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Is Nuclear Energy a Solution to Climate Change

Updated on January 28, 2013

Several among the notable voices on climate change including lobbyists have held that nuclear energy is a solution to climate change. For instance, the British nuclear industry is working hard to persuade members of parliament and the other influential public figures of the benefits of nuclear power. Dr James Lovelock, the UK based scientist who developed the gaia theory, now wrongly advocates the use of nuclear power as one solution to the global warming crisis. Sir David King, Chief UK government science advisor, says the nuclear power plants are the only realistic way to satisfy the growing energy demands while meeting global warming targets. And former UK Greenpeace leader Peter Melchett has also publicly endorsed this concept. The British nuclear industry has sacrificed full disclosure and jettisoned truth in order to ensure a new round of government subsidies for nuclear power (Caldicott xvii-xviii).

Whatever may the case be, achieving a workable international deal to tackle climate change sucessfully is being threatened by overambitious targets set for the world conference on global warming this year, according to experts as reported in The Times , May 30, 2009. The next global warming summit that took place in Copenhagen in December did not come out with a viable and effective agreement to combat global warming. Carlo Carraro, Profesor of Environmental Economics warned that extremely demanding goals set by the governments worldwide for Copenhagen meet could offset any deal struck there.

Professor Carraro claimed that the key target set for Copenhagen – cutting the concentration of carbon in atmosphere to 550 parts per million by 2100 – was unlikely to be achieved unless a grand coalition of big emerging markets that included India and China with Western nations was achieved. However, the nations like India and China were unlikely to abide by the targets that hampered their economic growth. This would leave the developed countries alone to share the burden of economic growth.

This concern was shared by several others at the international debate on climate and energy at Munich. For instance, Karen Harbert, the chief executive of the Institute for 21st Century Energy at the US Chamber of Commerce, said that an American medium-term goal to cut carbon dioxide emissions to 14 per cent less than 2005 levels would mean cutting these by a “gigaton”. This was equivalent, according to her, “of the United States building 320 new “zero emission” 500 megawatt coal-fired power plants, or 130 new nuclear power stations. It would also mean America cutting the intensity of its carbon emissions to levels equal to those in present-day Bangladesh” (The Times , May 30, 2009).

However, there were others at Copenhagen, especially the officials that were optimistic of the outcome. Moreover, there are differences of opinion on the facts and figures. For instance, according to John Houghton of IPCC, the CO2 at present is 330 ppm and there is no likelihood of its reaching 550 ppm by 2100. Also, it is the biomass which controls the CO2 and not man. Nonetheless, it remains undeniably true that it is the man that controls biomass, level of pollution, and emissions of greenhouse gases.


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    • A_K profile image

      Ajit Kumar Jha 6 years ago from Delhi

      I absolutely agree.

    • Goodpal profile image

      Goodpal 6 years ago

      Global warming or climate change issues have roots in extravagant lifestyle currently in fashion in the western super powers. Ever increasing demand for energy is just a side-effect of that malady and things like excessive greenhouse gases in atmosphere and messed up global ecology are the proofs of this unsustainable living.

      The concept of "development" needs redefinition and alignment with human development. The tiny Indian state, Kerala, is a bright example of people development without industrialization.

      A paradigm shift is needed in the mindset of economists to move towards sustainable economy -- limiting demand to match the limited natural resources. It is pure commonsense that the concept of "produce-more-and-consume-more" can not go on forever.

      UN's popular human development index (HDI) or the multidimensional poverty index (MPI) should govern the development of nations, not just the GDP growth numbers. Such initiatives will solve many other ills of the world besides climate change.

    • profile image

      Saad Shaukat 8 years ago

      The problem in using nuclear energy is it's regulation. Without an effective checks and balance system, nuclear technology might became an agent of destruction instead of peace. Efforts are being made to bring the level of nuclear weapons to zero and one of the well known among all is the Global Zero Initiative. Please read the following short, concise article about global zero and start exploring more about it!

    • Shinkicker profile image

      Shinkicker 8 years ago from Scotland

      Interesting Hub

      I don't know if the natural sources of energy have been seriously explored, such as solar, wind, wave and especially geo-thermal energy