Opinion

The Great Debate

Is nuclear power the answer on climate change?

James Hansen’s latest press conference was positively scary.

NASA’s former chief climate scientist (he recently left government to pursue a more activist role) met with environmental journalists last month at Columbia University to release a new study with the ominous title, “Assessing Dangerous Climate Change: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature.”

Hansen and his co-authors contend that the agreed-to goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Farenheit) above pre-Industrial levels prescribed in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is still too high to prevent “long-lasting, irreversible damage” to our planet — including raising sea levels, submerging coastal cities and turning vast tracts of the earth into virtual furnaces.

Hansen departs from environmental orthodoxy, however, in arguing that there is no way to cut greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently by relying solely on green alternatives like solar and wind power.

“Suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole” Hansen writes in an essay, “is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”

Hansen’s controversial conclusion is that we need to build a new generation of nuclear power plants. Nuclear alone, in Hansen’s view, has the potential to produce “clean” (carbon-free) electricity in the prodigious amounts that we will need it in the decades ahead.

Cost of cap-and-trade for U.S. households

– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

How much are U.S. households prepared to pay to avert the threat of climate change? According to the latest polling data published by the Washington Post, the answer is not very much, probably not much more than $25 per month or $300 per year.

Most respondents (65 percent) believe the federal government should regulate greenhouse gases from sources like power plants, cars and factories, including those who believe this strongly (50 percent) or somewhat (15 percent). Only a minority think the government should not regulate them (29 percent).

from The Great Debate UK:

A freakonomic view of climate change

Ahead of a U.N. summit in Copenhagen next month, scepticism is growing that an agreement will be reached on a global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012.

The protocol set targets aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which are believed to be responsible for the gradual rise in the Earth's average temperature. Many scientists say that reducing carbon dioxide emissions is key to preventing climate change.

But authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner argue in their new book SuperFreakonomics that humanity can take an alternative route to try and save the planet.

U.S. environmental agency walks a tightrope on CO2

John Kemp Great DebateThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s proposed findings on greenhouse gas emissions were a carefully worded attempt to appease climate-change activists while containing hostility from business and energy organizations or Congress.

The “endangerment” and “contribute” findings, that greenhouse gases posed a danger to human health, were designed to provide clear signs of progress on a signature issue for the administration while preserving maximum flexibility.

The Obama administration is struggling to reconcile high hopes of ambitious action with the need to formulate a policy that can be sold to the Democratic Party’s working-class base in the industrial Midwest and coal-producing states of Appalachia.

Obama mulls cap-and-trade by decree

John Kemp Great Debate– John Kemp is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Senior U.S. administration officials have indicated that if Congress does not pass comprehensive legislation providing for a cap-and-trade system to regulate greenhouse gas emissions they will press ahead unilaterally with proposals using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s existing authority under the Clean Air Act.

This is an attempt to gain political leverage after deep divisions within the Democratic Party appeared when 26 Democratic senators rebelled earlier this month and voted for an amendment to the budget resolution barring cap-and-trade being considered as part of the budget.

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