Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some of the likely questions that you may have about the Climate Coalition.
The Climate Coalition is working to focus everyone on fighting to reduce GHG emissions as quickly as possible and to eliminate the infighting over which clean energy technologies should be preferred. We support an “all of the above” approach to improving and expanding all clean energy options so as to eliminate U.S. carbon emissions within the decade.
The Climate Coalition is building awareness and support for “technology neutral” energy policies that focus on the end goal of reducing emissions as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, rather than energy policies focused on the “means” which involves selective technology-picking, at the cost of speed and price. We are working on building awareness, increasing coalition membership and strengthening our messaging.
The Climate Coalition is a coalition of individuals and groups who recognize the urgency of the climate crisis and the enormous scale of the crisis. We come to this realization not just with common sense but using math to show that, at this late stage, we actually have very little chance left to prevent catastrophic climate change. Unlike all of the major environmental groups, we are self-funding and NOT afraid of alienating donors with pre-existing antinuclear prejudices or pre-existing renewable preferences. We just want to get to zero emissions asap. The major environmental groups are literally afraid that they will lose their donor support if they do the right thing and support all forms of clean energy, which inconveniently includes nuclear energy, which necessarily has a huge role to play in eliminating emissions.
Mainstream environmental groups, in deference to a long-simmering if ill-informed anti-nuclear antipathy, have latched onto the notion of moving to 100% renewables. Unfortunately, under those policies, when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining — which can be from 5% to 95% of the time — utilities need something to back up the renewable generation, so they burn cheap natural gas — a dirty fuel — so our lights don’t go out. When nuclear energy is allowed into the mix, we can avoid using natural gas. This is largely why the Oil & Gas industry supports renewables and closing nuclear power plants — because it increases their market reach.
Some of those who support the 100% renewable approach have not taken a good hard look at the scale of the global problem. These activists instead view the climate crisis as an opportunity to re-engineer the energy sector in ways that appeal to them. They have social goals in mind, including ending centralized power and building distributed grids. While these may be worthy ambitions, pursuing those goals instead of addressing emissions on a priority basis is adding unnecessary risk to our chances of keeping our planet inhabitable for future generations. Many of those who want to pursue “100% renewables” originally based their approach on a “feel good” but now debunked report by Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, who seems willing to risk everyone’s future for his own speculative ideal.
Absolutely not. We embrace all forms of clean energy and clean tech, from renewables to nuclear and including energy storage, energy efficiency and conservation, and even carbon capture and sequestration, as we believe they all have a role to play in the major transformations required to get to zero net emissions not just in the U.S. around the world. Each clean energy source has its advantages and disadvantages. We believe our challenge lies in finding the best pairings of clean energy technology to get the most benefit, the least environmental degradation and the fastest transformation away from all forms of dirty energy.
The risk of being injured in a vehicle on the road are about 1 in 660 but most people still drive. On the other hand, your chance of being injured flying about 1 in 11,00,000 yet many people who drive are too afraid to fly. What does that say about our understanding of risk? Our sense of nuclear risks have been hyped by sensationalist news reporting that generates fear far above that due to the actual risks. In contrast, the risks posed our use of coal, oil and gas include millions of premature deaths every year from poor air quality. Nuclear doesn’t pollute the air and, by having displaced coal, it has been found to have saved millions of lives that might have been lost. Nuclear power is now sixty years old and has proven to be the safest energy technology we have. Zero people have been killed by nuclear energy in the U.S. and deaths from all of the worst international accidents amount to less than 100 (despite what you think the news has reported). Unfortunately, we don’t get senationalized headlines stating “Risks of nuclear vastly exaggerated: Very few fatalities have ever occurred!” Even the fact that nuclear power is one of our best weapons against climate change and is necessary for reducing emissions is hardly getting the media attention it should.
Indian Point is a large nuclear power plant that provides the power that keeps New York City’s lights on, as well as that of surrounding areas. It is a safe, powerful and profitable plant that has an impressively high capacity factor and service record. It’s only fault is that it sits on 240 acres about 40 miles north of Manhattan and inexpert critics believe that it poses a risk to Manhattan. It doesn’t. Yet, in 2016, Governor Cuomo, after intense lobbying from a combination of Natural Gas companies and environmentalists, agreed to require the closure of Indian Point, even though shutting it down would increase New York’s carbon emissions. In fact, several new natural gas plants are poised to ramp up their power when Indian Point shuts down, increasing air pollution around New York by is estimated to be 15%. The date that Cuomo set in place was April 30, 2020. Unfortunately, New York City and the rest of the world are currently fighting the coronavirus pandemic. We know that people who have compromised lungs and immune systems—including smokers and people who have lived with air pollution for a long time—have higher risk of fatalities. This makes this decision bad energy policy, bad climate policy but spectacularly bad health policy, as it is clearly the wrong time to shutter 25% of New York’s emission-free energy. Doing so would pose substantially increased risks to those suffering from Covid-19. We are working with various allies to save lives and suspend the closure of Indian Point. We are seeking widespread support, so please consider joining this campaign to #SaveIndianPoint.
Most scientific and energy experts in the field of climate change support the expanded use of nuclear power. Dr. James Hansen, the senior NASA scientist who first raised the alarm about climate change with testimony to the Congress in 1988 is a staunch supporter, along with Kerry Emanuel, Tom Wigley and Ken Caldeira. Policy experts like President Barack Obama, Dr. Ernest Moniz, Dr. Stephen Chu, Carol Browner and even Michael Bloomberg support nuclear. Technologists and visionaries like Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Peter Thiel, Jeff Bezos, Stewart Brand, Jimmy Carter, Sir Richard Branson, and Paul Hawken, who listed nuclear power as one of his top Global Warming solutions in Drawdown: The most comprehensive Plan ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. Current politicians who support nuclear include Republicans Lisa Murkowski (Sen. Alaska), Michael Crapo (Sen. Idaho), Jim Inhofe (Sen. Oklahoma) and Deb Fisher (Sen. Nebraska) and Democrats Cory Booker (Sen. New Jersey), Sheldon Whitehouse (Sen. Rhode Island) and Hillary Clinton (former Sen. New York). Additionally, there are more than 40 organizations listed on Wikipedia’s Pro-Nuclear Movement page that are explicitly pronuclear including several new organizations that were founded specifically to draw attention to the need for nuclear power in the era of climate change, including Environmental Progress, Mothers for Nuclear, and Generation Atomic.
In opposition: most fossil fuel and heating oil companies and their institutes, think tanks and lobbyists, including those for natural gas suppliers (since nuclear is their only clean energy competitor). Pretty much all of mainstream environmental groups not run by scientists but rather only activists, such as the Sierra Club, EDF, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and 350.org, continue to oppose nuclear based upon historical antinuclear positions taken, the fear of which helped them garner widespread support.
We are not trying to change people’s minds about nuclear—especially those with long-held prejudice against it. Rather, we are promoting a “live and let live” approach, what we’ve called a “clean energy deténte” in order to stop infighting within the climate movement. We must recognize that solar and wind advocates are not going to start building nuclear generators and nuclear advocates are not going to start installing solar panels or wind turbines — yet both are working hard to help reduce carbon emissions. We need all of them working as hard as possible but we also need state energy policies to stop tipping the playing field towards renewable energy, at the expense of nuclear power.
In an effort to help expand use of wind and solar power, some states have implemented a Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), which require utilities to obtain a certain amount of their energy from renewable sources. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 26 states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. Territories have an RPS in place. California initially established an ambitious RPS goal of 33% of state energy to come from renewables by 2020. More recently, California updated its energy policies with SB 100 to require that 100% of its energy be delivered with zero emissions by 2050, but it still calls for 60% of that energy to come from renewables, while the remainder can be generated by “other clean energy sources.” California has realized it needs to focus on the ends — zero carbon energy — but it is still battling with its progressive base over the means and meanwhile, there remain other laws on the books which inhibit California utility’s use of nuclear power.
Anyone who wants to see us solve the climate crisis, including environmentalists who dislike nuclear power and engineers who dislike renewables, assuming they dislike global warming even more. Here we acknowledge that we can have our own energy preferences but nevertheless we all need to work together to bring down the rate of carbon emissions that are threatening our climate and our oceans with profound changes and already causing death and destruction. We cannot afford to squander our energies bickering about preferences as to “flavor” of clean energy. We need all systems on “go.” Only by allying together, will we have a sufficiently robust clean energy grid and the political power to unplug coal, oil and natural gas and devalue fossil fuel assets and inhibit further exploitation of fossil fuel resources.
Glad you asked! There are exciting developments in the race to develop the world’s first commercial advanced reactors, which promise to vastly improve on the performance metrics of traditional nuclear. Many countries, including China, Canada, India, France and Russia are investing heavily in this competitive market and the U.S. is just starting to try to catch up. Meanwhile, there are dozens of ventures working to design and build advanced nuclear reactors ranging in size from large batteries to multi-thousand megawatt sized reactors. U.S. think tanks, politicians and organizations are calling for a change in federal policy, because there could be millions of jobs, an enormous economic boost and improved natural security aspects which could come from the U.S. developing the next generation of technologies that transforms energy and eliminates coal, oil and natural gas.
The Climate Coalition has listed those members who are public about their support for nuclear energy and/or their willingness to include nuclear on the “clean energy” side of the ledger, whether it is their preferred type of energy or not. Our members recognize that a more diversified electricity grid is a more resilient grid and that nuclear, as the only type of reliable, dense, and scalable carbon-free energy, has a role to play in our future energy system. Some of our members are leaders of or belong to mainstream environmental groups. As we build our coalition, we have agreed to maintain their confidentiality until the moment we announce then altogether as a big group. We are planning to announce their coming out around Earth Day.