors have very high “mortgages” – capex and finex loans. Annual payments / Total MWh produced = cost of electricity. Lower Total MWh and cost per MWh increases.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Solar reduced the wholesale price of electricity in Germany by about 5 billion euros in 2012.
            Solar and wind combined reduced fossil fuel purchases by 8 billion euros.

            Wind has decreased the cost of electricity on the ERCOT grid.

          • A Real Libertarian

            The link is broken.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let’s try this…

            Solar on the grid reduced the wholesale price of electricity by €6.145 billion in 2012.


            Germany is saving EUR 8 billion a year in fossil fuel import costs right now.


          • mzso

            Though none of these sources are reliable. Both wildly biased.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Tell you what mzso, you find some data that proves those sources incorrect.
            You’re turning into a troll.

          • mzso

            So I should believe a politician validating his own decision. Or a group protecting it’s own interests.

          • A Real Libertarian

            If the only the only evidence against it is “I don’t wanna believe it wahhh!” then yes.

          • mzso

            More like lack of actual proof.

          • A Real Libertarian

            Does “actual proof” mean “proof that agrees with my preconceived notion”?

          • mzso

            But I’m starting to think we will only really know what’s the case after all of it has happened. All people in the energy sector just lie their asses of and/or delude themselves.

          • mzso

            For example on nextbigfuture everyone says and references stuff that nuclear and fossil fuel power plants are much cheaper. And about solar companies going bankrupt in masses.
            Anyway the wikipedia links crearly show solar and wind’s disadvantage. Especially solar. Maybe it closed the gap where there’s a lot of sunshine, but they wont be a full alternative until cheap and durable batteries are developed. Which is like 5-10 years.

            Meanwhile nuclear also can become better, with never reactor designs and Chinese mass production.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “there’s a lot of sunshine, but they wont be a full alternative”


            No one suggests a 100% solar grid except pro coal/nuclear advocates.

            You make a dishonest argument.

          • mzso

            Really?! Which part? It was an observation. The kind of comments her are FUD, like the “ecosystem will collapse in 20 years”, etc…

            “No one suggests a 100% solar grid except pro coal/nuclear advocates.”
            Huh? Nuclear advocates suggest 100% nuclear.

            “You make a dishonest argument.”
            Again. WHT are you talking about?

          • A Real Libertarian

            “Huh? Nuclear advocates suggest 100% nuclear.”

            Nuclear advocates suggest 100% solar as a strawman they can attack.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I am talking about your statement “there’s a lot of sunshine, but they wont be a full alternative”.

          • mzso

            There’s nothing dishonest about that.

            If you need fossil fuel plants to support renewables, it’s worse for the environment than going nukes. The whole renewable energy thing is about the environment.

            You said: “We have no need of nuclear.”
            So you promote pollutant emissions instead of having some nukes around.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Please describe how a 100% nuclear grid would operate.

            Let’s say you’ve got a 100 GW average load with a 3:1 peak:off-peak variation.

        • Grad

          “A year without summer” is bullshit. Sun’s output changed only a couple of watts lower during little ice age. Its average power today during summer is at about 1000 Watts per square meter. So couple of watts is negligible as far as photovoltaic power is concerned.

          • A Real Libertarian

            I knew that was the case.

            Thanks for the math.

          • mzso

            Math… 😀

          • A Real Libertarian

            If you disagree, present your math.

          • mzso

            You keep using math as a magic word whenever someone writes a number…

          • A Real Libertarian

            So a decrease of 1% in the sun’s output is supposed to cause a decrease of 50% in solar panels output how exactly?

          • mzso

            No-one said 1%. I most certainly didn’t say that the sun’s output changed.

            Instead of rambling mindlessly check out the wikipedia article for the year withouth summer. It’s attributed to a volcanic eruption.

          • A Real Libertarian

            A volcanic eruption that blocked out part of the suns output.

            Note the part that was blocked out didn’t equal 50%

          • mzso

            It’s nice that you state unknowns stuff as facts. Not only that but it’s not even determinable since it happened in the past…
            Also you pulled a couple watts from the air. In 1816 people thought it was significant when they starved. And crops froze in in the summer. I’d say it was more than a watt or two.

          • Grad

            Satellites say that Sun has 11-year cycle when output varies 0.1% around average of 1366W/m2 (this is at the top of atmosphere, then you have to subtract clouds, pollution, and lattitude).

            This output correlates with sunspots and past changes can be reconstructed from sunspots (people observed sunspots for last couple of hundred years). They are of an order of about 1%, which is a couple of watts difference at the surface.

            This may not sound like much but it is very important for climate.

            But photovoltaics will work just fine, even if there is a couple of watts lower Sun power. You will still get most of the power. Same with major volcanic eruptions blocking 1% of sunlight (or human air pollution for that matter).

          • Grad

            Let me just correct myself a little bit: during Maunder minimum there was 0.25% less solar irradiance than 1950 levels.

            Here’s link:

            That was about 3.4W/m2. Multiply this by 2 (or 3 or even 4, the point will be the same) and you get about 6.8W/m2 less irradiance.

            That is still very small compared to 250W/m2 daily average at the surface ( )

            So the point is unchanged: in such a case photovoltaics would still provide most of the power. It’s not that everything would just went dark or something.

          • mzso

            This is all nice and well, but it’s just a hypothesis at this point.

          • mzso

            But the “Year Without a Summer” summer thing wasn’t a couple of watts:

            “In the spring and summer of 1816, a persistent “dry fog” was observed in
            the northeastern US. The fog reddened and dimmed the sunlight, such
            that sunspots were visible to the naked eye. Neither wind nor rainfall
            dispersed the “fog”. It has been characterized as a stratospheric sulfate aerosol veil.[6]”

            Seeing the sunspots with the naked eye isn’t just a few percent. It’s a lot. Like 90%+ (rough guess) You can’t even see sunspots when at sundown when the sun isn’t powerful at all.

            And the solar cycle has little to do with it.

          • Grad

            If Earth received 90% less power from Sun then it would freeze all over. But obviously that didn’t happen. Maybe locally there was some thick fog, but certainly not all the time and not across whole globe.

            I don’t think that’s a particularly valid argument against PV.

          • mzso

            Sure not globally, and all the time. But if they experienced winter like conditions in the summer that means they received winter like energy for some time.

      • The world used to need nuclear, then the cost of it exploded, and the costs of wind and solar decreased, turning the table around.

        • Bob_Wallace

          It seems that some people operate with out of date numbers. That puts them in the position of arguing for untenable solutions to our fossil fuel problem.

      • T.Kelson

        It’s not the case that nuclear power plants taken long time the build, China can turn out nuclear power plants less then 2 years, it’s the only way to prevent C02 emission from going up wards.

        New scientific report came out today saying that C02 global warming emission continue to massively rise taking into account that solar/wind power has no impact at all, and global warming continues to follow its course northwards, up but not down.

        Contrary to your claims that coal is dead, fossil fuels will continue to be used throughout the U.S. and continue to be mined at a higher level than the previous years.

        Coal and oil will still remain the number one energy for this present time in the U.S. including the next 100 years.

        We have not seen any impact yet for renewable energy on the world’s global C02 emissions levels.

        There has been a study reports based upon renewable energy and household usage before and after renewable energy was installed. It found that houses with renewable energy and those on 20 years subsidies are using more energy are depended upon more fossil fuels then before. Those who have renewable energy are going overseas on more travel, and those houses with renewable energy were less likely to be environmentally conscious of global warming.

        • A Real Libertarian

          What study?

        • Bob_Wallace

          “China can turn out nuclear power plants less then 2 years,”

          Perhaps you can tell us the names of those 2 year plants and when they were built?

          “New scientific report came out today saying that C02 global warming emission continue to massively rise”

          Actually CO2 emission growth has slowed to 1.1% in 2012, down from the previous decade average of 2.9%. And that happened while the global economy rose 3.5%.

          That is success. Making directional changes in very large systems requires slowing before reversing. Think aircraft carriers.

          “Contrary to your claims that coal is dead, fossil fuels will continue to be used throughout the U.S. and continue to be mined at a higher level than the previous years.”

          We now have 150 US coal plants closed or scheduled to close in the next couple of years. Unless you know of plans to make big piles of coal and burn them in the open I would call your claim very questionable. We simply will not have available capacity to burn larger amounts of coal.

          “Coal and oil will still remain the number one energy for this present time in the U.S. including the next 100 years.”

          I doubt hardly anyone would support that claim. Coal is currently losing its position to natural gas and renewables. Oil will almost certainly be largely replaced by electric or hydrogen fueled transportation.

          “We have not seen any impact yet for renewable energy on the world’s global C02 emissions levels.”

          We are seeing an increasing amount of the world’s electricity coming from renewables. The percentage of renewable generation can’t grow without the percentage of fossil fuel use decreasing. That’s simple math.

          Has renewable energy already made a large impact on CO2 emission? No, we’re in the very early stage of the transition away from fossil fuels. Technological changes generally start slow and then accelerate into very steep adoption curves. We’re seeing rapid acceleration in wind and solar installations.

          “There has been a study reports based upon renewable energy and household usage before and after renewable energy was installed. It found that houses with renewable energy and those on 20 years subsidies are using more energy are depended upon more fossil fuels then before.”

          Please give us a link to that study.

          As for the part about people “who have renewable energy are going overseas on more travel” that’s silly. You, or the paper’s author, are creating causation out of correlation.

  • MercedLoverPeakOilAdvocate

    “No amount of solar, wind or even nuclear is going to allow us to continue living this way of life.”
    – Howard James Kunstler

    The bottom line is we need EVERY alternative energy source to buy time to transition from fossil fuels.

    To delay planning will only make future crash worse.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Yes, we do need pretty much all renewable energy sources in order to produce the electricity we want at an affordable price.

      It looks like wind and solar will dominate as they are by far the least expensive. Hydro will play a large role because it is largely dispatchable. Biofuels and biogas are also dispatchable. We’ll use different mixes in different locations based on what is available and when power is needed.

      And we do need to get cracking in order to minimize the hurt we’re going to get. Luckily wind and solar install rapidly.

  • Steeple

    Oh look. The models are wrong.


    Something about “settled science”.

    • A Real Libertarian

      The Daily Fail?


      • Steeple

        Are you bagging on Ga Tech?

        • A Real Libertarian


          I’m laughing at the Daily Fail.

    • Bob_Wallace

      You must be kidding.

      No, I’m sorry to say that you probably believe that stadium wave stuff. I fulfills your need to believe in fantasies.

    • AegysLTS

      I read the Daily Mail for celebrity gossips….that’s all…

    • Bob_Wallace

      You didn’t bother to dig deeper than a tabloid page, eh?

      Had you done so you would have found that the stadium wave stuff is just curve fitting and says nothing about global warming. It’s just an attempt to describe observed variability but offers no causality explanation.

      Judith Curry, the senior researcher and junior author of the paper has this to say…

      “The paper is about natural internal variability, it says absolutely nothing about AGW. The IPCC treats natural internal variability as ‘noise’; we argue that it is the fundamental climate signal on decadal to century time scales, with external forcing projecting onto these modes.”

      If it can be determined that the observed variability does follow a pattern then climate scientists can look to see what might be driving that pattern and in doing so explain some of the noise. But all in all, it’s just wiggles in the rising line marking global temperature increases.

  • Bob_Wallace

    The unspoken risk to nuclear energy is the public pressure that will arise when the next reactor goes sour. A meltdown in the US would probably lead to all US reactors being closed. The same is true for western Europe.

    Aside from TMI the big melts have been “somewhere a long way from us and run by people not like us”. Let us melt one of our own and public opposition to nuclear energy will be immense.

    We have enough unused NG capacity right now to allow us to shut down US reactors. We could close them and not put ourselves in the tight supply situation Japan has suffered. And electricity prices wouldn’t go up much. If the public called for total closure there wouldn’t be much of a counter argument.

    Anyone investing in nuclear energy is a foolish person.

  • JamesWimberley

    Nuclear costs too much, and takes too long. Hinkley Point C’s 3.3 GW in Britain will come at twice current German FITs for wind and solar; and the gap will widen to a gulf by the time it’s operating (>2023). We can’t afford to pursue carbon reductions inefficiently; every dollar and euro and yuan and pound must count.
    Second, there is no political or economic constituency for nuclear today. It’s a tragic diversion of effort to try to create one. Greens should stay focussed on killing coal, then oil, then gas; on the raft of non-problematic renewable technologies we have; on reversing deforestation; and on efficiency.
    If money is available for blue-sky projects, spend it on new technologies for low-carbon shipping, aviation, steel- and cement-making; and on sequestration.

  • Ross

    They need to provide evidence based arguments why:

    1. Renewables cannot be scaled up quickly enough
    2. Safe Nuclear power (if it is achievable) can be scaled up quickly

    This is a distraction that just helps the fossil fuel interests.

  • SecularAnimist

    I deeply respect the expertise of these scientists in their field: climate science.

    Unfortunately they are ill-informed about energy technologies, and their letter is full of false statements about renewable energy technologies as well as nuclear power. It’s as though they know nothing about what’s been happening with solar and wind energy during the last 20 years.

    And their suggestion that the only real obstacle to some kind of rapid expansion of nuclear power is opposition from “environmentalists” is equally ill-informed, and frankly just plain silly.

    To take their advice would be to SLOW the transition from fossil fuels to zero emissions energy technologies by misdirecting huge amounts of precious resources from expanding renewable energy into a wasteful, costly, and ineffective nuclear power program.

  • Matt

    Nuclear will not make it. The way to see growth in non-carbon based power is to freaking price carbon. Unless we remove all safety requirement from nuclear it will not be cheap as wind. At least until some massive break through, would say never; but in 50-1000 years who knows. Of course if you remove safety it is only cheap until the first accident or time to decommission. Maybe these 4 should read the price on the new Hinkley nuclear in UK.

  • Grad

    This call would have made sense 10 years ago, but it doesn’t make sense now. Renewables are now cheaper and can be deployed much faster. Why would we go for nuclear? It doesn’t make sense.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I suspect this is why they formed a failed opinion. They probably are not aware about how rapidly renewable prices have dropped.

    • Guest

      I don’t think they are talking about prices though, I read their letter, their concern is whether renewables can keep up in time.

      • Grad

        They mention scaling, cost and reliability.

        Scaling: renewables can be scaled much faster than nuclear. About 35GW of solar will be installed in 2013, which is equivalent to 5 nuclear reactors per year. It’s growing at about 5-15GW per year. When you add other renewables numbers go up even much higher. Nuclear cannot be scaled this fast and cannot be done that quickly.

        Cost: renewables are now cheaper than nuclear. People really should realize how cheap renewables have become. Nuclear on the other hand is already more expensive (look at Hinkley C) and it isn’t getting any cheaper anytime soon.

        Reliability: this is probably the only issue left for renewables. But if you look at the facts then you see that it’s not that big issue as it would seem. Numerous studies have shown that we can get up to 80-100% renewables with combination of different renewable sources (depending on location) and some grid expansion (also depending on location). So issue of reliability is much overblown.

        For example biogas is dispatchable, hydro is dispatchable, and both of these are existing technologies. We can get up to 80% practically everywhere.

        It’s the last 20% that may be a problem. But nuclear won’t be of any help there, because it’s not dispatchable. It’s new kinds of storage that is needed to solve those last 20% (batteries, compressed air, power-to-gas).

        • Altair IV

          Reliability isn’t actually a problem at all.

          In fact, it’s centralized systems that become less reliable as they scale up. One failure and you instantly lose a large percentage of your generation. More eggs in fewer baskets is not a recipe for reliability.

          Distributed systems, on the other hand, actually become *more* reliable as they scale up. The variability that exists at the local level averages out at larger scales and the output becomes ever more stable and predictable as the grid grows. And of course it’s much harder to lose enough sources to cause serious inconvenience.

  • Scotland

    Even if 10s of new nuclear reactors were ordered in the US and developed countries today and construction started immediately, it would take years for that energy to come online. With solar, wind, and storage prices continuing to fall, the costs of nuclear would just look even worse than they do now when the nuclear reactors finally do come online. The money the scientists propose to spend on nuclear could be spent on renewables with far better results (and sooner).

    Climate change is a real problem but this is not the answer.

  • Dave2020

    NO – Spend nothing on nuclear. Put ALL that investment into energy storage instead. But design it to be integral with marine renewables. The whole-system savings would pay for it anyway.

  • Nick

    If the renewables are unable to scale up (growing 15-20% per year), than what is the actual situation with the dying nuclear industry (where the scaling is negative)???

  • ThomasGerke

    Incredibly ignorant about the global energy challenges, what has happened in renewable energy and what the potentials are.

    This letter might as well have been written in 1990 and the authors harm their credibility by giving advice on issues they obviously are no experts on.

    I respect their concern & activism for our climate, but repeating conventional wisdom about renewables is just sad and blatantly ignorant.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Nominees for the Linus Pauling Award….

  • Dimitar Mirchev


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