Just Say No to Nukes
Actually, the proper response of those who worry seriously about climate change should be "not so fast!" (See this post with a link to Rebecca Solnit's version of that retort.) The first, obvious thing would be the itsey-bitsey matter of waste from the nukes. Just because we want to minize our carbon footprints does not mean we should therefore blithely cease worrying about irradiating the planet. But let's set that difficulty aside. What the greenish among us need is some sense that there is an alternative to the pro-nuke chorus. And on that score things may not be nearly as dire as we fear. This week one of my students pointed out this report in Scientific American regarding the very real prospects of relying on solar power to both decrease our carbon footprint and avoid nukes. (Thanks Eugene!)
I am not saying that this "Solar Grand Plan" is flawless; far from it. But it surely shifts the burden of argument in a dramatic fashion. This sort of plan would avoid the clear - and probably insoluable - problem of waste disposal that comes with any increased reliance on nukes. And it would drammatically reduce our massive carbon footprint. So, it seems as though it provides a nice place to start a sensible discussion. My initial complaints are that the S.A. proposal treats as "barren" large expanses of Western desert that we actually ought to value. And it outlines a very centralized model of energy production. Neither of those qualms should resonate with the pro-nuke right who generally love centralized (read easily controlable, capital intensive) solutions and don't give a rats ass about landscape. Perhaps this is a "gotcha" moment after all. From the left the hard questions is whether there are ways to decentralize solar energy production on this scale without tearing up the landscape. My bet is that there are. But even if there weren't centralized solar would beat the daylights out of centralized nukes.