AMOC running amok may cause havoc


Hooray for physics! It keeps the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) churning.

The AMOC is the product of a gigantic, ocean-wide balancing act. It starts in the tropics, where high temperatures not only warm up the seawater but also increase its proportion of salt by boosting evaporation. This warm, salty water flows northeast from the U.S. coastline toward Europe — creating the current we know as the Gulf Stream.

But as the current gains latitude it cools, adding density to waters already laden with salt. By the time it hits Greenland, it is dense enough to sink deep beneath the surface. It pushes other submerged water south toward Antarctica, where it mixes with other ocean currents as part of a global system known as the “thermohaline circulation.”

This circulation is at the heart of Earth’s climate system, playing a critical role in redistributing heat and regulating weather patterns around the world.

As long as the necessary temperature and salinity gradients exist, AMOC is self-sustaining, Boers explained. The predictable physics that make dense water sink and lighter water “upwell” keep the circulation churning in an endless loop.

The AMOC moderates our climate and is also essential for things humans like, like the North Atlantic fisheries and the pleasant beaches of the Atlantic coast of the US. You want the AMOC to keep whirling. Seriously, don’t fuck with the AMOC. The bad news, though, is that we fucked with the AMOC.

Human-caused warming has led to an “almost complete loss of stability” in the system that drives Atlantic Ocean currents, a new study has found — raising the worrying prospect that this critical aquatic “conveyor belt” could be close to collapse.

In recent years, scientists have warned about a weakening of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), which transports warm, salty water from the tropics to northern Europe and then sends colder water back south along the ocean floor. Researchers who study ancient climate change have also uncovered evidence that the AMOC can turn off abruptly, causing wild temperature swings and other dramatic shifts in global weather systems.

We know very well the consequences of disrupting the AMOC. The last time it happened was caused by the abrupt draining of Lake Agassiz into the Atlantic

It’s happened before. Studies suggest that toward the end of the last ice age, a massive glacial lake burst through a declining North American ice sheet. The flood of freshwater spilled into the Atlantic, halting the AMOC and plunging much of the Northern Hemisphere — especially Europe — into deep cold. Gas bubbles trapped in polar ice indicate the cold spell lasted 1,000 years. Analyses of plant fossils and ancient artifacts suggest that the climate shift transformed ecosystems and threw human societies into upheaval.

The Polar Vortex was bad, but you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

If this critical part of ocean circulation collapses in our lifetime, then can we drag out all the climate-denying Republicans and hang them? It would be more helpful to do it before, but I guess we have to wait until they complete the destruction of human civilization before taking action.

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Oddly enough, my just-now little search turned up zero instances of the term “amocalypse”.

    Betcha we’ll see it more soon.

  2. Akira MacKenzie says

    If this critical part of ocean circulation collapses in our lifetime, then can we drag out all the climate-denying Republicans and hang them?

    Sadly, the Democrats don’t have the stomach for that kind of fun.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    One thing not mentioned in the article is the important role played by the AMOC in carbon sequestration.

    In the eastern subpolar North Atlantic, both upper and lower limbs of the AMOC transport high-DOC waters. Deep water formation that connects the two limbs of the AMOC results in a high downward export of non-refractory DOC (197 Tg-C·yr−1). Subsequent remineralization in the lower limb of the AMOC, between subpolar and subtropical latitudes, consumes 72% of the DOC exported by the whole Atlantic Ocean. The contribution of DOC to the carbon sequestration in the North Atlantic Ocean (62 Tg-C·yr−1) is considerable and represents almost a third of the atmospheric CO2 uptake in the region.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/srep26931

  4. unclefrogy says

    that is the great fearful thing that looms ahead. It would yield the “Hollywood” style disaster that is so ridiculed by the deniers.
    When it happens party affiliation will be a lot less important then it is now. with rich prepers on the list as well as much of the 1% headed for the gibbet

  5. ealloc says

    I’m far from a climate scientist, but it ticks me when a mainstream science article calls 13,000 years ago the end of the last “ice age” when they actually mean end of the last “glacial period”. An ice age is a significantly different concept! We are currently in the fourth ice age. I hope it doesn’t confuse any innocent person who decides to look it up on their own.

    It’s like the use of the phrase “genetic code”, although that one bothers me less since I think the mainstream definition won that one and scientists can accept defeat. Also because understanding climate science is currently much more politically important.

  6. says

    Too many folks don’t understand how warming can lead to cooling, but it’s GLOBAL warming and REGIONAL cooling. What is underappreciated (because we white people are just as self centered as any other people) is that we’re talking about cooling in the northern latitudes, but the overall heat budget hasn’t changed. In fact, the atmospheric heat budget gets worse. Which is to say that as the northern latitudes grow colder, the tropical latitudes will grow even hotter, by an equal amount. The amount of land available for the crops which currently nourish humanity will decline drastically, with the north losing the ability to produce cereals and the tropics losing productivity among many other crops.

    An icy north and broiling equator leads to an ever decreasing range of latitudes in the middle where food production is efficient.

    But don’t worry. Climate change mitigation is expensive, and technology will figure something out if we just do nothing.

  7. Rob Grigjanis says

    CD @8:

    we’re talking about cooling in the northern latitudes

    Not in Siberia or Northern Canada, where warming will be about twice the global average in the coming decades.

  8. says

    @9
    Don’t forget about the zombie anthrax outbreak of 2015. A strain of anthrax encased in ice for thousands of years wiped out the vast majority of Siberian reindeer herds. There was no defense because the strain wan ancient. What else is locked up in that ice? Guess we’re going to find out.

  9. raven says

    An icy north and broiling equator leads to an ever decreasing range of latitudes in the middle where food production is efficient.

    There is a simple solution to that.
    People in the colder regions like northwestern Europe and New England can just move south. The tropical people can just move towards the poles.

    It can’t be more than a few billion climate refugees.
    What could go wrong here?

    We are already seeing a few climate refugees here and there.

    UN.org
    Since 2010, weather emergencies have forced around 21.5 million people a year to move, on average.

    It is already causing huge problems in a world with 7.8 billion people.

  10. says

    @11
    Wait 7.8 BILLION? I remember when we crossed 7 billion and it wasn’t that long ago. How are we already rocketing toward 8 billion?

  11. raven says

    7.9 Billion
    7.9 Billion (2021)
    The current world population is 7.9 billion as of August 2021 according to the most recent United Nations estimates elaborated by Worldometer.

    World Population Clock: 7.9 Billion People (2021) – Worldometerhttps://www.worldometers.info › world-population

    I remember when the world’s population crossed the 3 billion mark. It was around 1960, shortly before the Beatles appeared.
    That seemed like a lot back then.

  12. says

    The bigger the population, the faster the potential growth. Same thing happens with the pandemic: More infected people means more chances to infect others, and suddenly that slow rise turns into a massive spike.

  13. unclefrogy says

    @17
    their is a silver lining in pandemics, if silver is the right designation, the bigger they are and the deadly they are the lower the population will result. Thus providing some reduction to carbon emissions produced

  14. microraptor says

    Crip Dyke @8: I find that explaining it like it’s a stock portfolio helps. If Stock A rose in value while Stocks B and C lost value, the portfolio had a net loss. People seem to get that with less issue.

  15. weylguy says

    Older folks like Dr. Myers and me will not be around to see the world’s climate disaster unfold completely, but our grandchildren certainly will. More sadly, today’s Republican climate deniers will not experience it either, and they’ll go to their graves ignorant of their crimes and stupidity, just like the slaveholders of the Antebellum South.

  16. says

    @#18, weylguy:

    Well, if it’s any consolation, you and Dr. Myers are likely to live long enough to die either directly or indirectly of supply chain issues caused by climate change. We’re already seeing it, although it has been masked somewhat by coronavirus. In 5 years it’s going to impossible to ignore, and in 10 years it will be enough to make things hard on everybody.

    Sure is a good thing that the Democrats didn’t push hard for green initiatives at any time in the last 40 years. It would have been terrible to sacrifice a couple of percent of the profits which went to Wall Street traders to avoid these problems.

  17. pilgham says

    @11 It’s like the Mad Hatter’s tea party, “I want a clean plate. Let’s all move one place on.”

  18. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    100% green plans are pipedreams. Listen to the scientists.

    Preeminent climate scientist James Hansen says that believing that renewables can replace fossil fuels around the world is almost as bad as believing in the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, and that it’s a mirage. He also says that mainstream Green environmental activists are more to blame than climate change deniers because they’re proposing plans that won’t work.

    Dr. Kerry Emanuel echoes the sentiment saying, paraphrase, history may record that Greens were more of an obstacle to fixing climate change than climate change deniers because of Green opposition to nuclear power.

    Finally, in the latest IPCC reports, all of the example pathways involve lots of nuclear power, and almost all of them involve lots more nuclear power than what we have today.

    One more thing, the title says it all:
    “Had They Bet On Nuclear, Not Renewables, Germany & California Would Already Have 100% Clean Power”
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2018/09/11/had-they-bet-on-nuclear-not-renewables-germany-california-would-already-have-100-clean-power/

    PS:

    The bigger the population, the faster the potential growth.

    If you mean humans, then this is wrong. Humans are one of the first, maybe only, species that is “advanced enough” to suppress its own instinctual desire to procreate. Already, the birth rate per woman in practically every industrialized country is well below breakeven. Who knew that women would have less kids if they had equal rights, access to contraception, and access to work careers, instead of being stuck at home in a housewife subsistence farming house? /snark

    The key to solving for overpopulation is to bring the rest of the world out of poverty so they too will have less kids. Trying to keep the rest of the world poor by making them use renewables is going to backfire and ensure that their birth rates stay high.

    More importantly (to me at least), it’s also morally unconscionable for the western world to dictate to the poor non-white world that they should stay poor and not achieve the same benefits of higher quality of life that the West has. It’s colonialist and racist.

  19. says

    @#21, Ray Ceeya

    The Vicar’s insight is as useful as it always is. Tear down allies and enemies alike. My way or the highway.

    If the Democrats were actually allies of anybody who wanted to avoid climate change, the world would be a very different place.

    Heck, call ’em what they are: Republican collaborators. Bipartisanship is more important than good policy! Never, ever hold anybody responsible for enabling the very worst policies of the right wing, like the War On Drugs, the invasion of Iraq, drone bombing, regulatory capture by industry, or corporate subsidies to parasitic industries — that would be “purity testing” which is somehow the worst possible thing you can do (much worse than, say, giving a primary candidate copies of the debate questions in advance, or telling friendly media to boost Donald Trump because you think he’ll be easy to beat)! Give up any advantage the voters manage to create, and treat things which an overwhelming majority of voters want as though they’re radical proposals! It’s a great idea to back a series of ridiculously egotistical, entitled candidates with no ethical or moral backbone who constantly lose ground in every possible way, and then sneer at Republicans for “voting against their own interests” as though that wasn’t the f*cking heart and soul of the Democratic Party for the last 30 years!

    Your party is not my ally. It is a bad joke, and one for which the world increasingly does not have the time.

  20. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    The Vicar is right, maybe accidentally, on this point. Democrats have done nothing to advance a feasible plan to combat climate change, both because they haven’t tried hard enough and compromised too much, and because even their best plans like the Green New Deal won’t work. Cap and trade is a joke too compared to a simple greenhouse gas emissions tax as proposed by Dr. James Hansen and many others (specifically fee-and-dividend to make it progressive taxation instead of regressive taxation).

  21. KG says

    If anyone wants to know about Michael Shellenberger, whom GerardOfConspiracyTheories cites @22, take a look at the wikipedia article on him, and particularly note that:

    The Wall Street Journal wrote that, “If heeded, Nordhaus and Shellenberger’s call for an optimistic outlook — embracing economic dynamism and creative potential — will surely do more for the environment than any U.N. report or Nobel Prize.”[39]

    with a recommendation like that, how could anyone question Shellenberger’s analysis?

  22. says

    Humans are one of the first, maybe only, species that is “advanced enough” to suppress its own instinctual desire to procreate.

    What “instinctual desire” is that? It’s actually very common for species to suppress procreation. Ever kept mice? Are you aware of how difficult it can be to prevent parents from killing and eating their offspring?

    Ever hear of ants?

    Animals are quite good about moderating reproduction to accommodate themselves to their environment. Humans are no exception.

  23. Rob Grigjanis says

    KG @25: A quick search turned up this article by Shellenberg, in Quillette no less. Nausea-inducing crap from the very beginning. I question wikipedia’s description of him as a former public relations professional. He’s still a professional liar.

  24. tedw says

    If I remember correctly James Burke predicted this scenario in his prescient series “After the Warming”, way back in 1989

  25. says

    DeSmog Blog has a page on Shellenberger:

    …In a 2017 year-end report to members, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) said that it “engaged third parties to engage with media through interviews and op-eds, including former Senator Saxby Chambliss, Senator Lindsey Graham, environmentalist Michael Shellenberger, former EPA administrator Carol Browner and former Senator Judd Gregg.” The documents were obtained through a public records request and are available publicly on DocumentCloud.

    According to the NEI website, “The Nuclear Energy Institute is the policy organization of the nuclear technologies industry, based in Washington, D.C.” Its members include companies operating nuclear power plants, reactor designers, technology companies, engineering firms, fuel suppliers, and a variety of other companies involved in the nuclear energy industry.

    NEI‘s stated mission is to “promote the use and growth of nuclear energy through efficient operations and effective policy.” It accomplishes this “by providing a unified industry voice before Congress, the executive branch, state and local legislatures, and federal regulators, as well as international organizations and venues, on key policy issues.”

    In 2019, Shellenberger also testified in support of Ohio House Bill 6. The bill, which was signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine later that year, provided subsidies to uncompetitive nuclear and coal plants, and rolled back Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards for electric utilities. Others who testified in support of the bill at one of the same hearings included representatives of NEI and its affiliate Nuclear Matters.

    Judd Gregg, representing Nuclear Matters, also testified. Nuclear Matters is a pro-nuclear coalition that combines the former CASEnergy Coalition and Nuclear Advocacy Network (NAN) “to form a single, broad-based, multifunctional entity to leverage a diverse community of advocates and support solutions that encourage current and future nuclear energy use.” CASEnergy sprang up in 2006 as a PR campaign advocating for new reactors and was reportedly funded entirely by NEI….

    I’ve removed the footnote numbers, but they and much more are at the link.

  26. kathleenzielinski says

    The practical problem is that the only really effective ways to reverse climate change would require basically tanking the economy, and no politician of any party is going to do that. So I hate to say it, but I think the only thing we can do at this point is to hope that our evolutionary successors do a better job with the planet than we do.

  27. foxi says

    @22 GerrardOfTitanServer
    I agree with you that Germany could already have way lower net CO2 emissions if they hadn’t decided to stop using nuclear power (provided they actually invested in renewables as much as they did, and not made lower investment in renewables because they still used nuclear).
    However, nuclear power is not the magic solution to our problems a lot of people make it out to be (I’m not saying you are, but I think people who do say this are wrong). Overall, I think it is correct not to consider nuclear power a renewable energy or even one that could be scaled up reasonably within the time frame necessary.
    For a detailed analysis of why nuclear power will never play a major role on the global scale, see this article: https://phys.org/news/2011-05-nuclear-power-world-energy.html
    TLDR:
    1.Limited potential locations for nuclear power plants: away from population centres, but at the same time next to large rivers to supply the large amounts of water required for cooling (and having enough water available as droughts are likely to increase with climate change).
    2. accident rate: Sure, accidents in nuclear power plants are relatively rare. But there are only comparatively few, globally. Further, if something goes wrong, it can go wrong big time!
    3. proliferation: we don’t want even more countries to have access to nuclear weapons.
    4. Uranium abundance: roughly only enough uranium to last another 80 years at current use.
    5. use of exotic metals: lots or rare metals go into building a nuclear reactor, making it unlikely that nuclear power could be significantly upscaled.
    6. nuclear waste: We have no good solution as to what to do with that.

  28. KG says

    Thanks Rob Grigjanis@28, SC@30.

    So I hate to say it

    Then what is the purpose of saying it? Particularly since neither you nor anyone else can possibly know that climate change is going to lead to human extinction. Frankly, I don’t believe that you, or the rest of the “We’re already doomed” crowd do “hate to say it”. It is, after all, both an assertion of your own superior “realsim”, and a perfect excuse to do nothing about the crisis.

  29. stroppy says

    From RealClimate
    https://www.realclimate.org/
    search AMOC

    Re regional v. global:

    Established understanding of the AMOC (sometimes popularly called Gulf Stream System) says that a weaker AMOC leads to a slightly cooler global mean surface temperature due to changes in ocean heat storage. But now, a new paper in Nature claims the opposite and even predicts a phase of rapid global warming. What’s the story?
    https://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2018/07/does-a-slow-amoc-increase-the-rate-of-global-warming/

    …….

    Ray Ceeya @ 21

    Tear down allies and enemies alike.

    More like if you dare to disparage Republicans, Vicar will fling poop at Democrats — in this instance ironic since he’s an accelerationist and AGW is the ultimate acceleration.

  30. KG says

    GerrardOfConspiracyTheories (see #22) has long been fond of claiming that Greens, and advocates of renewables, are in league with the fossil fuel industries – in at least some cases, consciously. Yet it turns out that one of the sources he relies on to promote nuclear power, Michael Shellenberger, who also shares his antipathy to environmental movements, is very obviously an advocate and darling of those industries. (I hasten to add that this is not true of advocates of nuclear power in general – I think they are very largely wrong, but I don’t in most cases doubt their sincerity.)

  31. birgerjohansson says

    I would never claim the Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty and corrupt. While many of the former deserve a good flogging or two followed by prison, the latter should be put to search for land mines in third-world countries. With the same low-tech gear the locals use, mainly, their feet.

  32. kathleenzielinski says

    KG, No. 32, please show me where I said that I know climate change will lead to human extinction. Or that I think we should do nothing about the crisis. (Please note, believing that the political realities will most likely preclude a genuine solution is not the same thing as saying we should do nothing). Or anything that I said that’s actually wrong.

    And if you can’t find any of that stuff, maybe you could stop making shit up.

  33. unclefrogy says

    @25
    dam fuck!!
    there is some truth in the aboven one of the best ways to reduce the population is to get people out of poverty it is far less destructive than famine, disease and war.
    just redistributing the wealth already generated by the 1% would go a far way toward eliminating poverty.
    Just what has the head of amazon done to make all that money except keep his employees beholden to him. Does anyone not think the prices would really be that much different if the profit was distributed in a far more equitable way?

  34. KG says

    kathleenzielinski@38,
    Here’s what you said @31:

    I think the only thing we can do at this point is to hope that our evolutionary successors do a better job with the planet than we do.

    Maybe you could stop lying about what you said, when anyone can read it.

  35. kathleenzielinski says

    “Our evolutionary successors” does not imply extinction, unless you’re of the “if humans came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys” school of thought.

    “the only thing we can do” has multiple possible meanings; it can mean there is literally zero else we can do, which is the meaning you ascribed to it, or it can mean what we as a practical matter are going to end up actually doing, which is the meaning I ascribe to it. Try reading what people are actually saying instead of re-interpreting it to make them look stupid.

    And no, “anybody” can’t read it; you obviously didn’t.

  36. snarkrates says

    KG,
    It is silly to think that humans are not headed for extinction. The overwhelming majority of species are.

    I do not think that this particular episode of climate change will be the death knell. It could very well be the end of complex, global human civilization, though. A lot of people underestimate the chaos that will accompany vast portions of the globe becoming unable to support agriculture or indeed urbanization as lakes, rivers and aquifers dry up and are depleted. A warmer world may well not be able to support a population of 7.8 billion people, and the adjustment is unlikely to be gradual or harmonious.
    There may be a reason while the beginning of human civilization coincides with the onset of the Holocene climate optimum–that may be the first time when humans could reliably grow more calories and grams of protein by agriculture than they could hunt and gather. I would not be surprised if in a couple of hundred years the human population consists of widely scatterd bands of hunter gatherers who look at the ruins we leave behind with fear and incomprehension.

  37. Alt-X says

    At this point I hardly care anymore. We’ve been warned of global warming, climate change since before I was a child, the other day at a friends house, they turned on the TV and had it on SkyNews (gross) and the presenter called it “so called climate change”. Here we are, decades and decades later, 2021, and TV idiots are still calling it “so called”. I give up.

  38. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    KG,
    Attacking the weak link. Why not the strongest? I cited many leading respectable climate scientists who say the same things that I do, and I cited the IPCC reports themselves. That other link was a convenient link at the time for numbers on how much money Germany has wasted on solar and wind, but you can find the same information from many other sources.

    PZ,
    Are you aware of any ant species that will limit their procreation in the long term given unlimited resources? I am not. You are talking about a short-term effect. I’m talking about an apparently long term effect. These two things are simply incomparable, and you’re missing my point quite spectacularly.

    kathleenzielinski,
    If we went nuclear, we wouldn’t need to tank the economy.

  39. Rob Grigjanis says

    GOTS @44:

    Attacking the weak link

    Your inclusion of weak (an understatement) links doesn’t say much for your judgement. It’s as though you’re saying “never mind the obvious crap I linked to. Look at the other stuff!”.

    Shellenberger is the founder and president of the organization (Environmental Progress) whose analysis he links to in the Forbes article, without (AFAICT) mentioning that rather intimate connection. That doesn’t bother you?

  40. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    John Morales,
    Then maybe you should go educate yourself.

    Rob,
    Does it bother me? Not really. It would be better if he mentioned in the Forbes article that he’s the founder and president of the group that did that particular bit of research. However, it’s not like this is secret hidden information. It’s trivial to find. Him citing himself is not a conflict of interest either.

  41. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Also Rob,
    I feel like Shellenberger has been the target of an character assassination campaign. Re #30. NEI “engaged [with]” Shellenberger. That could be a simple meeting. This doesn’t imply any payment or other remuneration was made.

    Environmental Progress itself seemingly publishes a list of its donors, and explicitly says that they don’t take money from any energy company or energy interest
    https://environmentalprogress.org/mission

    That’s miles better than Greenpeace and other Green NGOs, many of which don’t do that, and some / many of which seem to receive funding directly from fossil fuel interests. For example, we know that the first anti-nuclear Green NGO, Friends Of The Earth, was started with a grant from fossil fuel money.

    What’s wrong with meeting with industry insiders? Social networking is probably important in a job like that. I feel like there’s a huge double-standard in play. If I published “secret” information that Greenpeace leaders were meeting with executives from solar cell manufacturing companies, I would think the response would be “so what?”.

  42. daved says

    If this critical part of ocean circulation collapses in our lifetime, then can we drag out all the climate-denying Republicans and hang them?

    If the result of the AMOC collapse is a period of serious cooling, we should burn them at the stake. We’ll need all the warmth we can get.

  43. John Morales says

    Gerrard @47, educate myself? I linked to global population records, so far ever-increasing despite natural disasters, famines, wars and pogroms. Kinda undeniable, and quite contrary to your assertion.

    Anyway. It takes an special kind of ideologue to imagine that, given the record and facts — you know, habitat fragmentation and loss, biodiversity loss, trophic stress, and other indications of a not-quite-imminent ecosystem collapse, not to mention such things as this OP — the future will be rosy if only innumerable centralised nuclear plants were to be built.

    But hey, maybe our future will be the glorious nebbish.

  44. says

    GerrardOfConspiracyTheories @ #48:

    I feel like Shellenberger has been the target of an character assassination campaign. Re #30. NEI “engaged [with]” Shellenberger. That could be a simple meeting. This doesn’t imply any payment or other remuneration was made.

    No, you fuckwit, it said it “engaged” (used, enlisted, bribed, paid, hired, contracted) him and others to “engage with media through interviews and op-eds.” It certainly does imply some payment or remuneration. This is more irresponsible high-stakes dipshittery from you.

    And nothing says “embracing economic dynamism and creative potential” like testifying in support of a grotesquely corrupt (and now repealed) bill that “provided subsidies to uncompetitive nuclear and coal plants.”

    By the way, also from the DSB link: “Shellenberger testified in congressional hearings six times since January 2020…often at the invitation of Republican committee members. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has cited Shellenberger’s work as informing the party’s climate policy.”

  45. beholder says

    The Vicar is doing good work in this thread as usual. His posts are continually justified by the partisan hacks–I’ll call them “Anti-Vicars”–who jump all over him in a rush to defend a frankly indefensible major party, making fools of themselves in the process.

    Gerrard, you’re so close to making a good point about nuclear power, but you’re held back by a tendency to weave in conspiratorial red herrings. Here, I’ll make the case for you:

    Nuclear fuel has a zero-carbon footprint, or it can even be carbon-negative, if you use it for sequestration. Nuclear power has a comparatively excellent safety record, which stands to improve with modern reactor designs. There’s plenty of it to go around; more than enough to entirely transition the world’s present energy production over to, in fact. If any of you are foreclosed to the option of at least supplemental nuclear energy alongside renewable sources, then I question your sincerity about doing anything to mitigate the worst effects of global warming.

    There. It’s (relatively) short and to the point, without the blame game.

  46. John Morales says

    beholder:

    The Vicar is doing good work in this thread as usual.

    Sure — AMOC is due to Democrats. A very good point!

    Nuclear fuel has a zero-carbon footprint

    The fuel does, other than its mining and refining and transportation.

    The plants, not-so-much. Concrete, you know.

  47. KG says

    GerrardOfConspiracyTheories,
    #44

    I cited many leading respectable climate scientists who say the same things that I do, and I cited the IPCC reports themselves.

    Climate scientists are experts on climate science, not on energy supply. As you are well aware, there is no consensus among experts on energy supply about the relative roles of nuclear and renewables. IPCC reports are the results of complex political processes. Their findings on climate science are invariably on the conservative side, on energy supply they balance between the various interest groups.

    #48

    That’s miles better than Greenpeace and other Green NGOs, many of which don’t do that, and some / many of which seem to receive funding directly from fossil fuel interests. For example, we know that the first anti-nuclear Green NGO, Friends Of The Earth, was started with a grant from fossil fuel money.

    When your only actual example dates from 1969, and FoE has been attacking the fossil fuel industry for decades, it’s clear you have nothing and are simply conspiracy-mongering.

  48. unclefrogy says

    the point with all the denial all the arguments is to find a way to keep doing what we are doing so we will not have to change what we are doing. all of it is ignoring the fact that it is clearly not working . Not for the vast majority of the human population at best one step from poverty, not for the majority of the plants and animals that live on the earth. not for the entire ecosystem of the planet , not for the stability of the f’n climate. It is only working for the G.. D… 1% and their closest advisors and sycophants. But by all means lets find a way to continue to exploit resources so we can make money and they can become still wealthier doing the same thing we have been doing for all these years hopping it will finally bring peace happiness and prosperity.
    We are in fact just like Vladimir and Estagon and are srtill waiting because it ain’t coming that way.
    uncle frogy

  49. KG says

    beholder@52,
    You naturally don’t mention the huge problems with nuclear power: the disposal of its wastes; the ineradicable connection to nuclear weapons (the materials, skills and technologies involved are closely related, hence the concern about Iran’s nuclear programme); the risks of terrorists sabotaging plants or gaining access to the materials for a “dirty bomb”; the fact that while serious accidents are rare, when they do happen they are enormously costly and hard to remedy – meaning that the industry simply cannot get commerical insurance; and above all, the industry’s pooor record in terms of delivery of projects on time and within budget, something which persists at Olkiluoto in Finland, which was supposed to demonstrate the opposite, and Hinkley Point C, where EDF is insisting on an outrageous guaranteed price for the electricity it may someday produce. As for the “modern reactor designs”, nuclear power is at present at a phase where its technologies are either mature, so that little or no incremental improvement can be expected, or experimental, so we simply don’t know how they will perform in practice. In contrast, the price-per-watt of renewables has been falling rapidly, and continues to do so. While nuclear power certainly has the advantage with regard to intermittency, ways to deal with this drawback of renewables are rapidly improving – and in the case of non-fossil-fuel road and air transport, are equally necessary for nuclear power. I can certainly agree that existing nuclear power plants should not be closed (as long as they are in good condition and well protected against terrorists) if the result would be increased greenhouse gas emissions, and no-one is going to stop China, for example, building more plants (at least until their first serious accident), moves to revive the industry in Europe and North America are in my view motivated more by a sense that this is the “macho” response to climate change than any rational calculation.

    As for The Vicar, you may not be aware that he favoured Trump over Biden in the 2020 election – on the explicit grounds that this would be likely to advance what he regards as the inevitably collapse of the USA, while Biden might delay it long enough to allow “Boomers” to die peacefully rather than suffer as he thinks they deserve. IOW he, like the Trumpers, is primarily motivated by hate. Few here have any great attachment to the Democratic Party – they simply realise that it is, indeed, the lesser evil, that there are no valid third-party alternatives in the USA (where the political system is so constituted that only constitutional amendments would be likely to change that) and that there are people within it struggling to change it in a “non-evil” direction.

  50. kathleenzielinski says

    Gerard, No 44: Even if nuclear power were a complete panacea on the fossil fuel issue (which it is not), that’s only part of the problem. We are approaching 8 billion people, and the planet simply can’t support us in the style to which we have become accustomed. All eight billion generate waste (both bodily and garbage). All of them require clean, fresh water. All of them rely on massive farming operations that poison the earth with fertilizer runoff. The best thing that could happen to the planet would be for us to reduce human population by about half, and for that half to then live simply — no fresh blueberries in January flown in from South America if you live in the United States.

    I live in a two-person, three cat household in which the humans try to reduce their carbon output, and I am astounded at how much garbage we still generate and how many resources we still consume. And we’re making an honest effort; I don’t even want to think about all the people who aren’t.

    All of which takes us back to my original comment, at No. 31, with which KG took such umbrage: The real solutions to climate change — a sharp reduction in human population coupled with simple living — are not politically feasible. They are non-starters. Doesn’t mean we don’t try, but I don’t see a whole lot of reason for optimism.

  51. KG says

    The real solutions to climate change — a sharp reduction in human population coupled with simple living — are not politically feasible – kathleenzielinski@57

    There’s a difference between those two “solutions”: a “sharp reduction in human population” would require genocide, while simple living would not.

    Even among rich countries, there are big differences in greenhouse gas emissions per capita; much could be done by greatly reducing meat and dairy consumption and travel by air and private car. Possibly enough to give us time to switch energy production to low-carbon methods, develop low-carbon ways to produce steel and cement, etc. But systemic features of global capitalism make such changes near-impossible as they threaten too many powerful interests. I have faint hopes that the fact that rich and powerful countries (the USA, China, Germany, Canada, Russia) are among those hit by extreme weather this year might lead to some among their elites realising that they are not going to be immune to climate disruption.

  52. kathleenzielinski says

    KG, a sharp reduction in human population would not necessarily require genocide (you’ve confused “sharp” with “immediate”); people could simply stop reproducing at the rate that they are, but that’s another example of a solution that isn’t politically feasible. China is a totalitarian police state, and even it couldn’t get its population to comply with one child per couple.

    But even if it did require genocide, the point still stands that without population reduction, there will be no genuine fix to the long term problems the planet is facing, notably climate change.

    And I don’t share your faint hope about the rich and powerful realizing they too will be hit with climate disruption. Their analysis is that the worst aspects of it won’t happen until after they’re dead, so why should they care. We are, after all, talking about people who’ve never demonstrated a whiff of willingness to set aside their own interests for the sake of other people; why would they care about unborn generations?

  53. KG says

    kathleenzielinski@60,

    KG, a sharp reduction in human population would not necessarily require genocide (you’ve confused “sharp” with “immediate”); people could simply stop reproducing at the rate that they are, but that’s another example of a solution that isn’t politically feasible.

    The next two decades (probably less) are critical with regard to avoiding catastrophic climate disruption. Even a complete halt to births would not bring about that much of a reduction on the relevant timescale: there are currently around 60 million deaths per year, projected to rise to around 80 million by 2040. That means around 1.4 billion in total by that date. If you think that’s “sharp”, I wouldn’t buy a knife from you.

    China is a totalitarian police state, and even it couldn’t get its population to comply with one child per couple.

    The Chinese birthrate has fallen by more than 2/3 since its peak in the 1960s. This has been far more due to urbanization than the “one-child policy”, although the majority of Chinese women do now have just one child (2020 fertility rate, i.e. number of children per woman, is estimated at 1.30). The Chinese population is projected to peak around 2030, and gradually decline thereafter. Globally, the proportional annual growth rate of population has approximately halved since its peak in the 1960s (it is now around 1.2%), and the absolute annual increase peaked in 1988. We know how to bring the rate down further, probably to below zero: improving the status of women, and urbanization (the latter of which we couldn’t stop anyway) being the main factors. Most of the current growth is among people so poor they contribute little to greenhouse gas emissions.

    But even if it did require genocide, the point still stands that without population reduction, there will be no genuine fix to the long term problems the planet is facing, notably climate change.

    Assertion without evidence or argument.

    And I don’t share your faint hope about the rich and powerful realizing they too will be hit with climate disruption. Their analysis is that the worst aspects of it won’t happen until after they’re dead, so why should they care. We are, after all, talking about people who’ve never demonstrated a whiff of willingness to set aside their own interests for the sake of other people; why would they care about unborn generations?

    Again, assertion without evidence or argument in the second sentence: I suspect (I don’t claim to know) that it’s more to do with the same state of denial most people are in – they just don’t credit that things can be as bad as the climate scientists tell us they are. But most of them do have children, to whom they intend to leave their wealth and power, so must be assumed to have some concern for them; and the events of this year should show at least some of them that disaster may happen within their own lifetimes, let alone those of their children.

  54. Marissa van Eck says

    You know something? Humanity doesn’t deserve to survive. I just turned 33 yesterday and have been through all kinds of abuse and trauma and suffering, to the point where the only way it could have been worse would have required massive physical debility and/or having been born poor in the Third World, and I’ve had enough.

    This world will likely not let me live to 50, and I’m okay with that. The last few years have been filled with some of the most gratuitously stupid, humiliating, unnecessary, flat-out evil things I’ve ever seen and experienced, and yes, that is being compared unfavorably with some of what was done to me as a child. We’re long past the tipping point.

    The end of humanity is going to come as something of a relief. And I have made it a point to have a painless and reliable, if rather slow, suicide method on hand for when the water/food wars start. I’ve suffered enough and am not going to die a miserable death of sepsis or gunshot wound or starvation or disease because of all the stupid fucking people and their stupid fucking animalistic drive to survive in a world gone insane. When people start killing one another over water, I am going to hole up, take my pills/liquids, and go to sleep.

  55. says

    @#54, John Morales:

    Sure — AMOC is due to Democrats. A very good point!

    “AMOC is due to Democrats” would be your perspective, since it’s disruption of AMOC that is the bad thing.

    I never bother to criticize Republicans because they are beneath notice. They are explicitly enemies of any thinking person. Why waste time discussing them?

    Democrats, however, claim to be opposed to Republicans. In so doing, they use up all the funding and press space which can be assembled for opposition — and then they do nothing. That is their purpose, and has been their purpose for decades, to attract the votes of the politically-well-meaning-but-not-very-observant and make sure that those votes are not translated into action. Voters are presented with two major choices, and fall into the logical fallacy of believing those choices to be Manichaean opposites, or at least opposed, when in fact they are just two facets of the same thing. After four years of Democrats claiming to be HashtagTheOpposition, their voters — including a heck of a lot of people on this board — seem to have fooled themselves into believing it, but it’s not even remotely true.

    (I would love to give citations for the following, but every time I make a post with links, it gets held for moderation for at least a day. So you’ll either have to trust me or — shock and horror — do some news lookups yourself.)

    “Oh, but we need to stop the Republicans!” Have you actually stopped the Republicans by electing Democrats? Now or at any time in the last several decades? Biden gave in on forgiving student loan debt — after forgiving less than 1% of it, he dropped any mention of it from the budget. He’s still drone bombing, even after (1) both an academic study under GWB and the CIA itself (which started the program in the first place) under Obama showed that it was counterproductive and (2) a whistleblower revealed that 90% of drone bombing runs hit a target other than the intended one, almost always somebody totally innocent. A report the other day pointed out that there are now twice as many detained immigrants held by ICE as there were at the end of the Trump administration. (Where’s all that outrage about “kids in cages” now, I wonder.) The Green New Deal is DOA, as is any move towards actual universal healthcare, and the Biden DoE has been approving new oil drilling proposals faster than under GWB. (Biden was also the second attendee of the G7 to announce that the environmental policies decided on at their meeting would receive no funding, only beaten out by Boris Johnson.) We’re making trade overtures to Bolsonaro, the right-wing Brazilian Trump knockoff who is quite possibly personally dooming the planet by having as much of the rainforest cut down as possible. Biden’s justice department says its “interests align” with religious schools who want to evade LGBTA civil rights protections. The administration has given the military training material which says that socialism is a “terrorist ideology”, and Biden has offered to send a “strike force” to Chicago to help contain the citizens. (Hey, remember when Trump did that in Portland and Democrats just couldn’t contain their rage? Don’t worry — I’m sure the Biden strike force will only attack black people, so Democrats can keep on ignoring it.) A leaked memo from the CDC even shows that the Biden administration has been lying about their Covid guidance more or less continuously since the election. Way to go — it would be absolutely terrible if there was actually a facet of public policy where the administration had not tried to align with the right wing against the public good.

    If people paid any attention, they would realize that the Democrats will never, under any circumstances, actually fix any major problems, and either stop voting (which would put the Democrats out of work) or vote third party (which would do likewise). I have yet to meet in person any Democrat whose preferences are not actually closer to any of the last 3 Green Party platforms than anything the Democrats have put together in the last 3 decades, and the Greens are far from perfect. Democratic voters aren’t getting what they want from the Democrats, anyway, instead they’re just getting Republican policy with a layer of theatrical reluctance, so there is literally no advantage to not voting third party — the Democrats are a scam, a way to convince the public it is powerless and should settle for a third-rate bunch of grifters who will kill us in our sleep instead of attacking us while we’re awake.

    Manchin is not some kind of new, unexpected treachery. I remember reading of his obvious corruption, vis-a-vis pharmaceutical companies, more than a decade ago, immediately after he got into the Senate. The party gave him the kind of backing in his reelection campaign it always gives the blatantly corrupt, these days, and obviously didn’t make him pledge to back the party platform. (In fact, the only person who has been forced to make a pledge like that in recent years was Bernie Sanders — has Sanders ever betrayed the public the way Manchin does on a daily basis? No. But he’s clearly more dangerous to the party than Manchin is, in the eyes of the party. Think about that for a moment.)

    To tie this back to the main point of the post: if the Democrats had put in half the cumulative and collaborative effort, over either the Obama years or the Clinton years, that they have put into stopping candidates like Sanders, Cynthia Nixon, or Nina Turner in the last six years, we would be well on our way to full sustainability, if not already there. It is only because the Democrats deliberately stop such programs in favor of the destructive (but highly profitable) status quo that we aren’t.

    That is absolutely worthy of contempt. Somebody who is openly your enemy may be bad, but somebody who pretends to be your ally but is instead a deliberate traitor deserves the harshest, most grinding punishment which can be mustered. There’s no scaffold high enough, no hell deep enough to punish the DNC for their continual betrayals of the country; I wish I could believe in an afterlife so that I could believe that Biden and Obama and the Clintons could actually get the level of punishment they deserve for what they have done to the world.

  56. unclefrogy says

    @57
    yes clearly motivated by hate
    and nothing can be said to change that. those who are motivated solely by hate seldom if ever create anything but destruction, waste and more hate.
    we are all in this together whether I like it or not so I will work with anyone trying to help regardless if I agree 100% of the time

  57. kathleenzielinski says

    KG, the most accurate statement in your comment is in your final paragraph where you acknowledge you don’t know.

    I’m a trial attorney who has spent the last thirty years representing major corporations, their insurers and their officers. You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) how many of them would sell their grandmothers for ten thousand dollars cash. It may be that they think their wealth and power will protect their families from climate change, but as far as what they’re doing to the rest of us? They know.

  58. birgerjohansson says

    The conservatives in most EU countries have caught on to that climate change is real and a threat to them.
    Even some goddamn tories have caught ön to it (but do not expect the blond idiot to offer anything beyond platitudes).
    The otherwise awful Chinese communist party has realised climate change is an adversary they cannot put in concentration camps, so they are making real policy changes.
    Fortunately, the playground of the Republicans and similar garbage cannot stop the rest of the world.

  59. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    John,
    Still a troll.

    Nuclear power over its whole lifecycle is very low greenhouse gas emissions. The only academic source that says otherwise is that miserable paper by Benjamin Sovacool that uses numbers for gaseous diffusion enrichment which no one uses today. Today, it’s all centrifuge enrichment.

    Beholder,
    The problem is that as long as people wrongly believe that 100% renewable plans are feasible, and they believe the lies about nuclear which are being peddled in this thread, they will ignore nuclear. Your rhetoric is not enough. The truth is that solar and wind is money, time, labor, and material wasted. We should be doing nuclear. This waste is directly contributing to climate change, global warming, sea level rise, and also boring mundane things like air pollution which kills millions every year.

    SC,
    I’m glad about the subsidies to nuclear power plants. We should provide subsidies to nuclear power plants. Not coal plants. Government action will be very useful to solving this problem. Government sometimes should pick winners and losers.

    If you want to find people who support fossil fuels, look at places like Germany, building new natural gas pipelines from Russia, and building new coal power plants, and burning lignite.

    Nuclear power plants are not uncompetitive economically in a fair market. The market that we have in the US is grossly distorted in favor of renewables and against nuclear power. In a fair market, nuclear power would be better.

    But – why are we using the language of the capitalist to have this discussion? This kowtowing to the profit margings of private investorsa and workship of the market is sickening. The brute facts of the matter is that, compared to a 100% renewables plan, a solution based primarily on nuclear and hydro would be faster to build, require less labor and material to build (e.g. cost), and require less labor and material (e.g. cost) each year to maintain.

    KG,
    People are calling me a conspiracy theorist, but you make conspiracy-theorist accusations against the reports of the United Nations committee assigned to look at this, which takes as input the work of thousands of scientists across many disciplines. What – do you think that they have climate scientists only contributing to the report?

    Also, what is your source for the lack of consensus among energy experts? As best as I know, it’s an overwhelming majority in favor of at least some nuclear, with a few outliers like academic fraudsters Mark Jacobson and Benjamin Sovacool.

    Also, I cited modern day data too. Michael Shellenberger and his organization have open books. You can see where their money is coming from. Unlike Greenpeace and most other Green NGOs today; they keep their funding sources private. The likely answer is clear. It’s because they’re receiving lots of money from fossil fuel lobby. The anti-nuclear Green movement was born as a fossil fuel facade to attack nuclear power, and it’s been that ever since.

    And then you go spout pure pseudoscience. Disposal of nuclear waste has never been a real issue. It’s a figment of the fossil-fuel-funded Greeners. You could take all of the nuclear waste produced every year, grind it up into small dust, disperse it evenly in the atmosphere, and you would still do less damage than airborne particulate pollution from coal. Anyone talking about waste disposal is simply ignorant, often aggressively so, victim of the 60+ year long misinformation campaign by the Greens.

    I grant that the connection to nuclear weapons is real. That is one of the few major drawbacks to nuclear power. Having said that, you’re not going to stop a determined nation from getting a nuclear weapon by stopping the spread of nuclear power. Only international diplomacy will do that (and sometimes not even then). Just look at North Korea vs South Korea. South Korea is a mostly modern democracy with nuclear power and no nuclear weapons. North Korea is the most isolated and sanction regime on the planet, and they have nuclear weapons but no nuclear power. Stopping the spread of nuclear power won’t stop the spread of nuclear weapons. Only a strong international regime, like a strengthening non-proliferation treaty and strong IAEA inspections, can stop it. So, this drawback, while real and concerning, is still exaggerated.

    Dirty bombs are another Green joke, fueled by the grossly wrong Green misinformation. More people would die from the explosive itself than from any radiation. The radiactive stuff would be dispersed around a small area, and easily cleaned up.

    Nuclear reactor accidents are the other major concern. However, these too are exaggerated.

    Chernobyl killed about 50 liquidators, with a projected but unmeasured approx 4000 additional excess thyroid cancer deaths. All of those projected thyroid cancer deaths would have been avoided if the Soviet Union didn’t cover it up. The simple instruction “don’t consume dairy for 3 months” would have prevented all of those thyroid cancer cases. Some more fun facts for you – far from being uninhabitable, most of the Chernobyl exclusion zone is a beautiful wildlife refuge because there are no humans there. A few hundred people returned to their homes in the exclusion zone shortly after the accident, and they’ve been living there the whole time with no apparent negative health effects. The Chernobyl site had 3 other reactors, and workers came to work every day for the next decade to operate the other 3 reactors. You’ll hear about how wild pigs are highly radioactive, but you need to put that in perspective. Even if you ate nothing but pork meat from the outlier most contaminated pigs, it would barely rise above background rate.

    Fukushima is even better. Approx one person died from radiation. Practically all of the topsoil removal was not medically indicated and instead was done to placate these grossly exaggerated fears. They do regular testing of the food grown there, and most of it is already below the overly conservative safe limits.

    That’s it. Maybe 4000 people from nuclear power. What you don’t see is the millions of people whose lives have been saved by nuclear power displacing coal and other fossil fuels. That’s according to a scientific study by James Hansen. 4000 people dead – for coal, that was Tuesday. Every Tuesday. Coal power kills a million every year. Worrying about radiation deaths at all is obscene in light of nuclear’s track record of the utmost safety. It shows a complete inability to do math, and a complete lack of understanding of the real scale of the dangers posed by nuclear waste. Worse, it shows a confidently asserted false knowledge whch resists robust efforts to dismiss it. In short, it’s a delusion.

    Cost. Even at Hinkley C costs, an all nuclear plan would be cheaper than a 100% solar wind plan. Solar cells and wind turbines could be free, and it still wouldn’t be cheap enough. The cost of turning intermittent electricity into useful electricity is too high. It’s the extra transmission costs, storage costs, blackstart capability costs, and grid inertia costs. It’s also the solar and wind overbuild costs to reduce the transmission and storage costs (overbuilding solar and wind by 2x or 3x is a common feature of Green academic papers that try to model a 100% renewable plan). All of those extra costs put together are way more than the baseline costs of the solar cells and wind turbines, and that’s why the cost of the solar cell and wind turbine doesn’t matter. Again, they could be free and it wouldn’t be cheap enough.

    On the nuclear side, we’re dealing with first of a kind designs, built by people who have never done so before, in a hostile regulatory environment. It’s no surprise that costs are increasing. If you didn’t cherrypick your data, you would see other results, like historical France which kept costs done by using the same design and the same work crews in a friendlier regulatory environment, and also South Korea which did the same thing and has seen construction costs decrease year over year for decades. Your argument that nuclear power is too expensive is not honest. You are not being honest. You are giving all of the possible benefits to solar and wind for cost reductions from learning curve benefits and refusing to extend that same benefit to nuclear by obviously cherry picking data.

    ways to deal with this drawback [intermittency] of renewables are rapidly improving,

    Delusional.

    kathleenzielinski

    We are approaching 8 billion people, and the planet simply can’t support us in the style to which we have become accustomed.

    Why not? Garbage? We’re not running out space for garbage dumps. Clean fresh water is a problem, but not an insurmountable one. Fertilizer runoff into oceans causing deadzones is a problem, but it can be mitigated, and we could live with it.

    The best thing that could happen to the planet would be for us to reduce human population by about half,

    Do you want to volunteer to die first? This is obscene! Whenever I say that the Greeners are racist and colonialist, it’s this language right here. They want to deny the same benefits to the poor non-white parts of the world. They would deny them energy for safe drinking water, energy for refrigeration for safe food and medicine, energy for fertilizer (which uses a metric shitton of energy), energy for indoor cooking and heating in winter.

    Your policies and dogma is the primary cause of ongoing world hunger, especially in Africa. Your policies contribute to continued poverty especially in Africa (see source at bottom), which directly causes increased birth rates. If you really cared about overpopulation, you would be demanding that we raise them out of poverty. If you had a shred of decency as a human being, you would be demanding that we raise them out of poverty. What’s worse – a million starving Africans or manageable dead zones in the oceans from fertilizer runoff? Apparently you favor small amounts of ocean life instead of millions of starving Africa, you fucking asshat. You are scum.

    Source:
    From the greatest human being to ever live, Norman Borlaug, who is credited with saving a billion lives from hunger. He is speaking on his domain of expertise, feeding people in poor countries. He spent most of his life in these poor countries helping them grow enough food, and so his word on this is about as close as it comes to gospel to me.
    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/01/forgotten-benefactor-of-humanity/306101/

    Nonetheless, by the 1980s finding fault with high-yield agriculture had become fashionable. Environmentalists began to tell the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations and Western governments that high-yield techniques would despoil the developing world. As Borlaug turned his attention to high-yield projects for Africa, where mass starvation still seemed a plausible threat, some green organizations became determined to stop him there. “The environmental community in the 1980s went crazy pressuring the donor countries and the big foundations not to support ideas like inorganic fertilizers for Africa,” says David Seckler, the director of the International Irrigation Management Institute.

    Environmental lobbyists persuaded the Ford Foundation and the World Bank to back off from most African agriculture projects. The Rockefeller Foundation largely backed away too—though it might have in any case, because it was shifting toward an emphasis on biotechnological agricultural research. “World Bank fear of green political pressure in Washington became the single biggest obstacle to feeding Africa,” Borlaug says. The green parties of Western Europe persuaded most of their governments to stop supplying fertilizer to Africa; an exception was Norway, which has a large crown corporation that makes fertilizer and avidly promotes its use. Borlaug, once an honored presence at the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, became, he says, “a tar baby to them politically, because all the ideas the greenies couldn’t stand were sticking to me.”

    Borlaug’s reaction to the campaign was anger. He says, “Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.”

  60. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    foxi in #32.
    Missed this earlier.

    Re proliferation. See my comments above.

    Re nuclear waste. See my comments above.

    Exotic metals in a nuclear power plant? Which ones? You lost me. Could I have a source? Which metals are you thinking about?

    Re nuclear accidents.

    Put a nuclear power plant near a city. Even an accident won’t do the damage that coal power does every day. Otherwise, see my comments above.

    The large majority of people live within transmission distance of an ocean coast or major river. With more water efficient cooling designs instead of once-through cooling, we’re not in any danger of being short on water.

    As I described above, the dangers of nuclear accidents are far exaggerated. Basically, it’s likely that most of what you know is a lie. If you want some sources, see this exchange between leading anti-nuclear “expert” Helen Caldicott and someone calling her on her bullshit. The Guardian article links to all of the primary sources.
    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/apr/05/anti-nuclear-lobby-misled-world

    Re uranium supplies.

    The cost of uranium ore is a small portion of the overall cost of nuclear power. It’s between 10% and 25%, variously. Like most commodities, if you increase price, then the amount of ore increases drastically. Also, that relies on prospecting numbers from many, many years ago. Uranium will be like oil – if you keep looking, you’re going to find a lot more of it.

    But, let’s say you’re right. Let’s say that we switch to nuclear power and run out of fuel in 80 years. Or maybe 20 years. Then I put it to you that nuclear power would have been an outstanding success. That’s 20 years of emissions free electricity which we would desparately need to find some other solution. (Again, real supplies are much bigger than this.) Even if we were absolutely sure we’d run out of nuclear fuel in 80 years, or even 20 years, we should be building nuclear power plants as fast as we can.

    Research is ongoing into uranium extraction from seawater. It looks promising. If that works out, we’ll have an inexhaustible supply of nuclear fuel.

    Finally, with proven technology – breeder reactors and granite extraction – nuclear fuel supply is already inexhaustible. Everyday rock (e.g. average granite) has more useful energy when burned in a breeder nuclear reactor than the same volume of coal or oil. Times 20. We’ll run out of sun before we run out of rock. (And it will be a long time before we have to start mining average granite rock for its nuclear fuel content. Also, we might end up doing ocean extraction as the long term source instead of average granite extraction.)

  61. John Morales says

    Gerrard, you really have no idea of just how much concrete is required to build a nuclear power plant, do ya?
    Here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_concrete#Carbon_dioxide_emissions_and_climate_change

    Again: the fuel itself emits no carbon, but (hint) the fuel is not dug with nuclear-powered machinery. Or refined. Or transported. Or sequestered after use.

    You know what fuels emit no carbon dioxide?

    Wind, water, sun, tides, heat. Those pesky renewables, the ones that are cheaper than nuclear power plants.

    (Yes, heat is the “fuel” for Stirling engines, among other more exotic generators)

  62. Rob Grigjanis says

    Gerrard, I would tell you to get off your high horse, but the fall could prove fatal.

  63. unclefrogy says

    there are a few questions that are not addressed by the arguments favoring Nuclear power.
    of course the carbon emissions involved with the mining transportation and refining are not included those are externals a clever accounting gimmick it is used extensively by the power industry as well as others to push cost off their balance sheets and on to the public.
    The waste issue is always minimized but the cost is always externalized to the generation and the operator, and what would the time frame be for that waste solution. There is one aspect that I have never seen any cost estimate for at all that is the eventual decommissioning of the plant. Where does it all go and who is going to pay for that? I am sure that much of that cost is external to the building and operation of the plant I am also sure it is external to the profit of the operators . If all of the real cost were added to the estimate there would be very little profit that would not be a reason to not use nuclear generation but it is something we should address up front so we can actually make an informed decision because we will have to face all of the externals as a society as a whole. The other thing to remember when thinking about all of that is it will tie up a tremendous amount of capital is tying up all that money the best use of the money and time to reach the goal. I have the feeling that there are competing goals going on in the question on nuclear power

  64. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    There are plenty of papers that estimate whole lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions for nuclear, and these include emissions from fuel mining, transport, enrichment, and also from the concrete and steel for the nuclear power plant itself. Again, it comes out very small, comparable to solar and wind.

    Protip: large scale solar installations, and large wind turbine installations, have about 5x more steel and concrete than a comparable nuclear power plant.

    Unclefroggy, if you want to see a cost estimate for decommissioning a nuclear power plant, then maybe you should try to crawl out from your rock. Nuclear power plants have been decommissioned before. This is just another Green fearmongering tactic that has practically no basis in reality.

    In America at least, nuclear power plant operators must set aside money for decommissioning during operation. It’s not an externality.

  65. John Morales says

    Gerrard, sure, nuclear is low emissions.

    Point being, it’s not “zero”, as I noted @54.

  66. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    John,
    Rereading 54, I guess what you wrote is fine. Context may make it deceptive to others who read it. I wish you were more clear and said something like “it’s not zero carbon, but it’s still very low carbon, similar to solar and wind”.

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