Opinion Sixty-six heavyweight boffins active in the field of biodiversity conservation have pleaded with the world's greens to get over their objections to nuclear power, pointing out that renewable energy means terrible losses of endangered animals and plants.
"Biodiversity is not only threatened by climate disruption arising largely from fossil-fuel derived emissions," says Professor Corey Bradshaw from the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute. "It is also threatened by land transformation resulting from renewable energy sources, such as flooded areas for hydro-electricity, agricultural areas needed for biofuels and large spaces needed for wind and solar farms."
Professor Bradshaw and 65 colleagues of his from around the world, all experts in biodiversity and conservation, have signed an open letter calling on those concerned about the environment to drop their objections to nuclear power.
The letter reads:
As conservation scientists concerned with global depletion of biodiversity and the degradation of the human life-support system this entails, we, the co-signed, support ... a substantial role for advanced nuclear power systems with complete fuel recycling ...
Much as leading climate scientists have recently advocated the development of safe, next-generation nuclear energy systems to combat global climate change, we entreat the conservation and environmental community to weigh up the pros and cons of different energy sources using objective evidence and pragmatic trade-offs, rather than simply relying on idealistic perceptions of what is ‘green’.
Although renewable energy sources like wind and solar will likely make increasing contributions to future energy production, these technology options face real-world problems of scalability, cost, material and land use ... As scientists, we declare that an evidence-based approach to future energy production is an essential component of securing biodiversity’s future and cannot be ignored. It is time that conservationists make their voices heard in this policy arena.
The conservationists allude to last year's open letter along the same lines signed by many of the most prominent climate scientists in the world, including Dr James Hansen, the man who more or less invented the global warming menace. Like the conservationists, the climatologists were acknowledging the inconvenient truth that there is no realistic prospect at all of powering a reasonably comfortable and numerous human race using only or mostly renewable power.
An illustration of this fact was given last week, when UK government figures (which the Department for Energy and Climate Change had endeavoured to keep secret) revealed that even the paltry amounts of renewable energy now generated and to be generated in Britain are having very severe effects on household and business utility bills, to the tune of 60, 70 or even 100+ per cent increases in the near future. British renewables policies have already caused very severe price rises for very little carbon reduction.
Nobody doubts that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Nonetheless there are many reasons to be sceptical about the idea that humanity faces a disastrous 21st century of hugely accelerated sea level rises, crop failures etc if carbon emissions aren't massively cut. The fact is that the amount of warming to be expected is poorly understood, and the impacts of that possible warming are even more poorly understood. There may very well not be all that much urgency about moving to a fully-electrified low-carbon energy system. It may well make more sense to worry about asteroids or pandemics or some other thing - or indeed just to calm down a bit.
But if you are very worried about carbon emissions, and plenty of people are, it is very important to have some plan for reducing them which would cause less damage and misery than carbon emissions might. All-renewable power is not such a plan, as people who think logically can generally manage to realise. Mostly-nuclear probably is such a plan, but - as the conservationists point out - clear and objective thought is required on the part of most "greens" to realise this. ®