The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program to assess scientific, technical and socioeconomic information relevant for the understanding of climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. The IPCC’s 2007 report concludes that “warming of the climate is unequivocal,” and that human activity has “very likely” been the driving force in that change over the last 50 years. This report reflects the mounting evidence that the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping gases has already played a role in raising the average surface temperature of the earth. Unless emissions of these greenhouse gases are reduced, the global temperature will continue to increase, impacting the Earth’s physical and biological systems and our public and environmental health. Extreme weather events, increase in infectious disease, decrease in fresh water supplies and health-related issues due to an increase in air pollution are all projected impacts of climate change. It is truly one of the most pressing public health issues of our time. Mitigating climate change will require action at many levels, with the need for cost-efficient, safe, sustainable, clean and fast approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) levels in the atmosphere.
We believe that proposals for new coal-fired power plants and new nuclear reactors do not meet these criteria. New coal-fired plants will likely add to the already dangerous levels of greenhouse gases in association with continued related acute and chronic health problems. In addition, despite industry assertions that problems with coal used can effectively be addressed with “clean coal” and carbon capture technologies, such “solutions” are, at best, unproven, likely to be extremely expensive if at all possible, and do not adequately address the complete “life-cycle” health and environmental costs ranging from mining through combustion.
Nuclear power, despite the relative carbon-free emissions of operating plants, still relies on fossil fuel use to create nuclear fuel, and to build the large number of reactors anticipated to be needed to address climate change. There remain significant safety issues associated with operating plants, as well as intractable issues regarding waste disposal, weapons proliferation and vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks. The amount of capital that would be required to build the number of global nuclear reactors to address climate change would be enormous and would effectively starve-out investments better allocated for bringing cheaper, safer and more sustainable energy options more quickly on line. (For more complete analysis of the fallacies of the nuclear option see: National PSR, IEER. Rocky Mountain Institute.)
SFPSR’s positions and work on global climate change link closely with our National and Global Security Program. Our nation’s historic insatiable needs for controlling access to fossil fuels such as petroleum has underscored massive military expenditures, deployments and associated conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere, and has contributed to worldwide pollution and destruction from producing and testing the weapons for warfare, including our nuclear arsenal. Presently, the U.S. spends less than 1% for “climate security” than for “security” currently defined by military expenditures. As such, SFPSR believes that a national commitment to a safe and sustainable energy would pay enormous dividends ranging from directly benefiting global health parameters, forestalling the most calamitous effects of global warming, and undermining a major cause of global conflict in its nuclear manifestation daily threatens our planet with annihilation.