Wall Street Journal acknowledges need for nuclear energy to address climate change

On January 11, 2019, the Wall Street Journal established itself as the media source willing to help environmentalists sharpen their pencils about the mathematical challenge posed by climate change and our dependence upon fossil fuels.  In an article written by Joshua Goldstein and Staffan Qvist entitled Only Nuclear Energy Can Save the Planet: Do the math on replacing fossil fuels: To move fast enough, the world needs to build lots of reactors, the authors explain why our ability to cut fossil fuel use drastically enough to “stave off a potentially catastrophic tipping point for the planet” requires that we take a cold, hard and calculating look at the moral issue—which involves continuing to meet our energy needs that provides so much to our lives—and fully account for how much energy resplacement that requires. Understanding the scale of the issue means that we need to do the math, not wave our hands and hope for the best.  When you do the math, it becomes abundantly clear that even growing renewables as quickly as possible, in order to meet our gigantic demand for energy, nuclear power (which is clean energy) needs to be part of the energy replacement solution.

Any serious effort to decarbonize the world economy will require, then, a great deal more clean energy, on the order of 100 trillion kilowatt-hours per year, by our calculations—roughly equivalent to today’s entire annual fossil-fuel usage. A key variable is speed. To reach the target within three decades, the world would have to add about 3.3 trillion more kilowatt-hours of clean energy every year. Solar and wind power alone can’t scale up fast enough to generate the vast amounts of electricity that will be needed by midcentury, especially as we convert car engines and the like from fossil fuels to carbon-free energy sources. Even Germany’s concerted recent effort to add renewables—the most ambitious national effort so far—was nowhere near fast enough. A global increase in renewables at a rate matching Germany’s peak success would add about 0.7 trillion kilowatt-hours of clean electricity every year. That’s just over a fifth of the necessary 3.3 trillion annual target.

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