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UN: Renewables, Nuclear Must Triple To Save Climate 433

An anonymous reader writes "On the heels of a study that concluded there was less than a 1% chance that current global warming could be simple fluctuations, U.N. scientists say energy from renewables, nuclear reactors and power plants that use emissions-capture technology needs to triple in order keep climate change within safe limits. From The Washington Post: 'During a news conference Sunday, another co-chair, Rajendra K. Pachauri of India, said the goal of limiting a rise in global temperatures "cannot be achieved without cooperation." He added, "What comes out very clearly from this report is that the high-speed mitigation train needs to leave the station soon, and all of global society needs to get on board."'"
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UN: Renewables, Nuclear Must Triple To Save Climate

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  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom ( 2244874 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @05:22PM (#46742389)
    It's been what, like 50 years we've been using old tech? Nuclear is cleaner than coal barring an accident. Coal is guaranteed to kill and hurt people. With Nuclear you at least have a chance of everyone being healthy. Even if the country doesn't adopt some grand scheme of making a bunch of nuclear plants, making one here or one there would get our technology levels higher and create jobs for smart people.

    A lesser known situation is if you actually create an energy surplus, food costs, logistic costs, and transportation costs get cheaper. So if we ramped our energy production up by 2-8x what we got now, people could charge their hybrid car at home for even less than they do now. I think this dream is often grouped up with a superconductor power grid idea which is unrealistic for the short term. I think for a better world, we should be aiming to create energy surpluses.

    Sometimes I even have the strange thought that energy conservation ideas hurt society's growth. It would be almost better if we used more power in the short term so energy could invest in itself and provide more power at lower costs down the road. I mean it is better to conserve electricity, but I don't hear people championing the idea of creating a global energy surplus.
  • Nope. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 13, 2014 @05:26PM (#46742413)

    Humans are too greedy and too unreliable for nuclear to be the safest option.

    Fix humans? That's way too hard.
    Use something else? Doable.

    Unless we just really have no problem with every X years some spot on earth becomes uninhabitable for the next 50,000 years...

  • Renewables (Score:5, Insightful)

    by masonc ( 125950 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @05:30PM (#46742439) Homepage

    The long and short of it..we're buggered. Thankfully, we will all be dead when it gets really shitty. If you think that the countries of the world can band together to reduce emissions and turn to renewables, you are smoking the funny tobacco. I install solar in countries that have the highest electricity prices and the most sun, but they refuse to implement renewables, preferring that good old diesel products. People are inherently stupid, short sighted and greedy. Nothing but war and pestilence will cause change. Nothing else ever has.

  • by ericloewe ( 2129490 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @05:31PM (#46742441)

    Nuclear is cleaner than any fossil fuel, properly managed. Overall, despite the accidents, nuclear's impact has been a lot smaller than that of fossil fuels.

    Unfortunately, accidents aren't seen as an opportunity to learn and eliminate old flaws, but to halfheartedly dump the whole thing, leaving behind ancient designs with known flaws instead of new, safer designs.

  • by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @05:45PM (#46742493)

    To paraphrase a movie: "Climate Change is People!" There's too many people on this world, all wanting the same thing and that's what's causing this. Depletion of our resources is occurring at an accelerated rate all because of more and more people and the rush for economic expansion. Fundamentally there will be two paths ahead, one which means controlling population growth and the second the upheaval of the worldwide economic engines both of which are driving the higher CO2 levels. Of course if a volcano or two erupt here and there it won't help but neither is allowing for commercial deforestation and destroying watersheds. Well before we all burn up, we'll have wars over water and other key strategic resources. We know it's on the horizon because we all can't get along on this planet and we'll never come to a consensus on wealthier nations changing their ways while allowing less developed nations a chance at economic growth. We're about due for another World War aren't we?

    My suggestion is to invest in Mountain-top real estate in a Northern latitude and live like Euell Gibbons. []

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @06:44PM (#46742855)
    True, nuclear waste is not pollution unless it escapes in an accident. Fortunately, the volumes are so small that unlike with many other by-products of our industrial civilization, this one is actually amenable to being stored in controlled conditions, indefinitely.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 13, 2014 @07:12PM (#46743007)

    Old stuff. Pebble bed reactors have their own problems. This one had atmospheric releases of radioactive material, contaminated the ground and groundwater below it (complete with increased Leukemia rates in the vicinity) and is currently much more radioactive than planned so that deconstruction can't begin: AVR Jülich []. This one was decommissioned after just six years due to the continuous repairs driving the costs up: Thorium High Temperature Reactor 300MW [].

    The nuclear industry will always try to convince you that the solution to all nuclear power problems is waiting right around the corner, to convince the public that nuclear is still an option. Whenever and wherever they're allowed to continue, not only do they keep the old designs online, the "new" designs never deliver on the promises either. They keep covering up accidents, they keep playing down potential risks, they keep deferring risk to the public (nuclear power plants are uninsurable: if - when - the shit hits the fan, everybody pays the price, in more than one way.)

  • by American Patent Guy ( 653432 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @07:24PM (#46743075) Homepage

    When it's the "UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change". Here's the BBC's description of IPCC: "The IPCC itself is a small organisation, run from Geneva with a full time staff of 12. All the scientists who are involved with it do so on a voluntary basis." []

    Relax, people. There's no U.N resolution here; there's no consensus of nations here recognizing the urgency that requires this "tripling" of non-carbon-based energy. It's easy for the press to say this is the report from the U.N., when it's not.

    If you get 12 scientists in a room that have volunteered to produce a report on global warming, what would you expect them to produce? Something that says everything's peachy?

    You won't see this old boy freaking out over something dumb like this.

  • by jphamlore ( 1996436 ) <> on Sunday April 13, 2014 @08:19PM (#46743333)
    One of the problems is that the "wrong stance" on climate change is just a reason to stigmatize people as being morally unworthy. We have reinvented the Pharisees versus everyone else. The Pharisees were actually reasonably moral people, virtuous and giving donations to charity. In fact the deniers of climate change are not doing a thing to prevent any major renewable energy project from proceeding in the world. There has been a massive build-out in solar panel and wind turbine manufacturing capacity, and there are multiple giant installations being constructed in solar concentration and in offshore wind farms. The technologically super-advanced Germany, regardless of political party, is firmly committed to its Energiewende that will increase that country's usage of renewables to 60% by 2050. Whatever obstacles there are to renewables, the climate change deniers are for practical purposes unimportant. Failure is not because of others, it lies in ourselves. Stop blaming, start fixing.
  • Re:Fuck this shit! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rally2xs ( 1093023 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @08:39PM (#46743415)

    Doesn't matter, petroleum and natural gas will eventually run out, whether it's 30 years or 300 years. We need to build nukes that can handle Uranium and Thorium and Plutonium for fuels, and breeder reactors to create more fuel and reprocess old fuel. Keep working on fusion, and someday fusion will be practical and our energy source will then be virtually inexhaustible.

  • Re:Nuclear? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by garyisabusyguy ( 732330 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @08:46PM (#46743447)

    It's not even all of the environmentalists, check out Patrick Moore: []

    He used to be the President of Greenpeace and was *ahem* asked to leave, primarily due to his advocacy of Nuclear Energy

    At this point Greenpeace is as stuck in its position of advocating against Nuclear Energy as the NRA is against gun control, and they are both looking like obstacles to any positive change in the status quo

    By working against Nuclear Energy, Greenpeace has managed to be as big a supporter of continued fossil fuel dependence as the Koch bros.

    There are plenty of smart environmentalists out there, and the uninformed ones should be donating their money somewhere besides Greenpeace

  • Re:Fuck this shit! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @10:19PM (#46743835)

    1970's? Global cooling? Are you serious? The prevailing opinion at the time was 'we don't know', that is the science available at the time was not capable of modelling the effect of man's activities on climate.

    In this [] essay written by Carl Sagan in 1980 he expresses exactly this and makes a plea for support for such work.

    The idea that there was a 'global cooling' consensus in the 1970's is the sheerest poppycock. Complete wishful thinking by people with a political agenda back by no rigorous assessment of the situation.

    If you really are interested in just facts, you have failed to accumulate many.

  • Re:Fuck this shit! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gareth Iwan Fairclough ( 2831535 ) on Sunday April 13, 2014 @11:03PM (#46744017)

    Nuclear power on the other hand scares the hell out of me.

    Learn about it. I've found that in doing so, I have become far less frightened of it.

  • Only less than 1% (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Monday April 14, 2014 @01:00AM (#46744439) Journal
    Actually, as a physicist, rather than trying to make simplistic arguments as to why experts in the field might be wrong you should just look at the statistics that the experts quote in the first line of the summary:

    On the heels of a study that concluded there was less than a 1% chance that current global warming could be simple fluctuations...

    Now "less that 1%" sounds low but is less than a 3-standard deviation (or 3 sigma) signal. In physics 3 sigma is generally the level at which you can claim "evidence for" a given effect and to prove it to others you need a 5-sigma signal which is less than a 1 in ~1.7 million chance.

    The reason that we use these levels is because it is next to impossible to remove all human bias from an experiment. Hence you have to accept that there will always be some and it has been found from experience that these levels of proof tend to be ones which, once reached, are rarely found to be wrong. Although 3 sigma is just at the level where you can say "this is something likely to be true".

    While I think it likely that humans have caused some degree of global warming it is a little worrying that the evidence for it is still so flimsy. If we then ask say whether more than 50% of global warming is due to humans I expect that the probability becomes even less certain. So to start motivating a major change in direction from fossil to nuclear (which has its own but different problems) we need a 3-sigma signal (less than 0.27%) that mankind is responsible for at least 50% of the current warming.

  • Re:Nuclear? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by macpacheco ( 1764378 ) on Monday April 14, 2014 @01:11AM (#46744481)

    If the rate is less than 1% more cancers than normal, then you just proven my point.

    It will be really proven by the time Fukushima is some 10 years old, and we can show with statistics that cancers among even those most affected by the accidents radiation caused a small extra cancer and a tiny extra death rate. Like Chernobyl, the nuclear community learned very little from Fukushima, cause the mistake was disregard to common nuclear safety knowledge, rather than the need for fundamental redesign of state of the art reactors. The real problem is the reluctance of replacing all Gen II reactors with Gen III+ or Gen IV reactors. Not that I'm a big fan of AP1000 and similar designs, but they are safe enough to have two miles from my home.

    Such a finding would both show that the anti nuclear community are very wrong on all of their predictions and should be ignored.
    Most people are unaware that there are 435 operational nuclear reactors in the world with an output around 400GW electrical.
    My contention is that if nuclear fission were really that unsafe, we would have many more accidents over the decades.
    If France and USA can do safe nuclear for 30 years (top 2 users of nuclear fission today) why can't the whole world do safe nuclear ?

  • Re:Fuck this shit! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by something_wicked_thi ( 918168 ) on Monday April 14, 2014 @03:01AM (#46744791)

    That's the problem with people who get their science from the front page of Time magazine and such. They confuse journalists with actual scientists. Actual scientists have known for a long, long time that the earth is warming and will continue to warm. Journalists continue to get it wrong.

  • Re:Fuck this shit! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Monday April 14, 2014 @04:00AM (#46745015)

    You are clearly an intelligent person, which is what makes this so sad. Your post is full of errors which the actual facts you claim to believe have proven to be false.

    1. The medieval warm period affected just the northern Atlantic area - it was not global, and so is rather irrelevant in this discussion without you also discussing the rest of the world's climate during this period. It was also colder then than now, so it's rather pointless to even bring it up in discussion.

    2. The Himalayan glaciers *are* receding. It sounds like you are paraphrasing Christopher Monckton's claims that they are not, which is strange, as the man himself has recanted that particular belief in face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In fact, they've been receding constantly, at least since satellite data has been available to demonstrate that fact.

    3. Global cooling was not a scientifically-accepted hypothesis in the 1970s. It was, however, trotted around in the media for sensationalism, which is where this idea comes from that it was the scientific consensus at the time, when that is demonstrably nonsense.

    4. Since the early 1900s, 80% of the ice on Kilimanjaro has disappeared. 80%. To say that the ice (which, colloquially, is what "Kilimanjaro's Snow" refers to) has not receded is patently false.

    The source for your facts clearly needs some adjustment, as you are parroting the same debunked nonsense the anti-AGW crowd has been trotting around for years now. The facts are there - you don't seem to be wanting to look for them.

    Canada's topsoil in the areas which will warm up were scraped away by glaciation, meaning those areas will be next to useless for crops. Siberia's permafrost contains a lot of methane, which will be released into the atmosphere if it melts, which is a potent greenhouse gas, which will cause even more warming. Its topsoil also isn't great for farming, plus the industry, skills, and workers required to farm Canada and Siberia's non-existent suitable farmland isn't in either Canada or Siberia, which is a bit of a problem for your notion. That spreading north of suitable climate for growing crops means that huge swathes of the US will no longer be able to produce crops, which doesn't sound like a good situation for the US to be in.

    But whatever - you have your "facts", so I guess we can just ignore this stuff forever, with no ill-effects. Right?

  • by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Monday April 14, 2014 @04:18AM (#46745065)

    Yes, the climate in Russia, Canada and Northern Europe will be more suitable for crops, but their soil won't be. Canada's topsoil in the places you are talking about have been scraped away by glaciation, meaning they are next to useless for growing crops. Russia's permafrost will release massive amounts of methane when they melt, exacerbating the problem. Oceans will rise, swamping trillions of dollars' worth of city property (including many capital cities, and New York, for example). If you think it's not a big deal to have tens of millions of refugees, then you might need to re-evaluate your definition of "big deal", as that will cause untold pressure on infrastructure.

    I guess if you don't actually look into what you claim, it all sounds peachy. It's once you actually do, and realise you are painting a rosy future not based on any actual science, do we realise we're in for quite a bumpy ride, to put it lightly. But you've already made up your mind, so this will fall on deaf ears.

  • Re:Nuclear? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NoKaOi ( 1415755 ) on Monday April 14, 2014 @04:49AM (#46745193)

    If solar and wind were so great, Hawaii would have shutdown its oil based thermal plants already. They have very expensive electricity, making renewables cheap, yet it doesn't quite work, cause it's just not that simple.

    How ironic that you point out Hawaii. Hawaii exemplifies the political problems moving away from oil, not the technical problems. Our PUC is utterly impotent and lets our electric utility (HECO) get away with whatever they want. For example, if you want grid-tie solar HECO charges you $3,000 for an "interconnect study" which is complete and utter bullshit. They claim to the politicians that the grid can't handle more solar or wind with no technical basis whatsoever. Why? Because of the way they've got the PUC to structure they rates, they make more than double the profit from burning oil than from anything else, because they get to "pass-through" the cost of the oil, which amounts to more profit and the customer getting screwed.

    Here's essentially how it works:
    Generation from oil costs them 6.5 cents/kWh, plus the cost of oil.
    They are allowed to charge 16-18 cents/kWh -ish (sorry, I don't remember the exact number offhand) PLUS the cost of the oil.
    They buy wind power for 13 cents/kWh.

    Customer cost per kWh of oil generated power = 40 cents, consisting 18 cents allowed rate + 22 cents for fuel , of which 11.5 cents is profit (18cents allowed - 6.5 cost not including oil).
    Customer cost per kWh of wind power = 18 cents, of which 5 cents is profit (18cents allowed - 13 cents they buy it for)
    Customer cost per kWh of home grid tie solar = 0 cents / kWh, so they manage to charge $3,000 upfront for the privilege even though there's already a base monthly charge for being connected to the grid.

    HELLO, of course they are going to lobby (or bribe or give blow jobs or whatever it takes) the politicians. The PUC has got to be so utterly corrupt, and HECO so entrenched with the legislators to allow this to happen, but that's exactly why this is a political problem and not a technical problem.

    Don't get me wrong, I totally agree with you on the nuke subject, just pointing out how you don't know wtf you're talking about with Hawaii and solar+wind power. What's ironic is that people here are so utterly scared of nuclear just saying the word is worse than saying the other 'N' word, yet they revere the Navy's presence here and apparently don't realize what "Nuclear Submarine" means...there's at least 15 nuclear reactors running around the islands right now.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 14, 2014 @07:38AM (#46745727)

    Everyone seems to forget that half of the entire fucking nuclear power station is also "waste" - it's radioactive and damned fucking hard to get rid of.
    Unless they factor in the dismantling and disposal costs of the reactor, the pro-nuclear crowd are full of shit.
    And they NEVER do. If you factor in the total costs, nuclear power becomes vastly more expensive than the alternatives.
    Let's all "do the google" and found out how many nuclear power stations have been completely decommissioned and paid for. Let's do it. Then come back here and talk sensibly...

  • by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Monday April 14, 2014 @10:07AM (#46746923)

    Where it gets "religious" is where researchers amongst themselves discuss the uncertainties in carefully considered scientific language, and then decide that these nuances are too complex for the public to understand, so they decide that the public message needs to simplify the message because otherwise, the public might fail to act, so they figure, if they lead the public to failing to act, they would be "unethical", likewise, letting any "denier" get access to data which they might seize upon to highlight uncertainty, thus leading the public to ignore the problem would also be "unethical", so they opt to promote an image of ever greater confidence, ever increasing certainty, worse than we thought, a science field that is always improving, always painting a clearer and clearer picture, where there are no "paradigms", just ever-building on more and more knowledge.

    But the problem is, ethics is not a science topic. If you are making an ethical decision on behalf of others, there is some ethical imperative that you ask them whether __they__ think it is ethical. It isn't just about democracy, but about an OPEN society where we know all views are fallible, all views are limited by our own perceptual ability and bias, so we don't go round making decisions for others without them knowing, because it is quite likely that despite our own best intentions, our purest and smartest of ideals and knowledge, our perceptions are in error, and hiding those decisions and ethical judgments from the public only means it takes far longer for the problems to be corrected.

    We trust science because it is self correcting. If it stops being self correcting, or that self correction is delayed by say, 50 years, there is no reason to trust it. The AGW stuff is doing some rather extensive damage, unfortunately.

The moon may be smaller than Earth, but it's further away.