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Nuclear Power Will Not Save Us from Climate Change

By: 
M. V. Ramana and Robert Jensen

The underlying cause here is “technological fundamentalism,” the belief that the increasing use of evermore sophisticated, high-energy, advanced technology can solve any problem, including those caused by the unintended consequences of earlier technologies. This Panglossian approach allows modelers to state the climate problem can be contained without giving up a social and political system that is founded on continued and endless economic growth.

This belief also allows for the idea that the business-as-usual approach can continue, and the solution is replacing coal, gas, and nuclear plants with solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries or other storage technologies. As supporters of the fossil fuel and nuclear industries like to point out, even these technologies have environmental and social impacts. To live sustainably on this planet—and despite what folks such as Elon Musk might promise, this is the only planet available for the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants—even these more benign technologies have to be limited in scale.

The alternative is obvious. The starting point of any serious discussion of climate change must be to recognize that it is not possible to limit global warming to either 1.5 or 2°C in any “resource- and energy-intensive scenario” where economic growth continues in the usual fashion. To put it more bluntly, one cannot resolve the climate problem under capitalism, which cannot survive without endless growth.