I think you're right in arguing that lifestyle changes are required, but as these cannot be forced upon us, I am skeptical about the scale of change we can implement. Replacing incandescent light bulbs is a no-brainer and we've known about it for over 15 years now, but I bet you have a friend or two who still use them. Realistically, the government needs to overhaul the tax system to provide market incentives for going green. UK Lib Dems seem pretty keen on the idea, but other major (and more popular) parties are lagging.
I'm sure that once we get our act together about heat pumps, solar heating etc. then a lot of wasted energy can be saved, but there will be a few setbacks:
- Firstly, much of our energy use is embedded. Everything we use and consume has a footprint, including goods and services made abroad. Once you factor this into the equation (if we start producing locally, or take responsibility for imported energy), our per person energy consumption increases.
- Secondly, energy use is projected to increase. 5 years ago we didn't have broadband internet. 10 years ago we didn't have mobile phones. 15 years ago we had very few personal computers. All of these gadgets consume vast quantities of energy. Think about what will be available to us in the future. You would be surprised at the crazy amount of power is used by going online. Efficiency gains in electric components should be wiped out by these developments.
So there are obviously limits on reducing our energy use, disregarding massive lifestyle changes or a population decrease and if we want the public's support on this, we can't change too much too fast. If renewables cannot supply our needs then we have to use clean coal, nuclear, or import energy.
I don't know anything about lobbying or the politics behind this. I don't see why that is an issue, the most important thing we need right now for any climate platform is a realistic social, economic and scientific model. Of course I don't like it. Where I am currently living, the state owned power company tricked a minority tribe (they were illiterate) into leasing a small part of their island; it was used to dump leaking barrels of nuclear waste and has been ignored ever since. But as it stands nuclear is on par with wind for fatalities/GWyear, the numbers really are insignificant.
I've no idea where this came from, why don't we have a constructive conversation?
I'll acknowledge the lovelock quote: nice find. The important thing to note here is that he is talking about CO2 reductions, an altogether different cup of tea. Sure we could bury lots of charcoal to combat climate change, but where are we going to get our electricity from? How can Britain's energy use become sustainable?
I think I said quite clearly that MacKay takes into account all natural resources available to us. You should read his book. He proposes putting a solar panel on every south facing roof in the country, filling the whole Atlantic shoreline with wave power, the whole North Sea shore with offshore wind, tidal power where we can, changing crops to biofuels and hydro in Scotland. Even an optimistic estimate falls far short of our energy needs.
It's no good hyping up offshore projects and localized solar if it's only going to produce a small percentage of our energy needs and remember that the UK has some of Europe's best natural resources. We desperately need change now. Perhaps nuclear is one option, just until we manage to build a massive European grid and a few country sized solar arrays in North Africa.
EDIT: I'm not saying we shouldn't get those solar panels and turbines up, just that we should stop saying no to other options.
Hi all, I came across your website and just registered to post a wee comment about this nuclear issue here.
I think it is important to talk about what is physically possible when having a discussion on sustainability. I would like to recommend David MacKay's book Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air for some information on this subject. It is written by a Cambridge researcher who does some fairly basic calculations and attempts to create a renewable energy plan for Britain.
You will be surprised at his findings. People always talk about how many homes a wind turbine can power, but they fail to mention that we would need country sized areas of these renewable generators to power our current lifestyles. He takes into account every natural resource we have available to us and we still fall short by a significant margin.
I believe that nuclear will have to have a place in any realistic energy plan, regardless of Al Gore's economic concerns or Greenpeace's ineffective protests. It's either that, carbon capture coal or importing energy from desert states.
I would also like to point out that James Lovelock says nuclear is our only hope and he's a guy worth listening to.
MacKay's book is available free here: http://www.withouthotair.com/
Jesus Christ, this illustrates perfectly just how much emotion comes into play when talking about environmentalism. Do you consider yourself well informed? Do you view all sides of an argument before making a decision? Have you read anything I've written or just cherry picked a few points to counter?
It takes years to build anything. An equivalent area of wind turbines to a nuclear power plant is 100km2. You think that can be done in a few years? Have a look at this:
Oh yes, my bad. I ment to say really, really big. Whats the difference? The costs and political considerations are still astronomical.
Yes, we can do all that, but there are limits. See what I wrote above about embedded energy use above. Also don't forget that us frugal, tree-loving eco-warriors are still a minority. Most of my friends are highly educated and morally conscious people, but they remain uninformed and apathetic about the environment. I'm the only person I know that has bought carbon offsets for flights. Don't be fooled by the internet, it creates an illusion by bringing like-minded people together.
This is a fair point, I concede that energy use will decrease, but not to the extent that countries with a high population density can cope with just renewable energy. It's great if Sweden can get by and even export energy (though methods for storing it during wind lulls and night time will be needed for a truly carbon neutral country). So, you guys are sorted, as are several other European nations with a good resource to population ratio. What about the rest? Don't you find it at all disturbing that the UK, with such an abundance of renewable options and efficiency measures accounted for, won't be able to power it's own needs? I've said this several times, but seem to have been ignored.
Do you have a source for this? A renewable energy surplus is good, a fossil fuel surplus is bad. How will the field change once we go green, can you still predict the majority of EU will have a surplus?
In terms of sustainability, uranium won't last forever, but it will last a lot longer than you think. See page 161 of the book I recommended for a thorough evaluation (there is much uranium to be found in sea water with not such a bad cost of extraction).
But I wanted to save this point for last, because it is at the very core of my thoughts on this subject. At this point, we should accept any and all emissions reductions we can get. Halting the deployment of nuclear plants is only prolonging our dependence on oil and gas.
So if you have a better idea, lets hear it. And remember not every country is Sweden. What do you think we should do? Maybe you should be in charge of telling all those people that they should have wind turbines on their beautiful countryside or offshore shipping lanes. Maybe you should tell house owners that they should pay for solar panels and heat pumps. This is what I object to the most about my anti-nuclear environmentalist comrades. They seem to envision the future as some kind of eco-topia where all problems are solved with a little hard work and co-operation. Please build an opinion based in reality. It doesn't matter what is fastest, cheapest or best. We need them all.