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Reply #58: Where am I coming from? [View All]

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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-06-10 09:02 PM
Response to Reply #57
58. Where am I coming from?
Edited on Wed Oct-06-10 09:54 PM by GliderGuider
That's a good question. Not the same place as you, obviously. But because it's a good question it deserves a thoughtful reply, if only to avoid future misunderstandings. Here is where I'm coming from on this issue:


1. Global warming is the largest biophysical threat humanity has ever faced. It's caused by anthropogenic CO2, which makes fossil fuels an enemy of all life.

2. Global warming is not a future threat. The current (rising) level of atmospheric CO2 tells us that the threat has arrived.

3. If we wish to mitigate CO2 impacts we must reduce the amount of CO2 we are generating in our energy production.

4. We can do this by reducing our energy consumption and by finding ways to generate it without adding to the CO2 burden.

5. Even if we can immediately reduce our energy consumption we must also immediately change our energy mix. The urgency is because of point #2 - immediate threats require immediate responses.

6. We must use every energy tool at our disposal to cut our CO2 production immediately. This includes every low-carbon possibility. The candidates are solar (thermal and PV), wind, hydro (conventional and run of river), tidal, biomass, geothermal and nuclear.

7. My decision about where to throw my support is governed by point #2. Because we face an immediate threat, I strongly favour technologies that can have an immediate impact on the energy mix.

8. The more distant the return of a technology or the lower the current level of implementation of a technology, the more of a discount I apply to to its value. See point #2.

9. The technologies I value most highly, in order of priority, are: nuclear; conventional hydro; wind; solar thermal, biomass and solar PV. The value of Run of River hydro, geothermal and tidal power are down in the noise at this point.

10. I do not think that the dangers of nuclear power outweigh its benefits when considered against the threat of CO2. In fact I think the dangers of nuclear power are two to three orders of magnitude less than the dangers of CO2. See point #1.

11. Conventional hydro and solar thermal have limitations in terms of site availability.

12. The value of wind power could eventually exceed nuclear power, but it will probably take 15 years to get there.

13. We need to take action now, and what we do within the next 5 years will be crucial. See point #2.

14. Nuclear power integrates easily into the existing grid structure, the plant designs are well understood, plants can be built out quickly, and the demonstrated level of risk, compared to atmospheric CO2, is negligible. It's a win, at least until wind is producing 15-20 times its current amount of electricity.

15. Energy efficiency is the cheapest way to reduce CO2 production, provided we can avoid a rebound effect (aka a Jevons paradox). It should be pursued at least as vigourously as new energy sources.

16. If we do not build out nuclear power, we have no hope of abating CO2 production for at least the next 10 years. See point #2.

Now, all the foregoing is dependent on us (the global "us") doing enough in the next 10 years to tip the rate of production of CO2 onto a downward slope. If we cannot create the will to do that, then the entire discussion is moot. Personally I don't think we'll get enough consensus or freedom from corporate influence to make that possible. So where I ultimately come from on all this is:

17. Due to the structure of our civilization none of this is possible. That makes these discussions the equivalent of a dog gnawing on a bone: it's something to do while we wait for the next meal, but it isn't going to save the world. So in light of that, we should each do what we think is appropriate: try to save the world, retreat from it, get on with raising our families, meditate, search for higher meaning, or just try to have a bit of fun.

The world ends in every moment, and begins again in the next. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.

So kristopher, you and I are fundamentally different sorts of people, and our differences go much deeper than what papers we choose to believe. You will not convince me of your viewpoint, and I have no interest whatever in convincing you of mine. You asked me where I was coming from. This is it.
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