Living Through the Meantime: Learning to Break the Patterns of the Past and Beg (Fireside book)
I came to understand the environmental implications of the physics of energy. In order to produce significant amounts of electricity from weak energy flows, you just have to spread them over enormous areas. Dealing with energy sources that are inherently unreliable, and require large amounts of land, comes at a high economic cost. But those one-time cost savings from making them in big Chinese factories have been outweighed by the high cost of dealing with their unreliability.
Consider California. Between —17 the cost of solar panels declined about 75 percent, and yet our electricity prices rose five times more than they did in the rest of the U.
Its electricity prices increased 50 percent between —17, as it scaled up renewables. I used to think that dealing with climate change was going to be expensive.
But I could no longer believe this after looking at Germany and France. Meanwhile, France produces one-tenth the carbon emissions per unit of electricity as Germany and pays little more than half for its electricity. Through nuclear power. What was the result? A rise in the carbon intensity of its electricity supply, and higher electricity prices, too. What about all the headlines about expensive nuclear and cheap solar and wind? It turns out that scientists have studied the health and safety of different energy sources since the s.
Every major study, including a recent one by the British medical journal Lancet , finds the same thing: nuclear is the safest way to make reliable electricity. Strange as it sounds, nuclear power plants are so safe for the same reason nuclear weapons are so dangerous. The uranium used as fuel in power plants and as material for bombs can create one million times more heat per its mass than its fossil fuel and gunpowder equivalents.
We release more energy breaking atoms than breaking chemical bonds. Because nuclear plants produce heat without fire, they emit no air pollution in the form of smoke. By contrast, the smoke from burning fossil fuels and biomass results in the premature deaths of seven million people per year, according to the World Health Organization. Even during the worst accidents, nuclear plants release small amounts of radioactive particulate matter from the tiny quantities of uranium atoms split apart to make heat.
Over an year lifespan, fewer than people will die from the radiation from the worst nuclear accident, Chernobyl, and zero will die from the small amounts of radiant particulate matter that escaped from Fukushima. As a result, the climate scientist James Hanson and a colleague found that nuclear plants have actually saved nearly two million lives to date that would have been lost to air pollution.
Thanks to its energy density, nuclear plants require far less land than renewables.
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Even in sunny California, a solar farm requires times more land to produce the same amount of energy as a nuclear plant. Energy-dense nuclear requires far less in the way of materials, and produces far less in the way of waste compared to energy-dilute solar and wind. At the end of the process, the high-level radioactive waste that nuclear plants produce is the very same Coke can of used uranium fuel.
The reason nuclear is the best energy from an environmental perspective is because it produces so little waste and none enters the environment as pollution. All of the waste fuel from 45 years of the Swiss nuclear program can fit , in canisters, on a basketball court-like warehouse, where like all spent nuclear fuel, it has never hurt a fly.
By contrast, solar panels require 17 times more materials in the form of cement, glass, concrete, and steel than do nuclear plants, and create over times more waste. We tend to think of solar panels as clean, but the truth is that there is no plan anywhere to deal with solar panels at the end of their 20 to 25 year lifespan. Experts fear solar panels will be shipped, along with other forms of electronic waste, to be disassembled—or, more often, smashed with hammers—by poor communities in Africa and Asia, whose residents will be exposed to the dust from toxic heavy metals including lead, cadmium, and chromium.
Wherever I travel in the world I ask ordinary people what they think about nuclear and renewable energies. After saying they know next to nothing, they admit that nuclear is strong and renewables are weak. Their intuitions are correct. What most of us get wrong—understandably—is that weak energies are safer. The answer is no. Wind turbines, surprisingly, kill more people than nuclear plants.
In other words, the energy density of the fuel determines its environmental and health impacts. Spreading more mines and more equipment over larger areas of land is going to have larger environmental and human safety impacts. But when it comes to generating power for billions of people, it turns out that producing solar and wind collectors, and spreading them over large areas, has vastly worse impacts on humans and wildlife alike. Our intuitive sense that sunlight is dilute sometimes shows up in films. Over the last several hundred years, human beings have been moving away from matter-dense fuels towards energy-dense ones.
First we move from renewable fuels like wood, dung, and windmills, and towards the fossil fuels of coal, oil, and natural gas, and eventually to uranium. Energy progress is overwhelmingly positive for people and nature. As we stop using wood for fuel we allow grasslands and forests to grow back, and the wildlife to return. As we stop burning wood and dung in our homes, we no longer must breathe toxic indoor smoke. Nuclear plants are thus a revolutionary technology—a grand historical break from fossil fuels as significant as the industrial transition from wood to fossil fuels before it.
The problem with nuclear is that it is unpopular, a victim of a 50 year-long concerted effort by fossil fuel, renewable energy, anti-nuclear weapons campaigners, and misanthropic environmentalists to ban the technology. In response, the nuclear industry suffers battered wife syndrome, and constantly apologizes for its best attributes, from its waste to its safety. France shows that moving from mostly nuclear electricity to a mix of nuclear and renewables results in more carbon emissions, due to using more natural gas, and higher prices, to the unreliability of solar and wind.
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Oil and gas investors know this, which is why they made a political alliance with renewables companies, and why oil and gas companies have been spending millions of dollars on advertisements promoting solar, and funneling millions of dollars to said environmental groups to provide public relations cover. What is to be done? The most important thing is for scientists and conservationists to start telling the truth about renewables and nuclear, and the relationship between energy density and environmental impact.
Bat scientists recently warned that wind turbines are on the verge of making one species, the Hoary bat, a migratory bat species, go extinct. They seemed like a way to harmonize human society with the natural world. Follow him on Twitter ShellenbergerMD. I give the author a great deal of credit assuming what he has written is honest.
Stepping out of the ideological narrative is a big no-no.
In this day and age, that takes guts. I work in the downstream energy industry in facilities construction. My chosen career. I have worked in almost every branch of it. A variety of: hydrocarbon, geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear, wind, solar, inertial. Not a dreamer. I am a doer. I recently replied to a Slate article regarding global climate change suggesting that I believe the science of climate change and support actions to reduce our CO2 emissions but I took exception to the over the top claims of mass extinctions predicted to occur within the next decade or less.
Part of my rational was we have been bombarded by claims of ice free poles by , 20ft rise in sea levels by etc, etc. My mailbox was flooded with vile comments, F-bombs, obscene GIFs, responders would have physically attacked me if they could. Not one responder gave me any support.
Living Through the Meantime by Iyanla Vanzant - Book - Read Online
These models were run forward in and by now we are seeing a significant drift, with the actual temperature running lower than the forecast. Fernando L: It is the data where all the problems lie!!! Cooling the past and homogenization. Deletion of cooler stations and including warmer ones.
Climate Science is the antithesis of Open Science.
Yes, spot on. Hansen revealed two other scenarios, a modest cutback and a zero emission scenario. What has occurred since from the UAH data precisely follows the zero emission scenario in spite of the fact that is not the scenario that has been followed.
The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the top four in the past four years, according to the World Meteorological Organization WMO. It turns out that people are much less vile and hostile in person. Online environment brings up the worse.
Unless you happen to be on a college campus. He has 2 essential points.