An article in Forbes by Michael Shellenberger, who writes on energy and the environment, reveals his antipathy to climate change activists and a biased sense of the crisis. He attacks Bernie Sanders, Greta Thunberg, and the Extinction Revolution as alarmists, and disparages their calls to close all natural gas and nuclear plants. He cites selected statistics to argue that adopting those measures would make the climate crisis worse, not better. He’s wrong.
Natural gas, long touted as a lower emission “bridge” fuel between coal and zero-carbon renewables, is now considered to be even worse than coal, given the large amounts of methane (86 to 105 times more heat-trapping than CO2) vented in its production. Nuclear’s widely perceived threat of an accident is rare but real — witness Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi. Moreover, it has yet to solve how and where to store its radioactive waste for thousands of years. Besides, nuclear doesn’t come close to competing economically with renewables on a total cost basis. As the permits for nuclear plants to operate expire, they should close.
Sanders and Thunberg are right about the climate crisis. It is an existential threat to life as we’ve known it. Resolving it entails reducing carbon emissions as far and as fast as possible, rapidly building out low cost – low carbon energy sources, developing and deploying means to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, and restoring the environment to sustainability. Closing natural gas and nuclear plants are reasonable steps toward controlling climate change. The world needs climate activists to overcome the skeptics and denialists. Go, Bernie. Go, Greta.