The Nuclear Power Yes Please Blog has a post referring to the above video interview titled Greenpeace admits “emotionalizing” is one of their tactics. That post is worth reading, but what I want to focus on is the illogic of the actions of an organization that claims climate change is an existential issue yet remains adamantly opposed to using nuclear energy as a tool in the struggle. Facts are hard to refute – nuclear fission is doing far more today to eliminate air pollution, including CO2, than any other technology. It also has just barely begun to demonstrate its potential for further contributions to the fight against pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr. Leipolid has felt frustrated because his organization has spent 20 years trying to gain more attention to the issue of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning. Here are a few quotes showing that nuclear technologists have understood the hazards of CO2 emissions for much longer than 20 years and have been trying to teach people about the need to take action.
Teller told the assembled chemists that continued burning of carbon based fuels would increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, eventually warming the planet to the extent that the polar ice caps would melt, and the resulting rise in sea level would submerge costal cities under water.
When Teller talked about destroying the Russians with H-Bombs, the press, Congress, presidents listened, and beautiful women contemplated sleeping with him. But Teller’s warnings about CO2 and global warming received little attention that day. Teller, for all his fame was a pariah within the nuclear research community.
(The speech described above took place in December 1957, more than 50 years ago. Source: Edward Teller, Global Warming, and Molten Salt Reactors)
Here is a direct quote from another famous nuclear scientist – one whose fame is not tarnished by invention of a doomsday weapon.
But the point is that, far-fetched as it may seem to some, C02 may he another Sword of Damocles that hangs over our industrial society, and that may end the fossil fuel era much sooner than would be expected simply from depletion of coal. Above all it injects a somber note of uncertainty into our energy future, one that we ignore at our peril.
I believe it is time for our political people to recognize this possibility. I do not believe it premature for the appropriate United Nations agency to form a group of international experts who can better define the C02 problem, assess global and national consequences, and propose credible responses.
(Excerpt from a speech given by Alvind Weinberg titled Toward an Acceptable Nuclear Future presented on May 5, 1977. Source: Towards an Acceptable Nuclear Future – Alvin Weinberg)
If Greenpeace has been worried about climate change driven by increasing CO2 concentrations for 20 years, but has not been able to attract sufficient attention to solutions, how do you think Teller and Weinberg felt, beginning their efforts 32 and 12 years (respectively) earlier?
Using appeals to emotion and feeling to communicate a message is not only okay, but probably necessary. Even Teller and Weinberg understood the importance of making a dramatic point to encourage their audience to think about their recommendations. However, reverting to scare tactics designed to cause panic or a thoughtless desire to “do something” without taking the time to evaluate options and choose a best course of action is irresponsible. Of course, a non-profit organization whose goals seem to be halting action should not be insulted by an accusation of irresponsibility. After all, they are not really responsible for anything; unlike utility companies that have to make the best possible choices to provide reliable power to their customers, no one will hold Greenpeace accountable if the lights do not come on when you flick the switch.