Climate shouldn’t be used as a political sledgehammer

A real problem hindering climate change fight is that for too many, climate change is just another blunt rhetorical instrument with which to hammer in their favored policies.

As this article discusses, it would be utterly naive to believe that noted critics of capitalism, for instance, could’ve somehow impartially studied the climate change problem and only then conclude that preventing dangerous climate change requires the downfall of current capitalist world order. In Finnish context, it shouldn’t be surprising if people who’ve made their career in promoting bioenergy will promote bioenergy as a (or even THE) solution to climate change, no matter what science might have to say about the subject. The same of course applies to those deep in mainstream economic thought: no one should be surprised if a devout free marketeer sees climate change as a problem that should be left to the markets to solve.

However, the problem is probably particularly acute for those who’d actually want to prevent dangerous climate change. Far too many organizations and individuals who promote climate change awareness also have a deep, long-standing vested interest in or attachment to particular solutions. In the case of environmental NGOs, it would be only fair to say that their commitment to a world shorn of “excessive consumption” and powered only by renewable energy has far longer roots than their commitment to fighting climate change. As this article notes, this makes conservatives naturally very suspicious when these organizations now just have happened to find a global, serious problem that just happens to vindicate the policies these organizations have proposed for decades before climate change became a mainstream issue.

It’s for this reason why I’ve long said that one of the most powerful symbolic messages the traditional environmental organizations could possibly send would be to issue a statement saying that we now need all potential solutions to this problem, not just those the organization has happened to promote for decades. This is a credibility issue for the whole climate fight. I’ve heard numerous climate skeptics and outright deniers over the years ask the simple question: if climate change is the existential problem the environmental NGOs claim it is, how come they still oppose nuclear power so vehemently?

If environmental NGOs really believe what they’re saying about nuclear energy – that it’s too costly and generally uncompetitive against renewables – they shouldn’t have anything to lose by issuing such a statement. If they’re right, then nuclear is on its way out regardless of what they can say about it. However, such a statement would go a long way towards emphasizing the urgency of the climate fight, and just might convince some of those who aren’t motivated to act because they feel the leftie environmentalists are just using a made-up threat to push their pet politics.

DISCLAIMER: I’m definitely a liberal-leftie environmentalist myself – but I try to figure out how to make environmental issues matter in politics. I’m also involved in the fledgling ecomodernist movement, which just might provide a home for those concerned about environmental issues but incapable of acting within the boundaries of traditional environmentalism.

About J. M. Korhonen

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5 Responses to Climate shouldn’t be used as a political sledgehammer

  1. I totally agree, and had come to the same conclusion myself.
    Clive Elsworth

  2. Have you checked out Moltex Energy? – Liquid Fueled Molten Salt Reactor – cheaper than coal:

    BTW bought your book – excellent.



    • Thanks Clive!

      I’ve been following developments in thorium quite casually. Extremely interesting technology and I wholeheartedly support its development, but I fear it still has some way to go before it can start displacing coal. (I hope I’m wrong, of course!)

      But the scale of the challenge is so huge that I have no doubt thorium, too, will find a place in the planet’s energy mix. The good thing with over 85% of our current energy coming from fossil fuels is that there’s plenty of space for everything, and little need for zero-sum games. Except for those who want to push one particular agenda :).

  3. @Jan, I think you’ll enjoy this webinar from Ian Scott on the Moltex Stable Salt Reactor, whose First Of A Kind (FOAK) is I believe now scheduled for 2027:

  4. @Jan, it feels to me as though the world has started slowly turning towards nuclear power. I’m finding less resistance to it now when talking to Greens and people in general. I believe this is thanks to the great work from you and others such as Michael Shellenberger, Robert Hargraves, and others.

    What I’m now saying to people is “It’s as if we’re stuck in a bygone era of steam locomotives and traction engines – solid fuelled power. Liquid fuel has advantages. Steam locomotion needed big heavy boilers to withstand the necessary high pressures. Boiler explosions when they happened were horrific. When PWR pressure vessels have been breached it’s been worse – radioactive material can be released and become airborne (caesium137 and iodine131). But that can’t happen with molten salt reactors, because: 1.The fuel operates at (or near) atmospheric pressure, 2. radioactive caesium and iodine are a stable constituent of the fuel salt at a very low vapour pressure. Worst case scenario – terrorist bomb or earthquake – would likely make a hazardous mess around the reactor, but people outside the facility would not be in serious danger.”

    That’s not the official line. You might think of something better to say.

    Big picture: If the Moltex SSR can generate power cheaper than US gas, I think *we’ll* be able to say “This Changes Everything”.


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