Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Time Out for Some Hippie Punching

The higher wisdom, as we all know, is that the Left and Right are equally enemies of Truth, which resides somewhere in the enlightened Center.  Since we might forget this amid the climate denialism of Republicans, the absurd economic claims of austerians and the like, Eduardo Porter is here to remind us in this morning’s New York Times.

The poster child for liberal anti-scientism is hostility to nuclear power which, we are told, is an essential component of climate change mitigation.  This question has been fully resolved by science, and only the Left’s elevation of emotion over reason prevents it from joining the consensus.

Well excuse me.  Without going into boring detail, here are a few directions rational thought might take: (1) Nuclear power is way more expensive than the alternatives.  (2) Nuclear power’s inflexible output makes it an inefficient supplement to intermittent energy sources like wind and solar.  (3) Since its inception, nuclear power has been repeatedly subject to unanticipated safety concerns.  It is pure hubris to think that we now know every risk this technology presents to us.  (4) Mitigating climate change means keeping fossil fuel in the ground, which is not the same as investing in non-fossil energy sources, since total energy use is not constant.

I guess this makes me anti-science, huh?

Incidentally, the article makes a huge error in claiming that evolution by natural selection operates at too slow a pace to be perceptible by ordinary (non-scientist) humans.  The evolution of bacteria and viruses is real-time and crucial.  The evolution of crop pests in response to pesticides also occurs right in front of our eyes and is, or ought to be, a major public concern.

If you’re going to punch hippies for being anti-science, you might want to get your science straight first.  Just sayin’.


Mr. Lissenupyall said...

Also worth pointing out to Mr. Porter that global warming was just beginning to be accepted scientific truth back when the anti-nuke movement was in its hey-day (late 70s).

Christiaan said...

I am surprised you are missing perhaps the most important problem with nuclear power: nuclear waste. We've been waiting for 50 years now for even a credible proposal to solve the problem, and we're nowhere near anything yet, anywhere in the world. The few attempts, like the salt mines in Germany and Yucca in the US, failed miserably (the one in Germany now costs a lot to clean up). And we're talking about sites that need to be safe for thousands of years, longer than any nation exists. So it should be clear that any guarantees would be worth nothing anyway.

Wallfly said...

Very nice.

Unknown said...

I wish that people would stop bringing up nuclear waste every time nuclear power is mentioned. That is what the industry shillls want them to mention. It lets them change the topic to the hippie strawman they want to argue against. What they cant debate is the economic viability of nuclear power. That is true even if we assume no problems at all with waste and safety.

Anonymous said...

The problem with this is neither the 'science' nor 'economics' is settled via say a 'scientific consensus'.

James Hansen---typically cited as the the foremost expert on AGW, promotes nuclear power.
Others say offshore wind, solar, biofuels from algae are viable alternatives.
I dont know.

I personally am more in favor of 'downshifting' (eg use less---turn lights off, use a bike, mass transit, walking, don't plan a lot of plane travel).
This may be 'class related' --people who have a certain lifestyle get used to it---i got used to walking, biking, taking a bike; other got used to hopping in the car.

I know or knew a lot of very anti-nuke environmentalists who were employed at major eco-groups. They were always complaining that Al Gore, Obama, etc 'didnt do anything'----but fill up their gas tanks everyday for commuting,vacations, trips to the store a few blocks away, fly to various climate and scientific conferences 1000s of miles---sometimes to deliver a paper or talk. (Their presentations are typically somewhat like pouperpoints regurgiting 'an inconveniant truth' by gore, or say naomi klein. From my view one doesnt need a plane trip to a swank conference in Hawaii to explain your recent discovery of AGW --one could just send a link via email from where you got all the material for your 'groundbreakingpaper'.

I know people into Sierra Club and such---they love nature, go on hikes, etc. And they also drive 60 miles round trip to see a baseball game in heavy traffic. Alot of them can't even identify a single plant in the 'nature' they love and don't bother with it---nature for them is just a PC gymn.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

Well, nukes are not being pursued in the US vigorously at all, for better or worse, and only somewhat lacklusterly in some others, while being dumped in still others (Germany). But a few notes:

1) I know, unreliable source, but quick check on Wiki has nuke power in nid-tier costwise among the various competing sources in most major nations.

2) Some would consider nuke's inflexible output to be a good complement to the "unreliable" variability of wind and solar.

3) While indeed there have been "unforeseen" tech issues, actual deaths from nuke power have been very few, aside from Chernobyl, whose tech is not used anywhere anymore. Fukushima freaked lots of people out, but only a handful died because of the reactor. Most died because of the tsunami, which triggered the reactor breakdown. So, obviously plants should not be built where tsunamis can hit them. As it is, waste disposal is probably the biggest problem.