Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

9 May 2018

Energy choices

Posted by Michael Keating


No aspect of the transition to sustainability is more difficult and controversial than energy. We are heading into a climate change crisis. Yet more than 81 per cent of global energy comes from burning fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gases that are causing global warming. Governments and people around the world are struggling with how to change to new energy systems. The UN climate experts say we need to cut carbon emissions by about 70 per cent by mid-century. It was interesting to hear James Hansen, one of the world experts on climate change tackle that issue in a speech last night in Toronto. Hansen, formerly Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is now at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, where he directs a program in Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions. His testimony to the U.S. Government in the 1980s helped make climate change a major public issue. In his speech Hansen made a pitch for more nuclear power. He said that research into cheaper and more efficient forms of nu

James Hansen photo

James Hansen Credit: The Independent

clear energy is lagging, but there are indications that new reactors could be far more efficient and produce much less radioactive waste. Ironically, a group at the entrance to the speaking venue was handing out flyers calling for a shutdown of one of Canada’s major nuclear power stations, about 35 km to the east. Both Hansen and the protesters were making the point that all forms of energy generation have some risks and benefits. These clashes of ideas are useful to push the kind of debate we need to have, but they are like isolated flashes of light that come and go. What we need is a permanent forum where experts can provide advice on the pros and cons of different energy sources so people can develop informed ideas about what kind of energy future they want, and this can guide governments to make policies that reflect scientific information and public opinion.

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