Evidence-led?

I was blocked on Twitter by Zion Lights after I, somewhat snarkily, retweeted one of her tweets. Zion Lights is the UK director of Michael Shellenberger’s organisation, Environmental Progress. Zion Lights has had a bit of a rough week, having been criticised by Extinction Rebellion for her association with Michael Shellenberger. I largely agree with their criticism of Shellenberger, but my impression is that Zion Lights is genuinely concerned about climate change and is sincerely promoting nuclear as a solution, unlike Shellenberger.

The tweet that I responded to was the one below

My slightly snarky response was simply “New?” It may have been poorly timed, but I was trying to make a serious point. There are many reasons to criticise the environmental movement. I’ve done so myself. However, the idea that it’s made up of people who think other humans are “bad”, who don’t accept evidence, who don’t think people should have access to clean, reliable energy, and who don’t regard positive change as possible, is a little bizarre.

I was going, though, to make a broader point about policy decisions being “evidence-led”. I’m a physicist. I completely agree with the idea that we can collect evidence and develop robust understandings of the world around us. In some cases we may even get to a stage where we regard some things as essentially true. However, this does not mean that some obvious policy immediately follows from some piece of evidence. Many other factors influence decision making. Our values and opinions, economic feasibility, and even the political climate, all play a role in how we go from evidence to policy.

It’s perfectly possible for nuclear to be safe and for people to still not want it to be one of the solutions. Its perfectly possible for nuclear to be a great source of alternative energy and it, currently, not being economically viable. It’s perfectly possible for people to accept the need for alternative energy sources and to still not want wind turbines all over the Scottish Highlands. Its perfectly possible for people to recognise that agriculture is a big source of emissions and still realise that the farming sector is an important part of our economy. You don’t have to agree with all of these to understand that reasonable people can hold these views.

In my view, we should distinguish between those who don’t accept things that are almost certainly true, and those who disagree with us about the implications of these truths. This would seem to be especially true if you really do want to work together with other people. Most would interpret a desire to “work together” as a willingness to work with other people even if they don’t completely agree with you, rather than only being willing to work with those who completely agree with you.

I think this is a really complex issue and if we are going to implement alternatives on a timescale that will avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change, then I do think we need to find ways to work together, rather than splintering into ever smaller factions. Currently, I seem to be seeing more of the latter than the former.

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156 Responses to Evidence-led?

  1. You might argue that this is a somewhat one-sided post, in that I haven’t also been critical of XR. I will acknowledge some bias. Even though I don’t agree with what some of the XR leaders have presented, and am concerned that some of their more recent protests may have been counter-productive, I still think they’ve done a lot to bring the issue to the public’s attention.

    I also think their criticism of Michael Shellenberger is broadly correct. I think he is a problematic individual. Not because he promotes nuclear, but because he promotes only nuclear, and because he underplays, and even dismisses, the impact of climate change, both what’s happening now and what could happen in the future.

    One issue I do have with the virulent pro-nuclear advocates is that it’s my understanding that there is strong evidence to support a view that we can reduce emissions without requiring nuclear, even if we probably can’t get to zero emissions without some nuclear. My view is that the priority now should be to get emissions to start going down. We don’t need to fight about how to precisely get it to zero now, even if that is something we would want to consider much more seriously in the not too distant future.

  2. I have been an ardent advocate of solar power as a single source solution to renewable energy (I get in trouble because I recognize a 50-year timeline as opposed to a decade to achieve it).

    I think each potential contributor deserves an ardent advocate that doesn’t spend (waste, in their minds) time looking for balance.

    I say that recognizing that the portfolio of solutions to human emissions is far likelier to consist of fifty 2% solutions rather than a silver bullet. I just think that each of the fifty will require evangelists. Schellenberger chose nuclear. More power to him (wait–did I just write something clever by accident?)

  3. Your critical (in the good sense of critical) read and comment plan of the Zion Lights tweet makes sense to me. I think the folks at ziontree may have been a little abrupt by blocking you. Their framing of this New idea includes an implicit assertion that older formulations of environmentalism may have checked all their boxes. People should be careful and think hard about the unstated assumptions and implicit assertions that arise when we dash off our latest ideas. At the least, be open to getting called out (politely) about careless or poorly crafted statements. You are pretty good about taking that kind of criticism here. I offer it up regularly when your assertions about our situation don’t state quite clearly that we need to be reducing emissions as quickly and abruptly as we can because of the costs to various living things that are already being incurred from global warming. I applaud your careful reading and response to the ziontree tweet. It’s too bad they chose to block instead of engage with your comment. Keep up the good work. We are in trouble with greenhouse gas emissions today around the world. We need to flatten that curve as quickly as we possibly can. That is my kind of environmentalism. Hardly new, but very hard to bring to fruition.

  4. should read “may not have checked all their boxes”

  5. I knew nothing about Zion Lights—I hadn’t even realised that was her real name—until I read her Wikipedia entry just now. She seems a thoroughly decent person with a broad-ranging and evidence-based approach to environmental issues. Strange then that she should have involved herself with Shellenberger, who does not appear to be. Strange she should have Twitter-blocked a thoroughly decent bloke like ATTP. I hope she reads and comments to this article.

  6. Tom,

    I think each potential contributor deserves an ardent advocate that doesn’t spend (waste, in their minds) time looking for balance.

    I, sort of, agree with this. However, I do think that it’s almost important to be clear about what you’re trying to do. I don’t necessarily think that renewables advocate should also embrace nuclear, and vice versa. However, this is more than just determining what will eventually replace fossil fuels, it’s also about implementing alternatives on a timescale that will limit the disruption from climate change. If your goal is the latter, then maybe you do need to comprise.

  7. john,
    Indeed, as I said in the post, my impression is that Zion Lights is indeed sincere and genuinely thinks nuclear is the solution. I also have some sympathy with respect to her involvement with Shellenberger. As I understand it, her role as UK-Director of Environmental Progess is a paid position. You probably would be rather reluctant to then publicly criticise your employer.

  8. ATTP, I don’t want to pick a fight with advocates of wind, nuclear, biofuels, negawatts, etc. I just want to push for my pet solution. If one of the other proposed solutions proves more effective (or more likely, gains more political traction), so be it.

  9. Humans are good. What does that even mean? Good for what? Rocks are good.

  10. jacksmith4tx says:

    Bonus feature; Every nuclear power plant (+waste) requires a small army of mercenaries to prevent their fellow humans from disabling it or sabotage it for nefarious reasons. There should be a better way.
    David Roberts posted a counter argument at Vox a few days ago,
    https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/21426920/climate-change-renewable-energy-solar-wind-innovation-green-new-deal

    My intuition tells me technology is converging on a micro grid global architecture. Vehicle to Gird (VTG) will be a key player if we take this path.

    Humans are good? No we are the planet’s apex predator – approach with caution!

  11. wmconnolley says:

    “people are good” is indeed potentially novel for environmentalists. Though it might depend on what you mean. If you mean, “people are a good in themselves” – every human is valuable, everyone thinks, there are no “rubbish people” – then that would indeed be controversial – see replies you’ve already had. Since it implies that, all else being equal, more people are better.

  12. Willard says:

    Lots of reasons to be proud:

    I am entirely unaware with his work […] I read it and am unimpressed. […] Again, I am unimpressed.

    Truly impressive.

  13. Some humans may be good. Some may not be good. The species appears to be creating extensive and challenging problems that impact the entire biosphere and are driving an extinction event. Can an extinction event be a good thing? I think no, and we own that, the same way a shopper owns something they break in the store. You break it, you bought it. A lot of living things are buying it these days as the sixth great extinction event proceeds. This ziontree formulation does raise some issues.

    As to energy sources, I am on the fence about small modular nuclear reactors. The design does appear to resolve some of the issues that have given nuclear a bad name. You know, the Chernobyl-type events and the connection to dangerous waste that can be weaponized. I am inclined to think that we might not need SMR nuclear technology if we committed to consumption reduction, efficiency, and greener energy sources, but as I say, I am on the fence about SMR power.

  14. I, obviously, don’t know what the “humans are good” was actually intended to mean, but my suspicion is that it’s a response to some who think there are too many people.

  15. humans are good is quite muddled as a principle. If the ziontree tweet is something like a mission statement, I think it needs a little more work. As to whether we can work together or not, I am in the US watching and engaging with the MAGA folks as the election happens and I don’t see the US making powerful strides to come together.

  16. Willard says:

    Humans are relatively good:

  17. mrkenfabian says:

    After handing the issue to Environmentalists in a “you care so much, you fix it” manner, people complain that Environmentalists aren’t fixing it the way they like. After people in the very Offices that have the responsibility abrogated it, they complain Environmentalists are irresponsible for failing to do what they themselves willfully and purposefully failed to do. That those who think nuclear is best and only for climate and those who find it convenient to blame Environmentists for climate being an issue of concern at all are willing to bond with each other over their mutual object of blame and hate is a problem for nuclear, not a successful alliance to promote it.

    Denial is so threaded through pro nuclear advocacy that many advocates simply refuse to alienate potential supporters of nuclear by confronting their climate science denial, irrespective of how damaging denial is to all solutions, including nuclear. Zion Lights, if sincere, should break with Shellenberger for downplaying the seriousness of the climate problem, ie climate science denial.

    I think that taking Environmentalists who keep the issue in the public’s notice out of the climate debate entirely – replacing them with “new” Environmentalists who don’t think global warming is serious or urgent, who want to abandon Renewable Energy and who want no restrictions on using fossil fuels until we learn to love nuclear – won’t advance climate action in any way.

  18. David B Benson says:

    smallbluemike, to correct a misunderstanding, no so-called nuclear wastes can be weaponized into an implosion device. Nuclear bombs are hard to build and few countries have bothered to do so.

  19. ” to correct a misunderstanding, no so-called nuclear wastes can be weaponized into an implosion device. Nuclear bombs are hard to build and few countries have bothered to do so.”

    Dream on David.
    A Harvard Center For International Affairs report on neptunium radwaste weaponization risks became the focus of a January 5,1992 Washington Post op-ed, “Nuclear Ubiquity”

  20. David B Benson says:

    Russell Seitz is technically correct. A Purex style extraction of neptunium could, in principle, result in sufficient neptunium for an implosion device:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neptunium

    However, it would be no better than a sufficiently enriched uranium implosion device. Such doesn’t require a nuclear reactor, just hypercentrifuges. India and then Pakistan did just that. That’s surely the least cost route to an implosion device.

  21. “Reprocessing is a series of chemical operations that separates plutonium and uranium from other nuclear waste contained in the used (or “spent”) fuel from nuclear power reactors. The separated plutonium can be used to fuel reactors, but also to make nuclear weapons.”
    https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/nuclear-reprocessing-dangerous-dirty-and-expensive

    When folks peddle dis- and mis-information about the risks of nuclear power, even from the small modular reactors, I tend to come off the fence and side with the no-nukes folks.

  22. David B Benson says:

    smallbluemike, UCS is flat-out wrong. The plutonium in once-through nuclear pins, i.e., used reactor ‘fuel’, cannot be used for an implosion device, being mostly Pu240.

    The idea of having a Purex facility was to reuse the uranium and plutonium in the once-through nuclear pins. There are other ways, avoiding the difficulties and great expense of a Purex facility.

  23. @DBB: is it possible to create a dirty bomb using nuclear waste material?

  24. David B Benson says:

    smallbluemike — yes, but. One requires an explosive to have a bomb. So a chemical explosive. Then wrap that in the nuclear wastes to spread some radioactive materials around.

    However, such would be dangerous to handle as well as accomplishing little. There is no interest in such on the part of the militaries.

  25. Nathan says:

    Reading her tweets doesn’t fill me with joy…
    Pretty much same ol’ with nuclear spruiking and self-marketing.
    Reading the replies is interesting as some people seem to think she’s undergoing some sort of ‘transformation’.

    I think the ‘Humans are good’ line is great though. It’s so empty of substance, makes for a perfect slogan for any sort of industry

  26. so, a terrorist would not need much skill build an ammonium nitrate bomb and set it off with nuclear waste material and they would create a very bad day for a city. It is possible to hem and haw about who would do such a thing or whether it would be dangerous to do, but that risk is real. Driving a truck loaded with an ammonium nitrate bomb to the front of a building in OK City was dangerous, but it was done and it was exploded and killed people. Hijacking a commercial airplane and piloting the airliner into a building is quite dangerous, but that has been done. You need to be honest about the real risks of nuclear waste material or reasonable folks will simply decide you are a lunatic or engaged in subterfuge. This will be my last post on that matter in this thread.

    If you want the last word, it is now yours for the taking.

  27. David B Benson says:

    smallbluemike, thank you for that. Those who study risks place once-through nuclear pin management very safe compared to other aspects of life.

  28. I suspect Zion will unblock you, as she did with me. I think she’s just not familiar with mute/mute conversation. She engages on Twitter at a very superficial level. I don’t think she’s very grounded in her opinions. But if Shellenberger blocks you, it’s for life.

  29. David B Benson says:

    Here are some links to making and using hydrogen to power society when other sources are inadequate:
    https://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/718/hydrogen-fuel

    This could be powered by the excess energy from solar, wind or nuclear power plants when generation is in excess of load.

  30. David B Benson says:

    Here are the concerns about the first SMR in the USA:
    https://www.deseret.com/utah/2020/9/19/21438026/news-nuclear-plant-in-idaho-lawmakers-seek-details-on-planned-nuscale-uamps

    I do hope that enough utilities sign on.

  31. But if Shellenberger blocks you, it’s for life.

    Yes, I have discovered that too 🙂

  32. Humans are good … at … changing their environment.


    Its all good, how could it be otherwise, free clean reliable energy for everyone, after all. it is a human right. Pencil that one in as Article 31 of this document …
    https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

    Article 25 (1) is sexist …
    “(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

    Should be …
    “(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of themself and of their family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

  33. Actually that whole UN document is sexist, his = 21, him/himself = 4 and her = 0 and what about that word history should be thestory.

  34. Dave_Geologist says:

    It is possible to hem and haw about who would do such a thing or whether it would be dangerous to do, but that risk is real.

    Reminds me of the dim and distant when I was doing field work far south in Algeria (closer to the Gulf of Guinea than to the Med). The FIS terrorist violence was just ramping up (they started out not killing foreigners, then massacred some French nuns to make a point), and we were told we didn’t need a military escort because we were so far south that any attackers would have to cross hundreds of miles of open desert and the air force would massacre them on the way back. To which my reaction was “guys, these people want to be martyrs…”.

  35. Chubbs says:

    Agree with Ken, hard to take nuclear advocates seriously, if they don’t support the government intervention needed to improve nuclear competitiveness vs fossil. Strong climate policy for a start.

  36. I like to say that global warming is as true as gravity or the orbit of Mars or the electro-magnetic spectrum. To say you don’t ‘believe in’ global warming is as silly as saying you don’t ‘believe in’ gravity. But we can certainly–indeed we must–argue about what to do about it? Nuclear? A carbon tax? Tax credits for renewables and EVs? Energy saving? All of these? Facts are still relevant here, but as you say, maybe we don’t want to cover the Scottish highlands with wall-to-wall wind turbines, just because wind is far cheaper than nuclear.

    Physics and engineering and chemistry are incontrovertible. Economics, politics and aesthetics are not.

  37. Joshua says:

    Abders –

    Nice post.

    Imo, the problem with Zion’s advocacy contained in that list of hers you posted is that it is organized around “otherism.”

    Attacking others, as a way to advance your own preferences, is a power move that can sometimes “work” in the sense of advancing your goals. But often it comes at a greater cost.

    Being a hypocrite (i.e., failing to acknowledge evidence of others being evidence based as you accuse them of not being evidence based) is also a power move. We are seeing that writ large as Pubz in the US move to install a new judge to SCOTUS. But it can also be counterproductive, and it’s cynical, and I like to hope that people will try to be open to examining their own cyniicism.

  38. Mal Adapted says:

    thomaswfuller2:

    I think each potential contributor deserves an ardent advocate that doesn’t spend (waste, in their minds) time looking for balance.

    I say that recognizing that the portfolio of solutions to human emissions is far likelier to consist of fifty 2% solutions rather than a silver bullet. I just think that each of the fifty will require evangelists.

    That’s one of the more intelligent things you’ve said, Tom. I agree with you, especially about the “fifty 2% solutions” part. Some climate activists claim there’s no time for incrementalism, that we have to decarbonize in one fell swoop. I, OTOH, expect it to take as long as politics requires. I predict it will happen incrementally, at a rate dependent on the fraction of the marginal climate-change cost of fossil carbon we collectively internalize in the energy market, one way or another.

    TWF2:

    I don’t want to pick a fight with advocates of wind, nuclear, biofuels, negawatts, etc. I just want to push for my pet solution. If one of the other proposed solutions proves more effective (or more likely, gains more political traction), so be it.

    Heh, you’ll pick a fight with anybody, without discrimination 8^D! Whatever: advocacy for a particular solution is fine, and may help decrement our aggregate carbon emissions. It becomes counterproductive when the advocate insists their solution is the only feasible one, to the exclusion of 49 others. I, for one, favor policies like carbon fee and dividend with border adjustment tariff, but I don’t rule out R&D subsidies or command-and-control measures in addition. For example, with our legislative branch controlled by mercenary denialists, Obama’s Clean Power Plan could have reduced our aggregate emissions measurably. Too bad it didn’t withstand subsequent political events.

  39. RickA says:

    I am pro nuclear power. I think that the USA should triple (at least) their nuclear power output. It is baseload (not intermittent). It is dense (doesn’t require much land space). Even with the bad rap nuclear has – it is safer than wind, solar, coal and natural gas. Its fuel source is much much smaller than the backup fuel source for intermittent power (solar and wind), i.e. coal and natural gas, so it take much less energy to ship the fuel and really saves a tremendous amount of energy as nuclear replaces coal and natural gas – just on mining and transportation. Also, we can recycle the spent nuclear waste, which is free fuel just sitting in casks and wasting its heat – which will also improve the nuclear waste situation by making the spent waste less radioactive and taking up less space. So nuclear is the way to go. If you factor in the backup power source you have to build out as you expand wind and solar, I think nuclear is cheaper than wind and solar. Solar has a waste problem also – especially when you look at the batteries you need to store solar power (i.e. for electric cars, powerwalls and so forth). If the USA picked one fourth generation passive cooling design and said lets build 100 identical plants – the costs would plummet, and we could convert 20% of our power generation in five years (if we got rid of the red tape). Do that twice, and we go from 20% nuclear to 60% nuclear in 10 years. It is technically feasible to do (although perhaps not politically feasible). But if you really care about global warming, nuclear should be a solution you look at very very hard.

    So all things considered – I think nuclear should get more and more popular as a solution – until we invent fusion or space based solar or some other non-carbon producing power source which is not intermittent. We will see. Nuclear can get even better if we work on thorium and modular reactors.

    Note to Willard – bring on the meat!

  40. I agree with you, Mal. TWF posted some good sense. I assumed the “I don’t want to pick a fight” thing was attempt at humor. Not really possible to argue that as a named author on book dedicated to instigating a fight about global warming and slowing our collective response to that crisis. That quip would be funny if that fight outcome had turned out to be less disastrous and tragic. Hard to laugh this week. Have inhaled too much climate fire smoke over the past couple weeks for laughter. and now, I am in mourning over the not-unexpected passing of justice champion Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

    As I have followed this evidence-led discussion, I have wondered if the truth will turn out to be that catastrophe, rather than evidence, will turn out to be the leader for the “new” environmentalism? As I think that through, I guess the new part of this story will be the converts, the long time opponents and holdouts to changes to address climate change? I have aged out of the fight and just don’t follow the players and buzzwords like I once attempted to do. Maybe the ziontree types are the converts from the political middle who are now trying to balance economic concerns with the costs of catastrophe? If so, they are welcome to the struggle for strong action to flatten the Keeling curve. I think they will find that flattening the Keeling curve will be rather expensive, not unlike the costs of flattening the covid curve in 2020, but taking place over a longer period of time because the chances of developing a vaccine to low CO2 to 350 ppm does not seem to be in the cards.

    If these are the middle folks having their “come to Hansen” moment, great! If they want to extoll the wonders of their new environmentalism, I can smile and clap on cue if they bring help with real changes and quickly. But as you (Mal) suggestted, the necessary changes will probably continue to be politics-led. I have thought and stated for a while now that in the US there is no real hope for needed change until the republicans start demanding it. We are not there yet. If the zion trees are the middle, we are making progress toward that day, but we are not there yet. The republicans are so far unable to avoid the temptation to play electoral politics with climate change and that political game has policy traction and real life consequences for voters. A lot of red state folks are going to need to convert from thinking of climate change catastrophe as acts of God to thinking of them as consequences of ghg buildup in the atmosphere. God willing, that may happen sometime soon, and we could actually move to action of the aspiration of evidence-led action.

    It could happen.

  41. Willard says:

    Here you go, RickA:

    Given that the climate impact of plant-based foods is typically 10 to 50 times smaller than that of animal products, it follows that switching from a largely meat-based diet to a vegetarian or vegan diet could help to reduce emissions.

    The chart below shows how much greenhouse gases could be stemmed if the world were to adopt various different diets.

    https://interactive.carbonbrief.org/what-is-the-climate-impact-of-eating-meat-and-dairy/

    Not sure how many nuclear power plants that represents, but I bet it’s A LOT.

  42. Mal Adapted says:

    smallbluemike:

    A lot of red state folks are going to need to convert from thinking of climate change catastrophe as acts of God to thinking of them as consequences of ghg buildup in the atmosphere.

    When your house is simultaneously burning and washing away, perhaps it’s time to ask God why. Maybe it’ll occur to some of those red state folks that He’s telling them to stop transferring fossil carbon to the atmosphere?

  43. David B Benson says:

    Benton County doesn’t want any more wind farms, but an SMR instead:
    https://amp.thenewstribune.com/news/business/biz-columns-blogs/article245808810.html

    Here in the Pacific Northwest the winds are strongest in the spring, just when the hydro dams have excess water for the turbines.

  44. Willard says:

    From the horse’s mouth:

    Building more wind farms in the PNW will contribute to untimely energy supply gluts and low short-term market prices which reduces surplus hydro energy sales revenues, increases net hydro power costs and puts upward pressure on retail rates Benton PUD and other utilities charge our customers.

    Source: https://www.bentonpud.org/getattachment/Safety-Education/Safety/Wind/Wind-Power-and-Clean-Energy-Policy-Perspectives-Report-Benton-PUD-FINAL-July-14-2020-(1).PDF.aspx?lang=en-US

  45. It makes sense for Benton County, the home of the Hanford Nuclear disaster cleanup site, to try out the SMR. They should have a bit of real estate that is already at risk from nuclear waste. I think an SMR at Hanford will not increase the radiation-contaminated groundwater plume that is moving to the Columbia River. I don’t follow the particulars, but Radioactive Waste Still Flooding Columbia River, EPA Says https://www.courthousenews.com/radioactive-waste-still-flooding-columbia-river-epa-says/

    By and large, none of this is a huge problem for the residents of Benton County because the Columbia flows away west through communities and out to the Pacific Ocean where it will may not do much harm.

  46. David B Benson says:

    smallbluemike, the contaminated areas of the Hanford Reservation are further north, in Grant County although everybody who works there lives in Benton County.

    On the reservation but in Benton County there is the Columbia Generating Station, the only nuclear power plant for thousands of miles in every direction. Presumably Benton County PUD wants a NuScale SMR built next door; there certainly is plenty of room.

    There never was a nuclear disaster on the Hanford reservation. What there was was overly hasty waPu, weapons plutonium, production which left a mess to cleanup, about a hundred year effort. This has nothing to do with nuclear power production. The leaks into the Columbia River are a result of the waPu production. It is a concern for the aquatic life, a major matter here in the Pacific Northwest.

  47. [Chill, please. – W]

  48. David B Benson says:

    smallbluemike, I object to the misuse of the word
    https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/disaster
    which implies suddenness. Nothing sudden at the Hanford site. Find a more descriptive term.

    At least one of my former students had their entire career working on Hanford cleanup. Incidentally, I point out that the insanity of waPu production has left the USG with a vast quantity which now must be closely guarded. Some fast neutron reactors could consume all that in a few decades.

    I reiterate that nuclear power plants do not leave messes. Everything is looked after.

    I wouldn’t mind being paid but I don’t advocate nuclear power plants where such are uneconomic.

  49. this is why it’s hard to be reasonable about nuclear power: DBB says “I reiterate that nuclear power plants do not leave messes. Everything is looked after.”

    uh… Chernobyl? TMI? Fukushima?

    When the nuclear proponents are dishonest or engage in semantic dodges that reek of dishonesty, then reasonable folks are put off and may decide the path ahead is just not sensible.

    I would like to be on the fence about SMR. I think they might make sense in some applications and areas, but I am not sure we can trust the industry and experts to be honest and sensible about this option, so extreme caution or outright opposition is probably reasonable.

  50. David B Benson says:

    smallbluemike, I should have stated that nuclear power plants do not leave messes in the USA.

    TMI was objectively nothing; panic by the misinformed.

    Fukushima was vastly overblown by the radiophobic Japanese; if nobody had evacuated there would have been thousands fewer deaths.

    Chernobyl was a result in part, of the attempt to use a waPu reactor for nuclear power. This was only done in USSR states and not even there anymore.

    If you are looking for disasters, consider dam failures. Much worse worldwide than nuclear power plants.

    If you just want premature deaths and disabilities, look to coal burners; evil.

  51. Mitch says:

    I keep seeing references to deployment of small modular reactors. However, they are still 5-10 years away from any deployment. In fact, I can’t find any evidence that a demonstration reactor is up and running. Until we have some experience, these are hypothetical. Costs are claimed to be small, but we don’t really have data. The reason that traditional nuclear is phasing out is because of its high cost.

  52. Ben McMillan says:

    At least for individual power grids, there is only a fairly narrow of parameters where building a mix of nukes+renewables looks optimal; unless the prices are quite similar, you end up with dominantly either one or the other. Nukes are an uneconomic way of firming renewables, so they aren’t really that complementary, and adding some nuclear doesn’t ‘solve the intermittency problem’. There is an analysis out from Caldeira’s lot on this.

    Plenty of other reasons to want more clean power of any variety of course, and more options.

    I find the obsession with SMRs though a bit odd: we have to drop emissions massively over the next two decades, and can’t wait until 2040 when SMRs might be in large-scale deployment. Closer to reality than, say, fusion, but neither of these are really relevant to the choices we need to make over the next few years.

    A more sensible plan would be to deploy actually-existing large-scale nuclear of a single design through large and consistent state funding. People might then learn, after the first job, how to get the carbon evenly distributed through a reactor vessel, or how to weld the pipes together to the required standard. You could even reuse some of the paperwork!

  53. David B Benson says:

    With sustainables, i.e., so-called renewables plus nuclear power plants, there will be excess generation. One way to use the power in excess of grid need is to make and store hydrogen:
    https://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/718/hydrogen-fuel
    provides links to articles about just started and planned hydrogen generation against future consumption.

  54. Willard says:

    > Fukushima was vastly overblown by the radiophobic Japanese […]

    I wonder why the Japanese became radiophobic. In any event:

    A quarter of young girls surveyed feel they might not be able to have a baby because of the accident. Many parents fear their children will get thyroid cancer. Masaharu Maeda, the head of disaster psychiatry at the FMU, calls it “the Godzilla effect”, after the film about a mutant monster created by atomic tests.

    Some call this “radiophobia”, suggesting that this absolves the nuclear industry of responsibility. But these are real psychological and social consequences of the accident – and are surely just as much the responsibility of the operators of the plant as any radiological consequences. And they mean that the prospects for repopulating the region, including four ghost towns where 150,000 people once lived, remain small.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/03/was-fallout-from-fukushima-exaggerated

  55. David B Benson says:

    Willard, probably Hiroshima & Nagasaki has something to do with radiophobia in Japan. 😐

    More, the government did not require proper education about radiation risks beginning with the first nuclear power plants in Japan.

    Here are some recent links regarding ionizing radiation:
    https://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/312/wade-allisons-radiation-critique?page=2

    Tepco is a regulated utility and as such does precisely what the government requires. Lay the blaim for radiophobia upon the Japanese government.

  56. Hans says:

    Nuclear proponents like to present themselves as rational people presenting the rational solution for climate change. But then they start trash talking renewables using all the tactics climate deniers also use. Use of outdated data on renewables (especially regarding cost and EROEI), ignoring solutions for dealing with variability, implying that all solar panels contain heavy metals and rare earth metals, where most are made from silicon. If Zion Lights uses these tactics, it is very hard to take him seriously.

  57. Hans,
    Should have been “take *her* seriously.”

    I don’t know if Zion Lights uses those tactics. However, some of the most unpleasant interactions I’ve had on social media have been with the very single-minded pro-nuclear advocates who do seem to think that it’s okay to insult who doesn’t completely agree with them because they’re obviously right and anyone who doesn’t completely agree should be agressively dismissed. Small sample, admittedly, but it does seem to be a common characteristic.

  58. at Ben McM: I think the reason it makes sense to focus on the SMR idea for nuclear power is that it appears that this technology is less destructive and dangerous than the current nuclear design. As to whether it makes any sense in the changes we need to make in the next few years, I think that answer is clearly no. SMR and other new nuclear designs may have a place in the patchwork power structure of the planet in the 50 2% solution models imo.

    Accepting the possibility of SMR and other new design nuclear techn approaches also gives the nuclear technocrats some breathing room to actually demonstrate safer and cleaner designs. My first impulse is to remain in the no nukes camp where I have been all of my life, but a couple of electrical engineer friends have persuaded me to give the “new” nukes a chance. My persuasive pro-nuke friends do not engage in the practice of dismissing or minimizing the horrible baggage and legacy of the nuclear technology adventure that our species jumped into during the last century. They have sense enough to know that nuclear power is a tough sell and the sell will be much harder if the salesman appear to be arrogant and/or dishonest as per the comment from Hans.

  59. Mal Adapted says:

    aTTP:

    some of the most unpleasant interactions I’ve had on social media have been with the very single-minded pro-nuclear advocates who do seem to think that it’s okay to insult who doesn’t completely agree with them because they’re obviously right and anyone who doesn’t completely agree should be agressively dismissed.

    Sounds like a (presumably male) commenter ‘nymed “Engineer-Poet”, who invaded RC’s bimonthly Forced Responses thread a while back and shows no inclination to withdraw. E-P is smart and articulate. He fully accepts the climate science consensus. He’s mastered many technical details of energy generation, to the point that commenters more tolerant than I will thank him for telling them things they didn’t know. Yet he fits your description of a single-minded pro-nuclear advocate to a T. I’ve gotten so that I scroll right past his comments, because of the unpleasantness. I’m not a psychological professional, but IMO E-P evinces a severe personality disorder. Or maybe it just takes one to know one 8^}. Regardless, I doubt he’s helping his cause much.

  60. Mal,
    Yes, I think I have come across engineer poet somewhere before. Another individual who seems to think that being unpleasant is okay because they believe they’re right is Joris van Dorp, who is quite active on Twitter.

    I partly get it, because I’m in favour of not being too conciliatory towards climate deniers. On the other hand, I don’t think that disagreeing about optimal future energy pathways is quite the same as disputing some fairly fundamental science. Also, true climate deniers are unlikely to be convinced otherwise. I don’t think that’s the case when you’re dealing with people who agree that there’s a problem but disagree about the solution. Progress will involve some amount of compromise and an unwillingness to consider this seems sub-optimal to me.

  61. Willard says:

    Looks like Poet now curates the archives of Charles Julian’s Nuclear Green Revolution Blog.

    Charles Julian passed away last year.

  62. Mal Adapted says:

    David B. Benson:

    There never was a nuclear disaster on the Hanford reservation. What there was was overly hasty waPu, weapons plutonium, production which left a mess to cleanup, about a hundred year effort. This has nothing to do with nuclear power production. The leaks into the Columbia River are a result of the waPu production. It is a concern for the aquatic life, a major matter here in the Pacific Northwest.

    Heh. In 1990, a couple of public-spirited contract scientists cooked up some radioactive mulberries they picked from the banks of the Hanford Reach, and sent jars labeled ″Radioactive. Do not eat.″ to Washington’s Governor and the US Energy secretary. The trees were growing within the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and the banks of the Columbia River were posted no trespassing. The public’s freedom to travel on the river was protected, however, so the activist pair pulled up to the bank and picked the fruit from the boat. Norm Burke was arrested and charged with criminal trespass – only to have the site drop all charges against him and negotiate an access agreement to allow future sampling. It’s not clear what effect, if any, the stunt had on the HNR cleanup project, but I’m still chortling over it 30 years later 8^D!

  63. Mal Adapted says:

    aTTP:

    Also, true climate deniers are unlikely to be convinced otherwise. I don’t think that’s the case when you’re dealing with people who agree that there’s a problem but disagree about the solution. Progress will involve some amount of compromise and an unwillingness to consider this seems sub-optimal to me.

    Well, E-P doesn’t appear to be a climate-science denier, but he is a barefaced racist. When called out for it on RC, before Gavin firmly told him to keep his hate to himself, he said:

    You should have figured out by now that such words have no effect on me.

    I fear there’s little chance he can be convinced otherwise, about racism or nuclear power, at least not on a blog. Challenging him about either merely provokes abuse. Gavin squelched the racism rather nicely I thought, but E-P remains to the detriment of any nuclear contribution.

  64. Willard says:

    That should be enough about Poet and “but nukes.”

    Thanks.

  65. ATTP says “we should distinguish between those who don’t accept things that are almost certainly true, and those who disagree with us about the implications of these truths.”

    Can you elaborate on that wrt commenters on this post? I think there are folks commenting here who do not accept or admit things that are almost certainly true. Once you are able to identify those folks, do you engage with them?

    Another split in this decision tree would be to distinguish between folks who don’t accept things that are almost certainly true, but are posting in good faith from those that are posting in bad faith.

    These are important issues imo because they determine if you are engaging in useful discussion or are being sucked into a climate ball game that is based on rules that are more about scoring points and winning an argument than they are about identifying the truth about a thing and working with others on solutions for identified truths that seem like a problem.

    The blocking that zion did with you falls into that matrix of actions as an early dismissal of further discussion with you based on some sort of application of these kind of rules or your reputation.

    [Etc. More playing the ref. -W]

  66. Small,

    ATTP says “we should distinguish between those who don’t accept things that are almost certainly true, and those who disagree with us about the implications of these truths.”

    Can you elaborate on that wrt commenters on this post? I think there are folks commenting here who do not accept or admit things that are almost certainly true. Once you are able to identify those folks, do you engage with them?

    I don’t know enough about some of these topics to be confident that I could determine who was refusing to accepts things that are true. My point was more that it’s often reasonable for people to disagree about the implications of a truth; we don’t all agree on what we should do to solve a problem, even if we all agree that there is a problem.

    As far as engaging with people goes, I’ve become a bit more relaxed. Life’s too short to fight with people all the time and I think people are, mostly, decent. I tend to think that if you lable someone pejoratively, or block them, then you’re sending a statement about your views of them (essentially, that you have no interest in their views). That’s obviously fine, but if your stated goal is to work with other people then it can be tricky if you continually dismiss people who don’t completely agree with you. Each to their own, of course.

  67. Attp says
    I don’t know enough about some of these topics to be confident that I could determine who was refusing to accepts things that are true.”

    When you are confident enough to determine that a party is not accepting something that is almost certainly true, what do you? What is your next step, if any, with engaging with a person that is not accepting something that is almost certainly true?

    You may be quite relaxed, I don’t know, but I think we have to consider that when a fairly innocuous remark on your part gets you blocked by someone who appears to express muddled thinking in the twitterverse, you are not so relaxed as to simply shrug that off and give up on that person, you post here about that minor conflict and pose interesting questions about how we engage with each other. These are good questions. I think it is possible to pursue answers to these questions in a relaxed manner, but ymmv.

  68. Willard says:

    > I think there are folks commenting here

    I think you’re playing the ref, mike.

    Please desist.

  69. Small,
    It depends a lot of my impression of how that person is engaging. If it seems that they’re well-meaning but confused, I try to respond politely and move on. If they’re being abusive and insulting, then I’d probably block them on Twitter, or moderate/ban them from this blog. It also depends on how I’m feeling at the time. I don’t always achieve my own goals when it comes to engaging with others 🙂

  70. I tried to unsubscribe from this thread about zion, but I accidentally unsubscribed myself from the the blog. Going to leave that as is for now. That might be a good choice.

  71. Ben McMillan says:

    Well, the ‘reliable power’ thing is certainly going to be heard over and over again as extreme weather/fire knocks over power lines/reduces cooling capacity at thermal plants/causes extreme electrical demand; there’s a good chance there is a renewable plant nearby not generating at full capacity that can be blamed.

    I guess it is worth pointing out that power interruptions (in ‘developed’ nations) more to do with local poles and wires than anything else; the average USian loses power for 200 minutes a year and that has pretty much nothing to do with renewables; EU and UK have a much higher penetration of wind+solar and much more reliable power.

    One of the best things you can do to mitigate power interruptions is have your own solar+storage, so this is surely what you should promote if you think reliable energy is a human right…

  72. David B Benson says:

    Evidence:
    https://phys.org/news/2020-09-international-simple-climate-policy-funding.html

    A constant $55 per tonne of CO2 emissions results in zero-emission by date certain, according to another article in the BNC Discussion Forum thread on Carbon Tax.

  73. mrkenfabian says:

    David, $55 per tonne (presumably USD) would make coal and gas undeniably unviable in most circumstances – 2 to 3 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of fuel burned pushes $50-60 per tonne thermal coal over US$190 per tonne in fuel costs alone. (At 2.5 t of CO2 per t of fuel). Several times more CO2 than fuel is also my main reason for doubting the viability of Carbon Capture and Storage.

    I would probably go for starting a carbon price low but make it ratchet up in a planned, but inexorable manner; it can be seen coming and the energy industry can plan for it. Difficult without an end to Doubt, Deny, Delay politicking and a genuine non-partisan commitment to low to below zero emissions emerging in it’s place; the arguing should be reserved for how that money should be allocated and what planning, regulation and technology options are deserving of additional support.

    The point of carbon pricing would not be to change short term energy consumer behavior directly but to change longer term energy industry investment choices. Until the low emissions choice is widely available and the obvious first and best choice for consumers – independent of caring about climate change and applying to extravagantly wasteful lifestyle choices as much as to frugal, environmentally aware ones – we won’t see the changes we need.

    Personally I am not a fan of tying carbon pricing to any specific measures – like “dividends”; the pricing itself should work independently of how such revenues get spent. The “dividends” part has always seemed to me to be about making it more sellable to voters within politics that is divided, not about effectiveness once in place. Government revenues and spending are always needing scrutiny and adjustment, always, but a carbon pricing scheme that works as it should will be a tax made to be avoided. Where successful it will generate very little revenue.

  74. David B Benson says:

    mrkenfabian — the evidence, as linked previously, is that people would prefer a constant so-called carbon tax rather than one which grows.

    I disremembered slightly the figure from the net-zero by date certain paper:
    https://phys.org/news/2020-08-pricing-carbon-net-zero-climate-goals.html
    $52 per tonne of CO2, obviously an estimate.

  75. mrkenfabian says:

    Ah, a carbon tax at a rate that starts (unacceptably) high? Sound like the sort of carbon pricing we won’t get – the sort that can be supported in principle but opposed in practice.

  76. Ben McMillan says:

    The EU carbon price is killing German coal pretty effectively at the moment, and that’s only €25. In terms of retail electric bills, this is actually not that big a deal (although the other taxes/levies really add up).

    Pretty much all the actually-implemented ones in democracies are variable price, which seems like a pretty solid starting-point for what might be politically possible.

  77. David B Benson says:

    Ben McMillan — @ but €25 per tonne of CO2 the net-zero emissions year is pushed out to almost 2070. But then the world goes over the 2 °C limit. Tch, tch.

  78. Ben McMillan says:

    Yeah, which is why the price is designed to be variable, and has in fact increased as policy tightens. Although the main battle at the moment is increasing the scope.

    Note also the superiority over the ‘no price at all approach’: you are unfortunately attacking something which is probably world-leading in favor of your preferred non-actually-implemented-anywhere solution.

    I think that that is probably the most irritating aspect of the issue in the OP too: being more interested in pushing your own solution that actually working towards the goal.

  79. David B Benson says:

    Ben McMillan, isn’t my preference. I linked to the article describing the survey done in the USA. There the respondents preferred a fixed rate.

    And I am under the impression that a constant fee is implemented over the border in British Columbia, although at quite a low level.

  80. Willard says:

    Which survey, David?

    Here’s the abstract:

    The social cost of carbon (SCC) is commonly described and used as the optimal CO2 price. However, the wide range of SCC estimates provides limited practical assistance to policymakers setting specific CO2 prices. Here we describe an alternate near-term to net zero (NT2NZ) approach, estimating CO2 prices needed in the near term for consistency with a net-zero CO2 emissions target. This approach dovetails with the emissions-target-focused approach that frames climate policy discussions around the world, avoids uncertainties in estimates of climate damages and long-term decarbonization costs, offers transparency about sensitivities and enables the consideration of CO2 prices alongside a portfolio of policies. We estimate illustrative NT2NZ CO2 prices for the United States; for a 2050 net-zero CO2 emission target, prices are US$34 to US$64 per metric ton in 2025 and US$77 to US$124 in 2030. These results are most influenced by assumptions about complementary policies and oil prices.

    https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0880-3

    What I like about this approach is that it underlines something that Judy’s Mr T always seems to forget: uncertainty costs money.

  81. David B Benson says:

    Previous article, Willard.

  82. Willard says:

    Thanks, David. I don’t see a link to the paper in the article:

    https://phys.org/news/2020-09-international-simple-climate-policy-funding.html

    I don’t see “becht” in that page:

    https://www.nature.com/nclimate/volumes/10/issues/9

    Found it in the search engine:

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-00914-6

    As a rule of thumb, consider that at each of these steps you lose 90% of your readers.

  83. David B Benson says:

    Willard, the link to the paper by Bechtel et al., not Becht, is found at the very bottom of the article in Phys.org.

  84. Willard says:

    David, got it.

    “More information” after “explore further”? Something tells me that bunch of physicists never heard of useability.

  85. Willard says:

    A short thread on that paper:

  86. David B Benson says:

    Willard, Phys.org is located on the Isle of Man.

  87. Willard says:

    Indeed:

    Science X is wholly owned by Omicron Limited, headquartered in Douglas, Isle Of Man, United Kingdom. The website was founded in March 2004 by two PhD students motivated by the void in hard science news designed for informed and educated readers. The initial idea behind Science X was to cover physics, nanotechnology, and engineering news. While maintaining this focus, Science X has expanded its coverage to other relevant science and technology fields. Science X has filled the void and created a unique niche in science and technology daily news reporting.

    https://sciencex.com/help/about-us/

    The newsie you cited was authored by Sara Savat, from Washington University in St. Louis. She works at the Office of Public Affairs.

    So Phys dot org isn’t exactly an org. It’s a limited company situated in a tax haven. While I understand the need for private research universities to outsource their PR, I would not promote that kind of shell game.

  88. Ben McMillan says:

    DBB: It looks like the BC carbon price has, and will continue to, vary over time (basically it just goes up).

    One thing worth thinking about in that article is that costs and tax levels are not the same thing.

    But I would be perfectly happy for a ‘constant carbon tax’ to be made law, and for successive administrations to adjust the level as they see fit.

  89. Willard says:

    It might be important to bear in mind that our current taxation schemes rely on a model that is more necessary than sufficient to help us tackle AGW:

  90. It looks to me like nuclear is in conflict with renewables (by which I mean wind and solar). they compete for scarce resources like funding and storage. I find Shellenberger’s preference for nuclear compelling. It uses a tiny amount of space and creates a tiny amount of completely contained waste, unlike any other method of generating electricity. It requires some electricity storage, which is what most current pumped storage facilities were built for.

    Renewables have serious diminishing returns problems because of intermittency. They also require land which becomes increasingly harder to allocate. Shellenberger points out that they have a bigger effect on the environment because of physics.

    It’s easy to do short term thinking by adding a few more solar panels or wind turbines, especially when you have a lot of cheap fracked natural gas to back them up. Nuclear means investing a lot now for the long haul.

    Is nuclear too big of a risk? How did they keep those other three reactors running for a decade after the Chernobyl disaster? Could we even have that type of disaster again?

  91. David B Benson says:

    Mike Dombroski — What happened at Chernobyl could only occur to a badly operated Soviet-era RBMK reactor. Such use graphite neutron moderation and nobody does that anymore.

  92. DBB, Russia still has a few RBMK reactors running according to Wikipedia, but of course, no more will be built. They are surely better understood now with a lot of knowledge having been acquired the hard way.

  93. jacksmith4tx says:

    (All) Centralized power stations suffer from single point of failure issues. If you step back and just observe the long arch of technology it points to interconnected micro grids. Vehicle-to-Grid will mark the tipping point. I would go as far as to predict we can’t stop the transition irrespective of climate change or fuel sources. Look out far enough and there might be a Mr. Fusion (pop culture ref: Back to the Future II) in your future.

  94. Jack, The way around single point of failure points for big power stations is to have lots of big power stations to route around. Big power stations mean economies of scale that use less land and resources and have smaller environmental footprints.

  95. David B Benson says:

    Typically the grid operator has almost 15% of generation resources for ancillary services and reserve against generators tripping off, transmission line failures and the like.

    The resources at
    https://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/714/pjm-style-electricity-markets
    should prove helpful, although capacity markets are mind-boggling.

  96. Willard says:

  97. Ben McMillan says:

    It looks like the idea that a carbon price would be a panacea has almost completely disappeared anyway (government policies anyway have never been carbon-price-only). Certainly the existing carbon prices, which are indeed all low compared to what’s needed to stay below 2C, will only drive incremental change at current levels.

    And that is exactly what they are meant to do: give people incentives to pick the low-hanging fruit like using existing tech to push down the carbon intensity of the grid and reduce near-term emissions.

    The transformative change is driven by other things: individuals, groups, and governments putting in significant investments to try new ways of doing things and pushing technologies far enough down the learning curve.

    But these two things are complementary; transformative solutions, like electrification of road transport, only makes sense if there is a low carbon grid to start with. Likewise, development and subsidised mass-deployment of new technology is a precondition for it to become competitive existing tech that a carbon price might favor over dirty old tech. As the economy decouples from fossil energy, the carbon-price can then increase without causing too much pain.

    So the carbon price + research and development and subsidisation of new tech approach makes plenty of sense. Attacking a carbon price on its own is a bit strawmannish.

    The alternative to a carbon price is direct government action, which the ‘fiscal conservatives’ always whined about being inefficient, and governments picking winners being a bad idea etc. That seems less relevant in the current political climate in places where the fiscal conservatives have turned into ethno-nationalists. Also, the winners are obvious enough that it turns out that governments can actually pick them. The idea that central planning is incapable of doing things like building a power grid at an acceptable cost has always been nonsense.

    Also, unsurprisingly, actually existing carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems involve massive back-room deals for free permits etc; any extra claimed efficiency is out the window once government is in the pocket of big-business.

  98. Mal Adapted says:

    I’m a carbon-price advocate because I’m impressed by the power of markets to influence our aggregate behavior. I’m convinced existing “alternative” energy technology is a sufficient base for innovation and R&D to build out the carbon-neutral global economy, if the price signal favoring fossil fuels is corrected for their marginal climate-change costs. It has to be done right, though! I realize that’s a big if, especially in the USA. I’m not impressed with implementations to date, but that doesn’t invalidate the concept. Meanwhile, I’m certainly not ideologically opposed to targeted subsidies for R&D or command-and-control measures that have any chance of decrementing our emissions measurably!

  99. Steven Mosher says:

    Zeke needs to put 3C pathway on that chart, because that is the best we will ever do.

    better start adapting yesterday

  100. Jeffh says:

    ATTP, I came to this thread late but I will add my five cents worth. Broadly saying ‘humans are good’ is a bizarre, sweeping statement. It requires caveats. Some humans do very bad, selfish things. Perhaps it is a minority, but it is a significant minority that controls most of the world’s wealth and power. Supposedly good humans are destroying our ecological life-support systems at an increasing rate, despite being fully aware of the consequences. Supposedly good humans profit from war and wage war against each other, killing industrial numbers of people. Supposedly good humans embrace political and social movements, including politicians, that espouse hatred and division. I could go on and on.

    Zion Lights is merely following in the footsteps of Shellenberger, Lomborg, and other supposedly ‘reformed’ environmentalists who were never truly environmentalists in the first place. I am not saying that Zion Lights is not sincere, but there is no better way to get into the spotlight than to be a supposed environmentalist while arguing that many of the tenets of neoliberal capitalism are good for nature and humanity in the longer term (they most certainly aren’t). The fact that Zion Lights gave interviews with avowedly right wing media sources like the Telegraph, which has long championed anti-environmental, climate science denying sources, raised red flags with me.

  101. Jeff,

    Zion Lights is merely following in the footsteps of Shellenberger, Lomborg, and other supposedly ‘reformed’ environmentalists who were never truly environmentalists in the first place.

    Yes, I think this is – unfortunately – correct. It’s much easier to get noticed by promoting a simplistic narrative that appeals to some audience, than to recognise that this is a complicated situation and that there isn’t some single perfect solution and that even people you might disagree with are still trying to achieve the same basic goal.

  102. “…were never truly environmentalists in the first place. “

    What does that even mean? Does it mean they’re heretics who left the true search. All three have origins in the left wing environmental movement. They all took a critical look at there positions and found many aspects wanting. Shellenberger actually helped found the Apollo Alliance to help spend Obama’s stimulus on renewables. He got to see the lackluster results up close.

    I don’t think I’ve seen any criticism of Shellenberger that’s amounted to anything more than hand wringing tribalism.

  103. Mike,
    I’ve rarely seen anything presented by Shellenberger that’s amounted to anything more than hand wringing tribalism (bear in mind that he explicitly claims that the modern environmental movement are essentially religious fundamentalists). Would be nice if those who do like what Shellenberger presents could at least acknowledge that his message is remarkably (and intentionally) polarising.

  104. Nathan says:

    Mike
    “All three have origins in the left wing environmental movement.”
    and how do you know this?

  105. Willard says:

    Here, Canman:

    Most welcome.

  106. Nathan, the Apollo Alliance (Shellenberger), Greenpeace (Lomborg) and ER (Lights) sound like parts of the left wing environmental movement to me.

  107. [ButReligion. ButCensorship. -W] Why can’t Shellenberger get on Rachel Maddow’s or Chris Hayes’ show? Why the media McCartyism about going on FOX News? Why won’t the New York Times review or even put his best selling book on their best sellers list?

  108. Mike,
    Natural disasters are getting worse.

    Why can’t Shellenberger get on Rachel Maddow’s or Chris Hayes’ show? Why the media McCartyism about going on FOX News? Why won’t the New York Times review or even put his best selling book on their best sellers list?

    I don’t know. Maybe Fox News really is dreadful, Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes think they can get better guests than Shellenberger, and the NYT doesn’t think his book deserves to be on their best sellers list? As far as I’m aware, there are lots and lots of people who don’t end up on Rachel Maddow’s and Chris Hayes’s shows, and plenty of books that aren’t reviewed by the NYT or put on their best sellers list.

  109. David B Benson says:

    Mike Dombroski — Here are 8 pages of links to articles about the rapidly changing environment:
    https://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/159/climate-change-emergency

    I encourage you to study, noting that nothing by Shellenberger is included.

  110. Ken, Willard, is Zeke going to clarify whether natural disasters are getting worse?

    Zeke, are natural disasters getting worse — yes or no?

  111. Mike,
    I’m not sure if Zeke keeps track of the comments on this blog. If you want an answer from Zeke, you may need to ask him directly (I’m not, though, encouraging you to go and bother him). One problem with the simple claim that natural disasters are not getting worse is that they clearly are – natural disasters are costing more, even when corrected for inflation. The reason why some claim they’re not getting worse is that they don’t appear to be getting worse when corrected for increased wealth exposed. So, they are costing more (which would seem worse) but this may be mostly because of increased wealth exposed.

    The problem with arguing that because natural disasters costing more when corrected for exposed wealth this means that climate change isn’t having any impact is that it assumes that this is what would be expected in the absence of climate change. We’ve also improved infrastructure, building codes and have become much better at tracking events and providing warnings. You might expect that the wealth corrected damage costs should be going down, rather than simply being flat. I’m not (to be clear) pointing this out for your benefit, of course.

  112. Willard says:

    Canman,

    If you could ask Nuke Mike when he’ll give me a sammich, that’ll be great.

  113. Ken, Shellenberger clearly states that deaths from natural disasters have gone down. His metric appears to be cost in lives. As countries have gotten wealthier, less people have died, especially poor people. Of course lots of rich people have had to deal with the destruction of their vacation homes and what to do with the check from their insurance company.

  114. So, he’s defining it in a very specific way? It’s, of course, great that deaths have gone down. Does that mean that there is no other way to assess natural disasters? Are the only people who suffer loses rich people with insurance? I don’t think so. Is there a simple “yes/no” answer to a question about natural disasters getting worse. I don’t think it’s quite that simple, even if you and Shellenberger would like to think it is.

  115. Here’s the IPCC glossary definition of disaster:

    Disaster
    Severe alterations in the normal functioning of a community or a society due to hazardous physical
    events interacting with vulnerable social conditions, leading to widespread adverse human, material, economic or environmental effects that require immediate emergency response to satisfy critical human needs and that may require external support for recovery.

    I’d say that “require immediate emergency response to satisfy critical human needs” makes Shellenberger correct. He does say he uses the IPCCs definition.

  116. Oh, so it’s not just deaths? Try could try reading my earlier comment again, then. I realise that this is mostly a waste of time, but the cost of weather related natural disasters has actually gone up, so it’s odd to suggest that they aren’t worse. Also (as I pointed out earlier) you can’t really say anything about whether or not climate change has made them worse without some idea of what the impact would be in its absence. Well, of course, you can say whatever you like, but if you’re interested in saying something reliable, then you should really have some idea of the counterfactual. I do, of course, realise that there’s nothing I can say that will influence your view that Shellenberger is right.

  117. From your earlier comment:

    … Is there a simple “yes/no” answer to a question about natural disasters getting worse. I don’t think it’s quite that simple, even if you and Shellenberger would like to think it is.

    I think the IPCC’s phrase, “require immediate emergency response to satisfy critical human needs”, simplifies it pretty well. The key words are “critical human needs”. Less people are dying and more survivors are having their critical human needs satisfied, or else they would’ve likely died.

  118. Well, if you define things to suit your narrative you’re always going to be right.

  119. Yes under the narrative where increased wealth has saved lives and provided more relief from the CO2 fueled, tiny increments of heat fire and flood that have been inflicted on people than critical damages caused and which the IPCC seems to agree with, Shellenberger is right.

    What’s your narrative?

  120. I’d prefer to discuss the details of a complex situation, rather than generating simplistic sound bites that mask the complexity and are easily misinterpreted. YMMV, of course.

  121. Willard says:

    I will point at:

    [Nuke Mike] clearly states that deaths from natural disasters have gone down.

    and

    Here’s the IPCC glossary definition of disaster:

    Disaster
    Severe alterations in the normal functioning of a community […]

    That is all.

  122. David B Benson says:

    An objective measure is the number of major hurricanes per year:
    http://www.stormfax.com/huryear.htm
    which clearly shows the dramatic increase in this century.

  123. Ben McMillan says:

    Also, I guess it is worth highlighting people who are effective and persuasive about nuclear as a part of the climate solution.

    e.g. it is quite possible to do something other than hippy-punching and misleading talking points if you are really trying (hint: they aren’t trying).

  124. Jeffh says:

    Greenpeace has denied that Lomborg was ever a member. For all theee of them, the slick conversion from alleged environmentalist to free-market realism has PR written all over it. Nothing makes a better story than someone who changes horses mid-stream. Lomborg and Shellenberger try too hard to re-package themselves; both were never remotely environmentalists in the first place. Several of us took Lomborg’s biodiversity chapter apart when TSE came out 19 years ago, and Shellenberger’s chapter on the topic is equally abominable. Both are master cherry-pickers. Neither has much of a clue what they are talking about, but since they have zero pedigree in most of the fields they cover superficially, this is hardly surprising. As for Lights, giving interviews to fervently climate science denying, anti-environmental rags like the Telegraph is either a stupid move or a brilliant one, depending on your perspective. For sure she became a sensation in much of the denialosphere for her conversion. She, like the other two, is merely repackaging herself for her new audience.

  125. Phil says:

    Lomborg made the claim that he had been a member of Greenpeace on the flyer of the original edition of “The Sceptical Environmentalist”. Greenpeace didn’t so much deny that Lomborg was ever a member, but pointed out that they are not a membership based organisation; you can be a supporter or an employee but it just wasn’t possible to be a “member”. Lomborg, when challenged, then revised his claim, saying that he’d popped a few coins in a collection tin once. Needless to say, CUP dropped the claim from the next print run. Of course, the claim, obviously demonstrably false, was necessary to justify the word “Environmentalist” in the book title. It also might give reasonable people pause to consider just how good Lomborg’s research skills are if he try to lie about being a member of an organisation that doesn’t have a membership…

  126. an_older_code says:

    @Phil, always a shame this comment platform does not have a like/uptick button, have an uptick anyway

  127. Bob Loblaw says:

    The most recent XKCD cartoon covers the Lomborg et al story pretty well, without actually referring to it specifically. Don’t forget to hover over the cartoon to see the pop-up text. (That might only be visible if you go to the XKCD page.)

    https://xkcd.com/2368/

  128. Nathan says:

    Mike

    “Nathan, the Apollo Alliance (Shellenberger), Greenpeace (Lomborg) and ER (Lights) sound like parts of the left wing environmental movement to me.”

    Everyone loves the road to Damascus conversion. It’s a beautiful story…
    But are you just taking their word for it? It’s powerful PR, but probably bollocks.

  129. Willard says:

    > Everyone loves the road to Damascus conversion.

    “But Damascus” is a powerful ClimateBall Bingo Square:

    https://climateball.net/but-damascus/

  130. Bob, substitute ‘more immediate’ for ‘bigger’ in that XKCD cartoon.

  131. Nathan, in Shellenberger’s case, I follow his work very extensively. I find him to be the most interesting and thought provoking person in the fields of climate and energy.

  132. Mike,
    You also seem to thin’ highly of WUWT and cliscep, so I’m not sure that’s really saying much.

  133. Nathan says:

    “Nathan, in Shellenberger’s case, I follow his work very extensively. I find him to be the most interesting and thought provoking person in the fields of climate and energy.”

    Well, that’s very nice…
    He seems like a bit of a tool to me.

  134. Nathan says:

    Thanks Willard,

    so what’s the counter play here? Richard Muller?

  135. Bob Loblaw says:

    MIke: “Bob, substitute ‘more immediate’ for ‘bigger’ in that XKCD cartoon.

    …but keep the part that says “OK. Want to help fix ?” and the part that says “No, for another reason I’ll think of later”.

    Glad to see that we understand each other, Mike.

  136. Nathan says:

    “Environmental Progress (EP) is a research and policy organization fighting for clean power and energy justice to achieve nature and prosperity for all.”

    I for one am all for ‘achieving’ ‘nature’… Weird.

    “The number of deaths each decade resulting from natural disasters actually declined by 92% since the peak in the 1920s. While the cost of natural disasters has risen over that period of time, it is because there are more people and property in harm’s way than in the past, not because disasters are worsening. ”

    This is pretty poor… Bad analysis… BAD

  137. Bob Loblaw says:

    Hmmm. WordPress gobbled up the part in angle brackets that said “more immediate problem”, between “help fix” and the question mark. Obviously tought it was an html code.

  138. “You also seem to thin’ highly of WUWT and cliscep, so I’m not sure that’s really saying much.”

    I hope it hasn’t polarized me.

  139. Nathan says:

    “And though the latest season of Australian bushfires got a lot of media attention, it was a rather unremarkable year. The 2019-2020 fires ranked:

    5th in terms of area burned, with about 1/6 of the burned acreage of the worst season in 1974–1975

    6th in fatalities, about 1/5 as many fatalities as the worst fire on record in 2009

    2nd in number of houses destroyed, razing about 50% less than the worst year, the 1938–39 fire season”

    And this nonsense is verging on offensive.

    That ‘worst year’ is worst because it includes the only year anyone bothered reporting fires in the savanna north of Australia (which generally burns large areas every year). The other large years also report large areas in the arid regions. We’ve never experienced fires of this magnitude in the more temperate areas.
    You’d think, given the effort we place in avoiding fires we would not get fires as bad as we used to, but apparently because fires were worse when we had fewer tools to fight them, things aren’t so bad.

    It’s really poor logic and simplistic analysis targeting people with little understanding.
    Bad analysis… BAD

    “it was a rather unremarkable year”
    Yes, a bit like 2020, because hey not that many people died.

  140. Willard says:

    > so what’s the counter play here? Richard Muller?

    Recalling RichardM’s trajectory is a good first move.

    A good second move could be Jerry Taylor’s conversion:

    Taylor’s own conversion began with a cable-TV debate a decade ago with Joe Romm, a fiercely partisan author and climate blogger for the Center for American Progress. In the green room afterward, Romm, who has a PhD in physics, told Taylor that he had misrepresented congressional testimony by noted climate scientist James Hansen. Go look at what Hansen actually said, Romm urged him.

    https://archive.vn/KplfS#selection-403.0-403.384

    A good third move could be David Tiley’s story:

    And so on and so forth.

    The overall strategy is to show that the “conversion rate” (to borrow from another field) of contrarians is higher than the one for those “going rogue,” like Nuke Mike or Zion.

    Canman will do what Canman always does, which is to peddle nuke stuff.

    Forget him. He’s not your audience.

  141. Willard says:

    That being said, there are many other kinds of conversions, e.g.:

  142. I think Jerry Taylor was looking for a niche so he could have his own think tank.

  143. Willard says:

    Thinking is good, CanMan.

    To provide evidence is better:

    SL: So that was it? You changed your mind?

    JT: It was more gradual. After that, I began to do more of that due diligence, and the more I did, the more I found that variations on this story kept arising again and again. Either the explanations for findings were dodgy, sketchy or misleading or the underlying science didn’t hold up. Eventually, I tried to get out of the science narratives that I had been trafficking in and just fell back on the economics. Because you can very well accept that climate change exists and still find arguments against climate action because the costs of doing something are so great.

    SL: And the economic case eventually crumbled, too?

    JT: The first blow in that argument was offered by my friend Jonathan Adler, who was at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Jon wrote a very interesting paper in which he argued that even if the skeptic narratives are correct, the old narratives I was telling wasn’t an argument against climate action. Just because the costs and the benefits are more or less going to be a wash, he said, that doesn’t mean that the losers in climate change are just going to have to suck it up so Exxon and Koch Industries can make a good chunk of money.

    https://theintercept.com/2017/04/28/how-a-professional-climate-change-denier-discovered-the-lies-and-decided-to-fight-for-science/

  144. Nathan says:

    “I think Jerry Taylor was looking for a niche so he could have his own think tank.”

    But not Shellenberger and Zion?

  145. David B Benson says:

    But #Nordquist:
    https://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/293/happens-get-bar?page=1
    Especially the last entry so far…

  146. Jeffh says:

    “Nathan, in Shellenberger’s case, I follow his work very extensively. I find him to be the most interesting and thought provoking person in the fields of climate and energy.”

    Given his risible understanding of ecology, I hope he is a tad better in those (climate and energy) fields. The extinctions chapter of his new book is quite awful. It wouldn’t pass in a peer-reviewed scientific journal for a second imho. Certainly if I or colleagues were to review it we would send it back with a big, bold ‘reject’ stamp. Many reasons: cherry picking from a few scientists whose work he likes on threats of invasives to island biodiversity (combined with a complete inability to understand trophic cascades), while ignoring volumes of work with very different conclusions, and a basic lack of being able to grasp genetic diversity and its importance in species maintenance and ecosystem functioning. And a lot more. Then again, he seems to be nothing more than Lomborg redux to me.

    Like Lomborg’s tome, his book is aimed at a lay audience who will be wowed by his apparent grasp of science. Indeed, the way to achieve such an objective is always to know just a little bit more than your target audience. This is classic PR. By doing so you can convince them that you know your stuff. Lomborg and Shellenberger did not aim their books at scientists because they knew we would take various chapters of them apart (as we have done). But scientists are very often ignored by the corporate media or else it creates ‘balance’ by putting one scientist against a contrarian, often without telling the audience that the scientist has years of research pedigree and the contrarian is a outlier with little relevant scientific expertise.

  147. mrkenfabian says:

    If mainstream, government-led commitment to climate action depends on the effectiveness of Environmentalists – both to convince them (via mobilising community awareness and voter support) the problem is serious AND to develop the responses that are deemed broadly acceptable – then there is something really wrong with mainstream leadership, not Environmentalism.

    We got “You care, you fix it” – a profound abrogation of responsibility by those who hold the Offices that have the responsibility. Followed closely by “Not like THAT” – opposing all action being proposed by those unreasonable extremists… rather than proposing anything themselves. Focus is kept firmly on Environmentalists and activism and their politics. And on promoting alarmist fear of economic outcomes of Enviro proposed pathways… which means the focus is not on the people/processes that commissioned the science based reports (in order to be informed, in order to develop appropriate policy) – or THEIR (doubt, deny, delay) activism and extremist politics.

    And that is what Shellenberger and all the Ecomodernists appear to be about – promoting the idea that Environmentalism is the responsible party and has to change, NOT mainstream politics. Which is a message that mainstream political players like just fine, especially, but not only the pro fossil fuels opponents of climate action; those who find the problem real but ovewhelming and intractable can find solace too in such blame shifting.

    The nuclear part is largely irrelevant and lauding Ecomodernists commits people to nothing. A commitment to nothing is exactly what climate responsibility deniers want – and successfully blaming the very people who care the most and want action the most for that… what is not for a pro fossil fuels climate denier not to like?

  148. Willard says:

    Related:

  149. Ben McMillan says:

    Yes, I think forcing people to make a committment is the big thing that helps: e.g. the Conservatives in the UK are going full-throttle on offshore wind because there is a big enough push from the public to take actual real steps.

    And at that point you can’t just troll your political opponents with an unviable approach, because you will own the failure.

    Not much point engaging with people about the best solution to a problem that they deny exists, when they have no need to come to the table and put down a stake.

    At some point though, the power+money swings from the dying industries to the ones that look like the future.

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