People's Climate March

World leaders are meeting in New York on Tuesday for the UN Climate Summit. Forum will discuss different approaches to combating climate change including severe reductions in energy consumption, technological solutions, and ramping up renewable energy production. Where does the world stand in the fight against climate change, and what should be done next?

What Can be Done to Combat Global Climate Change? 23 September,2014forum

Guests:
Michael Shellenberger, president of the Breakthrough Institute, an energy and innovation think-tank
Victor Menotti, director of the International Forum on Globalization
John Upton, senior science writer for Climate Central

  • Skip Conrad

    There are too many of us humans living on this planet. That is the crux of the issue.

    • Mark SF

      I agree. We also have to change our mentality about how we treat the planet we live on.

    • Ellis

      Sir, you could not be more wrong.

      Let me sight you a concrete example
      about which I have first hand knowledge. I was in Brazil in 1975 just
      after the 1973 “oil shock” that quadrupled the price from three
      dollars a barrel to $12.00. The Brazilian Economy was on its back. At
      that time some friends and I traveled to Sao Paulo from Rio de
      Janeiro to visit their families. The air was so polluted that one’s
      eyes would burn to the point tears, a white shirt would turn gray
      after an 8 hour work day. The government of Brazil decided to develop
      and use a blend of Sugar based alcohol and gasoline to power cars,
      trucks and buses.

      Fast forward to today. The air is
      almost pristine, pollution has been bought under control by accident.
      In 1975 the population was 45-50 million and today the population is
      202 million – four times what it was in 1975!

      So, the problem is government policy.
      Let me sight you a quote from Tom Blees’s ground breaking book
      ‘Prescription For The Planet;’ “As the project reached its
      triumphant conclusion in the mid-90s, it was suddenly terminated and
      its facilities dismantled. The scientists who’s succeeded so
      spectacularly in their efforts were scattered, and word came down
      from the U.S. Department of Energy that the project was not to be
      publicized”. This was a fusion energy project. Yep, Al Gore forget
      to tell us about this little “Inconvenient Truth”.

      You can download the book from free at
      his web site.

      http://prescriptionfortheplanet.com/

      • Eric Saund

        Brazil is a case in point about overpopulation. These 202 million people have to be fed. Deforestation is destroying the Amazon rain forest at a rate of 20,000 square miles per year. 20% is now gone.

        • Ellis

          This is a different issue that energy. Yes, Brazil has no “Food Stamp Program” and they should. Their is more than enough food to feed a population two three times what the 202 million.

          • Eric Saund

            Are you arguing that overpopulation is not the root problem? Population consumes resources including energy, land, water, sinks (atmosphere, ocean). Can you agree that unlimited population growth is not sustainable? If so, can you agree that the planet has a carrying capacity (which is technology-dependent)? If so, can you agree that with current and foreseeable technology, we are past the sustainable carrying capacity?

          • c_woof

            I would rather describe it as “with current and foreseeable mindset” — I think we can offer tech solutions but more importantly we need to change the way we think about living on the planet.
            You’ve seen the problem — continuing is unsustainable w/o change.

        • Sam Badger

          Brazil’s deforestation is being driven by the export market, including the beef market (people consume far more meat than they need to) by demand for lumber.

          Brazil actually is not overpopulated at all, especially if you consider it has half the population of Europe in a far larger area.

      • Livegreen

        Agreed on air pollution levels. But to grow all that sugar cane they’re chopping down the rain forrest. They solved the immediate but not the long term problem.

        • Ellis

          Then you should support the Ms. Silva who was Lula’s Environment Minister. She resigned because of environmental degradation of the Amazon, and is now running for President on the Socialist Ticket.

      • Mark SF

        You miss his point. Sure we can use all the energy we want but the population grows exponentially and fossil fuel is finite. Growing energy (alcohol) is not sustainable nor efficient energy conversion from the sun and displaces land to produce energy instead of food.

        There are to many people living on the planet for our current rate of efficiency in the use/distribution of food and use of energy. Could it improve yes, but eventually there is only some so much space.

        I agree part of the problem is government policy.

        Your successful fusion energy project termination and coverup is pure conspiracy theory that has no merit. I am sure the government/military would not allow successful fusion energy supply to be squashed. Private companies would love to be the first to bring it to market. Many people are working on fusion energy. It is a holy grail. Practical fusion energy, where more energy is received than put into to creating it has only been successful recently.
        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/12/fusion-energy_n_4775315.html

        By the way there is a fusion energy source. It is called the sun. Solar panels, solar thermal, and plants use it

        • Ellis

          Mark, we know that the basic answer to overpopulation is education of women. You raise the standard of living of women and the population will go down naturally.

          • Bill_Woods

            That and urbanization. Subsistence farmers need a lot of child labor; city dwellers don’t.

          • c_woof

            Perhaps — perhaps they need all those children because across the planet, most subsistence farmers are poor and the mortality risk high w/in their systems.
            If means could be found to keep everyone healthy, perhaps that drive would lessen, as well as the drive to move to urban areas.
            I believe more would rather work the land than work in an office if all else were equal.

          • Eric Saund

            Absolutely! Add to that cultural, economic, and policy shifts. At one time the human population was something that “just happened.” But now we have to take conscious control over it.

          • Mark SF

            I agree. Also putting economic decisions in the hands of women in a household will raise the household’s welfare.

          • Kurt thialfad

            So please explain why this phenomenon is not evident in the US? We are the planet’s 3rd most populous nation (after China and India), and our annual population growth rate is among the top 10 world wide. Is this because we do not educate our women?

          • Mark SF

            Immigration

            Birth rate: 13.42 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
            http://www.indexmundi.com/united_states/birth_rate.html.

            US Birth rate to other countries is very low and if we did not have immigration as of now our population would decline.

          • Pat Maigler

            You have to look at birthrates among educated women, which go down in the US, just like everywhere else. Population growth in the US is driven by immigration (and their children).

        • Bill_Woods

          He’s talking about the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) project, not fusion.

          With the election of President Bill Clinton in 1992, and the appointment of Hazel O’Leary as the Secretary of Energy, there was pressure from the top to cancel the IFR.[43] Sen. John Kerry (D, MA) and O’Leary led the opposition to the reactor, arguing that it would be a threat to non-proliferation efforts, and that it was a continuation of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor Project that had been canceled by Congress.[44]

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integral_fast_reactor#History

          • Mark SF

            Thanks, He, Ellis, is the one that referred to fusion energy in his post. Integral Fast Reactor (IFR), Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) or Advanced High Temperature Reactor (AHTR) are all not dead or covered up. No conspiracy theory. These smaller nuclear energy reactors are still being developed.
            The biggest problem with why we aren’t seeing them now as a major energy production is the cheapness of fossil fuels especially the boom in natural gas. It has slowed things down for nuclear energy.

            Note that it was congress that canceled the project. So I wouldn’t be surprised under pressure by lobbyist. Money needs to get out of politics as much as possible.

      • Skip Conrad

        Ellis: Sure government policy helps, but you also need the technology to produce the clean fuel. I recall spending the day in Manhattan in 1975 (when our population was about 202 million and now we are 320 million) and having my nose fill up with grit from the leaded gasoline. Today, Manhattan is pristine, as well.
        But population puts on the pressure, and it is up to that population, those people, to use government and technology to devise solutions to the pollution problems we make. I understand where you are coming from, but I just think the mathematics of (human) population growth will eventually overwhelm us.

    • Whamadoodle

      Hear, hear; I have to agree.

    • Sam Badger

      No its (1) distribution of resources (capitalism) and (2) standards of living. We could support more people on this planet with less ecological harm.

      • c_woof

        @which point does this become unsustainable? How many more people until even your new Eden is overwhelmed?
        I see humans as a mold on the planet, slowly covering everything, w/no end in sight (and I offer no solution. :o( )

        Optimists point to the increase in per capita as being the savior, but I see making everyone on the planet rich enuf to not procreate a problem whose solution is far into the future.
        As ISIS has conveniently pointed out to us, the process is not w/o its stumbles.
        Who will win the race?

        • Sam Badger

          thinking of humans as mold is a troublesome analogy – human life, like all life on earth, is valuable. Humans are like any species – if they are too “successful” in the short term, they can damage their environment and even their own chances for survival.

          What is really needed is better distribution of resources. It’s not the poor textile workers in Bangladesh who are consuming Indonesian and Brazilian hardwood, but rich people obsessed with conspicuous consumption. Subsistence farmers aren’t the ones driving global warming and ecological destrution, or insofar as they are, they are doing so on an insignificantly small scale. Same with the countless poverty level workers around the world. Yet they make up a sizable portion of the human species

          • c_woof

            Yes, but as all are raised, it seems so are expectations and more use of previously unaffordable materiel as those desperately poor you describe join the mainstream.

            We also need a complete change of mindset about what it means to be human and live on Planet Earth.
            The environmentalists have been right all along — the planet is only so big and can offer only so much until we conceive of a new way of existing which does not drive further and faster toward the cliff we are all approaching.
            As Brazil rises, the rain forest disappears.
            As China rises, elephants disappear. Etc.

            Many of us have seen the population double during our lifetime — some have even seen it triple. So yes, we need better distribution of something as too many live in squalor — but conspicuous consumption would not be my first choice.

            And absolutely as women are raised in stature/income, population increase slows, so that is an imperative we all need to be behind ASAP, along w/our other change in mindset about consumption/energy/care of the planet.

    • Dave

      In America we blame it on the 3rd world countries for “overpopulating”. In India, they call it an “over consumption problem” by Americans.

  • colinvgallagher

    A concrete step to combat global climate change would be for the United States to increase its gas tax to the same levels as in Europe. Even in San Francisco I see far too many outsized SUV’s on the streets.

    • c_woof

      Europe has many alternatives we here do not have, such as being close together, terrific municipal transit systems, and fast trains going most anywhere.

      Until you put them in place here, such an increase would merely be a huge punishment.

      But perhaps a slow increase might prime the pump to produce such alternatives, and perhaps a carbon tax might be part of the mix.

  • Mark SF

    Funny all the publicity about divesting from fossil fuel companies, this real does very little. If you really want to change/”divest” from fossil fuel companies than stop using fossil fuels. Profits is what matters to companies. Start bicycling, walking, using public transportation, live near where you work if possible and put solar on your roof. Fossil fuel companies will change because they want to sell what people are buying. Where the profits are.
    Divesting does nothing to change the dynamics. Investing in and buying renewable energy will bring about change.

  • Sam Yelland

    How do you expect the US policymakers to speak up for climate change when one in four Americans is skeptical that climate change is real and caused by humans?

  • zack

    Was there any mention of the methane detected in CO and the Uttica Shale in Utah from fracking? Last I heard the EPA wasn’t monitoring it and just “trusting” the frackers while independent reviews showed levels as high as 11% (way above the break even of 3% with Coal)

  • Ben Rawner

    I really value both of your guests points of view. We should find ways to reduce waste (for instance over 50% of electricity is lost over the transmission line) but also have to be real about our expectations of electrical use. With smart devices and the Internet of things, electrical consumption is only going up. Both of your guests have great ideas and they should try to work together instead of pointing out each others flaws.

    Is Thorium Nuclear energy a real possibility?

    • Bill_Woods

      Transmission losses of electricity are more like 5% than 50%. The big losses are at the heat-to-electricity stage.

      The thorium-burning molten salt reactor is the closest thing to a silver bullet I’ve seen, though uranium-fueled versions will probably come first.

  • erictremont

    Part of the problem is the misplaced priorities of liberal politicians. When he was mayor of S.F., Gavin Newsom hired a bunch of high priced aides to write speeches about the need to “do something” about climate change while he failed to anything to improve Muni. Likewise, Jerry Brown wants to divert billions of dollars of cap and trade revenues to high speed rail, which is not likely to make a meaningful dent in the climate change problem.

    • Whamadoodle

      ?? Part of the problem is conservatives lying, in order to force climate change denial to be plausible.

      http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Newsom-cites-strides-in-Muni-homelessness-in-3236871.php

      There was a 5% improvement in Muni’s on-time performance during Newsom’s tenure, and the Chinatown improvement he championed is now going through under his successor.
      I am quite happy to applaud Governor Schwarzenegger, however, who signed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act. You conservatives will all cheer him for that too, I’m sure?

      • erictremont

        A 5% improvement? Maybe, but when he left office Muni’s on-time record was still dismal. There was little if any increase in Muni’s ridership for most of the past decade, an amazing fact considering the increase in the city’s population, the improvement in the economy, and the horrible traffic problems. As for the Chinatown subway, if you can provide some evidence that it won’t simply cannibalize bus ridership and actually do something to reduce C02 emissions, I’d like to see it.

        [FYI—I am not a conservative.]

        • Whamadoodle

          It’s the seventh-largest transit system in the whole United States. And its ridership has increased over the last two years (I don’t know from the last decade, but the last two years have seen liberal mayors as well), so I have no idea what you’re talking about.
          http://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/pressreleases/Press%20Release–Muni%20Ridership%20Increases%20over%20Past%20Two%20Years%2010.15.13.pdf

          However, I’m pretty sure you’re trolling to try to derail the meaningful discussion; that’s pretty much the only reason to hammer away at one mayor of one city and claim this represents all “liberal policy,” my not-at-all-conservative friend.

          Anyway, whether you are conservative or not, I’m sure you agree with the bill I mentioned, and similar efforts to curb greenhouse gases? You didn’t answer, I notice?

          • erictremont

            I am strongly in favor of measures such as a carbon tax and higher gasoline tax and/or cap and trade. But diverting billions from cap and trade to an ill conceived high speed rail project is a collosal waste of money. Similarly, spending more than $300 million to build a connector that will shave off only 4 minutes from the ride between the Coliseum BART station to Oakland airport is a waste of scarce capital that will do little or nothing to curtail climate change.

  • olive

    Each of us everyday can take action today to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels. And yes industry and government need to take action. But we should also take personal responsibility, IMHO.

  • Could the guests please give, as required by FCC sponsorship and endorsement rules, the true source of their funding? Especially Mr. Shellenberger. It would be useful to know who funds his group.

  • Chris Pedersen

    Thank you for the discussion. Victor: What are your thoughts on China and the Middle East’s ambitions towards nuclear power? From a carbon perspective, wouldn’t this be more beneficial than just about any other baseload energy source? Thanks

  • V San Jose

    Why can’t the U.S. follow Germany’s lead? Out of nuclear, huge increase in solar, wind, etc.?

    • Chris Pedersen

      Germany’s electricity rates are 4x higher than the U.S. today

      • V San Jose

        Seems to me that Germans on the whole live better than we do. We’re 41 on the CIA’s Gini Index and they’re 130. Somehow they seem to be able to pay 4X. How is that?

        • Chris Pedersen

          Good point V. Notice that in the U.S. a 10% increase in home energy costs would push 840k more americans below the poverty line. This concerns me.

    • Bill_Woods

      Germany’s carbon emissions are up; the US’s are down. Which is better?

      • V San Jose

        I wonder what the per capita emissions are for the 2 countries.

  • John

    The earth glows at night with carbon generated electricity.
    My mantra is “Turn off the Lights”

    Jerry Brown endorsed giant glowing billboards on the Bay Bridge. Elon Musk is going to put up a 200 foot long electronic bill board in Fremont. Everyone wants a sign bigger and brighter than the other guy. Ever brighter lights are required in the name of Security, as if there were no other way. and this can be applied as a metaphor for other wasteful activity. Conservation of energy and also water, which is an enormous carbon energy consumer.

  • Chris OConnell

    Can Iran have nuclear power? Or just every other country in the world?

    • Bill_Woods

      It can have nuclear electricity; it can’t have nuclear weapons.

  • Your guest says that Klein is wrong, we don’t need to change the way we live. But then he also says all kinds of energy use cause environmental problems and we just “have to” accept these negative consequences. These two statements are contradictory. It’s plain to me that changing our way of life to one less impactful is a solution that doesn’t cause the damage that nuclear or natural gas does. Why can’t he see this? Is it cognitive dissonance, or denial?

  • Russ / Berkeley

    Question for Schellenberger: China’s massive recent investment in molten salt nuclear technology is an immensely important development and should be matched and supported by the US Oak Ridge Laboratory. This much safer / cleaner (and experimentally proven) technology was originally developed by the US in the 1960s and can even be used to turn piles of nuclear waste into carbon-free energy.

  • Sam Badger

    Why not build solar power thermal plants to power California? We have plenty of desert full of economic desperation and turtles. If we could find a way to exploit the power with minimal threat to the ecosystem and produce jobs in otherwise neglected parts of the State, it would be a win win win.

    • V San Jose

      Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a
      name for birds that fly through the plant’s concentrated sun rays —
      “streamers,” for the smoke plume from birds that ignite in midair.
      Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant
      last year reported an average of one “streamer” every two
      minutes.They’re urging California officials to halt the operator’s
      application to build a still-bigger version until the extent of the
      deaths is assessed. Annual estimates range from a low of about a
      thousand by BrightSource to 28,000 by an expert for the Center for
      Biological Diversity environmental group. http://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/streamers-birds-fried-midair-solar-plant-feds-say-n183336

      • Livegreen

        Meanwhile house cats kill over 1 billion birds, amphibians, lizards, endangered species EVERY YEAR and nobody does anything…

        • V San Jose

          Thanks. I know that house cats are having a serious impact and that is disturbing. I wonder whether the birds killed by the solar plants are more rare/endangered than urban birds, amphibs, lizards… It all gets so complicated because as Muir said everything is connected and on top of that our world is moving so fast–and the exponentially increasing info overload doesn’t seem to be helping us sort things out very quickly…

      • Sam Badger

        I’ve heard of the problem of birds, but there must be ways of dealing with that like netting around the plant to the height of the tower.

        • Bill_Woods

          The plant covers 4000 acres; the towers are 450 ft high.

      • c_woof

        The rate of 28,000 represents ~13 “streamers” every hour during a 6-hour day over a year, assuming that both the sun and the birds are out for that 6 hours.

    • Steve

      According to an article in the Chronicle last weekend, the per-home cost of a solar thermal plant in the Mojave is about the same as installing panels on the individual homes. And the article documented the significant damage to the land, including release of stored carbon in the soils. So it would seem better to put solar panels on existing developed areas. This also makes the system less centralized, which is both more secure and requires less long-distance transmission.

      http://www.sfchronicle.com/science/article/California-solar-projects-plan-undergoing-major-5739105.php

      • Bill_Woods

        Can’t read that article, but the Ivanpah plant cost about $6/W of capacity ($18/W of power produced). Solar panels ought to be a lot cheaper than that.

      • Sam Badger

        Is the solar plant in the Mohave desert a thermal tower, or is it the other model?

        Also I imagine the costs of the thermal power are a lot of up front costs, and again we have the added benefit of bringing jobs and development to parts of the state which have been neglected

      • c_woof

        This also points to the problem of overcoming the utilities which see profits threatened by de-centralization.
        A way needs to be found to make them part of the mix and not part of the problem — again, a new way of thinking about power.

  • Steve

    Mr. Shellenberger said that government must invest in new energy technologies
    but dismissed the idea of a carbon tax. But a higher carbon tax
    is the tool we need in order to create the economic incentive
    for private sector energy users to employ that new technology. Government investment by itself may be inadequate. Not to mention that a carbon tax will encourage conservation as well. By the way, we need to start with eliminating government subsidies for fossil fuels, at the very least.

  • V San Jose

    Why did Germany get out of nuclear?

    • Chris OConnell

      Fukushima.

  • Eric Saund

    Skip Conrad is right on. Overpopulation is the root issue that always gets overlooked in these discussions.

  • c_woof

    We need storage for the temporary energy created by “green free” sources — I suggest something simple like a weight system like that used in clocks/elevators — to store the energy generated when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing.

    Elevators are ubiquitous and unnoticeable, so these systems could be also.

    But one has to think in terms of decentralization of power, which the utilities are fighting even as I write this.

  • Livegreen

    Not only is the comment by one of your panelists that China & other developing countries should not take action until they’ve achieved the same level of historical pollution as developed nations irresponsible. It is actually a step, even 3 steps, backwards.

    That is because more energy efficient and less pollution intensive companies in the West get put out of business, in part b/c cleaner more efficient factories costs money, while pollution costs less.

    Instead we could put in a time frame and aid package to bring pollution intensive countries & companies to bring them up to higher level standards…

  • Werner Adam

    Mt. Schellenberger’s claime that france has no cap and trade is wrong:
    framce is part of of the european cap amnd trade comunity.

    Germany, europ’s leading industrial and economical nation abnandons nuclear power
    because it is well aware of it’s danger.

  • C Rogers

    The woman who just called in was right on the money about livestock agriculture’s contribution to global warming. WHY ISN’T THIS A FOCUS? Money. Big Ag lobbyists. It’s shameful.

    • Laurie

      This is well-documented in the 2014 documentary film: “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.” Please see it.

      • C Rogers

        Yes, I’ve been eagerly awaiting that film, but is it out yet?

        • Laurie

          I was able to buy a copy at one of the screenings. Looks like you can pre-order it on their website for release in November, and searching for it on Netflix will increase the likelihood of it being offered there in the future!

  • Russ / Berkeley

    One of the last callers said its OK to speak about Throrium molten salt reactors but we have piles of nuclear waste. At the moment that waste is not contributing to climate change and can be burned safely in fast spectrum molten salt reactors (see Transatomic design) providing the US with hundreds of years of carbon-free energy. I agree with Michael Schellenberger – technology innovation is essential for combating global warning and should not have to wait for politicians to agree carbon tax credits in order to receive a massive increase in funding.

  • k9kilowatt

    In the words of the late American Astronaut Brian O’Leary, founder of the New Energy Movement, there are “innovative technologies with the potential of providing a quantum leap in our ability to tap cheap, clean and decentralized energy for producing fuels and electricity.”

    “New energy” includes advanced hydrogen technologies, low energy nuclear reactions (also known as cold fusion), which can produce large amounts of thermal, radiation-free nuclear energy, and vacuum energy or zero-point energy technologies (such as Tesla coils and super magnets).

    New energy, or breakthrough energy as many people are calling it, is the piece of the puzzle that was missing from this discussion (I tried calling but the line was always busy). It’s missing because the entrenched “oilgarchy” doesn’t want you to know about it, or to take it seriously. So look it up, and get informed!

    • Russ / Berkeley

      On the one hand I like the “all of the above” strategy of the DOE, where more radical solutions receive sufficient funding to see if they pass the experimental verification to show their scientific worth. The interesting thing with Molten Salt Nuclear technology is that it was already experimentally proven with in a test reactor which ran for 4 year’s operation in Oak Ridge without problem. The downside of “all of the above” as a strategy is that one still needs to pick winners and invest very heavily in pushing them forward. China has invested hundreds of millions in Molten Salt fueled nuclear and is developing the technology as a declared “war” against carbon. The US needs to become a far more active ally in this programme and start funding some serious research at Oak Ridge.

  • Russ / Berkeley

    On the one hand I like the “all of the above” strategy of the DOE, where more radical solutions receive sufficient funding to see if they pass the experimental verification to show their scientific worth. The interesting thing with Molten Salt Nuclear technology is that it was already experimentally proven with in a test reactor which ran for 4 year’s operation in Oak Ridge without problem. The downside of “all of the above” as a strategy is that one still needs to pick winners and invest very heavily in pushing them forward. China has invested hundreds of millions in Molten Salt fueled nuclear and is developing the technology as a declared “war” against carbon. The US needs to become a far more active ally in this programme and start funding some serious research at Oak Ridge.

  • Russ / Berkeley

    The problem is there’s a huge systemic disconnect in the US. At the federal level, policy makers often say “Its not the government’s job to subsidize commercial innovation”, while those in the research community say “we only do what we’re funded to do, we’re not encouraged to push hard for the really big ideas”.
    Such a problem exists at Oak Ridge. The outcome is that politician are not sufficiently aware of genuine game changing technologies like Molten Salt Reactors (MSR), and researchers say “under the current system its unlikely that we will ever receive sufficient funds to produce a commercially viable (small modular) MSR design”.
    What really needs to happen is that those at the helm (Moniz, Lyons, Obama) need to develop an incisive “Moonshot” program to rapidly deploy wide-scale MSR technology, not just as a plug-in replacement for current coal and natural gas plants, but also in developing countries.
    The original NASA lunar landing program achieved great results in pushing the United States to a whole new level of technical competence, but if I’m cynical I would see this not as a naïve “because its difficult” motive, but as a really cunning way to hoodwink the American public into funding ICBM rocket propulsion technology at the expense of texts books and a decent healthcare system.
    In the case of global warming, this is an enemy we can all agree is a massive problem we really do need to address ASAP. I would contend that splashing vast amounts of money around on long-shot projects like ITER is hugely irresponsible, when we already have a technology which was proven beyond any shadow of doubt to provide safe / clean and abundant base-load electricity. In my opinion, that technology is not fusion, its Molten Salt Reactor technology.

  • John

    Support the voluntary human extinction movement.
    http://www.vhemt.org/

  • Russ / Berkeley

    John – the way things are going with the environment, I think we’re probably all members by default..

  • Chris OConnell

    I wonder how much carbon our cruise missiles and 2-ton bombs are emitting. How much carbon does a burning human body release? I wish Obama would eliminate (or at least reduce) his use of these devices.

  • JuniorWoodpecker

    There are a lot of good comments here about “what” to do, and there are a lot of things that can be done. Just as with obesity where it’s easy enough to know what to do to lose weight, the hard part is to do it, and from that perspective things don’t look very optimistic.

  • Russ / Berkeley

    Hi Janine

    – re. your comment ” the claims that they [Throrium Reactors] are a solution to our energy problems, both in terms of meltdowns and long-lived radioactive waste, are hypothetical.”.

    I would draw an important distinction between the term “Thorium Reactor” and “Molten Salt Reactor (MSR)”. Clearly in the case of MSR technology, the Oak Ridge MSRE demonstrator reactor did demonstrate conclusively over several years the claimed safety benefits, including the passive ‘freeze valve’ system for preventing meltdowns, and also the self regulating reactor physics, which doesn’t rely on control rods operated by humans (or computers). here’s a link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten-Salt_Reactor_Experiment

    Regarding your other comment that no Thorium Reactor “has ever been built according to the standards we need today” is a bit like saying that “because the Wright Flyer would not pass current aviation regulations, I’m going to deny the fact that human powered flight is a possibility”.

    My personal feeling is that the growing group of leading environmentalists (Shellenberger, Brandt, Hansen, Sachs etc) who are now utterly convinced that nuclear energy has to be a big part of the energy mix of the future are correct. None of these individuals can be reasonably accused of being nuclear industry hacks, they are simply facing the harsh reality that we need to stop burying our heads in the sand if are to stand any chance of combating global warming.

    Also regarding your other comments about a renewable-only mix as being adequate for satisfying future global energy demands. I think this denies the huge problem of intermittency, such as the recent prolonged spell of arctic conditions experienced in the American North East due to the unusual polar vortex displacement.

    Although there are important breakthroughs in utility-scale electrical storage (such as the MIT / Ambri liquid battery approach), no-one realistically expects that we will ever build sufficient capacity to withstand a month-long null in renewable energy production.

    In my opinion the ultimate energy mix would be a combination of renewable energy (with utility-scale storage), plus a distributed fleet of small Molten Salt Reactors to provide a significant chunk of base-load electricity generation.

    Such reactors would be eminently affordable, consume their own waste and automatically “load-follow” demand in order to compensate for fluctuations in renewable energy production (ie, without any need for humans to be involved in constantly tweaking the position of control rods).

    I personally think the extreme seriousness of global warming demands us to do everything in our capacity to pursue scientifically credible technology solutions. In the most respectful terms I would implore not just yourself, but all environmentalists who are worried about the dangers of nuclear energy to at least look at the facts surrounding Molten Salt Reactor technology and to draw your own self-honest conclusions.

    For us to deny that such solutions exist is like suggesting that we should enter a battle with only a shield but no sword. In my opinion, we are well beyond that point now, this is about survival.

  • Russ / Berkeley

    – sorry I spotted a typo, I meant to say Human / Powered Flight..

  • Paul

    Kudos to Mr. Shellenberger for correcting the bulk of callers assertions of half-truths, rumors, hyperbolic & preposterous “statistics” about various power sources, especially nuclear: “…hydrogen from the Great Lakes”, “consumption of 2 Billion gals of water Diablo Canyon”.
    We need to trust in our scientists & engineers for the real facts. Yes, some are biased, but reliable knowledge is essential for public discourse, not hearsay & emotional outburst.

    While not a big fan of nuclear (expensive), adding reactors to already existing sites makes so much sense. New renewable generation is great, but this can only happen if the leftist environmentalist groups don’t litigate against every single proposed renewable plant. By doing so, they only invite more & more coal consumption for the foreseeable future. BTW, coal combustion has emitted much more radioactive particles and airborne carcinogenic chemicals than all nuclear power combinedby several magnitudes. But I guess this is what the political-left prefers.

  • Byron Gordon

    Too many humans is a problem. But the continued burning of fossil fuels is the worse problem. The future does not look bright by any means.

  • Galser Marcos

    This Shellenberger guy is such a shill.

  • Scott Medwid

    Massive reduction of carbon foot print has been accomplished in recent history. One has only to look back to the oil crunches of the 1970’s, France generated most of it’s electricity by burning imported oil. After the OPEC oil embargoes France turned to it’s engineers and they designed an electrical system based on nuclear power. France standardized their reactor designs and fuel reprocessing system and built it out from 1978 to the early 1990’s. Sisnce the early 1990’s France has generated 80% of it’s electricity from French nuclear power plants, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year in and year out. France also use hydro, gas and wind with a small sliver of a percent of solar.
    There was a photo of a banner at the New York rally that Greenpeace people were carrying it said CARBON FREE and NUCLEAR FREE. The reality of experience in the last century says this in my opinion, Carbon Free OR Neclear Free: Pick One!

  • Scott Medwid

    2 billion people burn wood and dung to fuel their meager lives, they want more energy. Take a look at what Hans Rosling has to say about energy use and empowering people. http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_and_the_magic_washing_machine
    youtube: Has Rosling and the Magic Washing Machine.

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