Sunday, April 10, 2011

What is needed is the truth

What is needed is perspective. Nuclear energy is not entirely safe, as Fukushima clearly shows, even if the current radiation-related death toll is zero and will likely remain so. But coal and other fossil fuels are far, far worse. And insisting only on renewables risks worsening global warming as an unintended consequence. We need a portfolio of clean energy technologies, deployed in the most environmentally responsible way. Above all, let us base our energy policy on a scientifically valid appreciation of real-world risk, and not on scare stories from the past.

Mark Lynas is the author of "Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet" and "High Tide: The Truth About Our Climate Crisis." He lives in Oxford, England. He blogs at
Why nuclear power is still a good choice

There are those who insist nuclear will supplant  renewable sources of energy, but I think, like the author above, that it is not a choice between nuclear and renewables, it's a choice between nuclear an coal. The reason? We have to build on the grid we have, and let it evolve to the grid we need for 100% renewables. We need a path to renewables, and nuclear is on that path.

I read one comment over at Grist claiming no amount of radiation is safe. This person likely has a very low opinion of the denier crowd (Climate zombies like WUWT). This same person is ignorant of the fact that we are constantly bombarded with radiation from natural sources.

In a front-page story at today's Washington Post, David Brown spotlights research on the comparative risks of nuclear and coal power. As Brown reviews, nuclear power is far less of a risk to public health than coal generation, and this difference is magnified when factoring in the health impacts of climate change. Yet despite the comparative advantages of nuclear power, both to human health and in tackling climate change, many liberal groups remain in strong opposition. In a guest post, risk communication expert and author David Ropeik reflects on the the role of ideology in shaping views of nuclear power and climate change. Both liberals and conservatives tend to deal with science-related information on the two topics in similar ways, argues Ropeik. Each tend to reject information that is contrary to their existing viewpoints-- Matthew C. Nisbet.
But the point here is not about nuclear power. The observation here is that our perception of risk is never a neutral unbiased view of the evidence. The psychology of how we perceive and respond to risk is an affective mix of facts and how those facts feel. And once we’ve made up our mind about a risk, Confirmation Bias takes over and we choose to believe the evidence that agrees with what we already believe. True liberals, non-wobbly liberals, are supposed to oppose nuclear power. Period. True conservatives, for some reason, are supposed to deny climate change. Period. Find the facts that fit. Toss out the inconvenient truths. Personally denigrate anyone who disagrees, because other views are not just a different way of looking at things. They’re a threat. These are litmus test issues for who gets to belong to the tribe, and who doesn’t.
Nuclear Fear, Science, and Ideology

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