Outdated ideology preventing the embrace of most viable climate change solution
By perusing the Canadian Green Party's website, one thing quickly becomes apparent: they support the Kyoto Protocol, almost to the point of obsession. Yet, what also becomes apparent is that the Green party lacks the one thing that is most crucial to implimenting Kyoto successfully: a viable energy alternative to fossil fuels.
In the western world, we have known these alternatives exist for a long time. Yet, the Green party stringently opposes the one alternative energy source that could concievably entirely supplant fossil fuels: nuclear energy.
"Climate change [came] along and transformed nuclear power from a total bad guy into a total good guy in terms of carbon-dioxide emissions," says Stewart Brand, the environmentalist author of The Whole Earth Catalogue (one of the most important publications in the historty of the environmental movement).
It seems the Green Party of Canada is sadly behind the times in terms of their opposition to nuclear power. In two recent press releases, the Greens pontificate against nuclear power. In one release , the party announced that Elizabeth May had called for a moritorium on nuclear power development, claiming that levels of tritium, a radioactive isotope generated by nuclear fuel, makes living within 10 km of nuclear plants potentially dangerous.
In other words, May is calling for a stall on developing nuclear energy facilities, while at the same time promoting policy that requires drastic reductions in fossil fuel consumption. The fact that reducing fossil fuel consumption is actually a good idea aside, how does May presume Canadians will get their energy from, considering that solar and wind energy are too expensive and unreliable, and hydro electricity not available nationwide?
In the other release, the party raises the issue of waste disposal, claiming that burial of nuclear waste is "not safe, not long-term."
Yet, burying nuclear waste is precisely what is done in France. According to environmentalist James Lovelock, French reactor waste is encased in glass, packed in stainless steel containers, then buried. Lovelock took readings at a burial site, and found that they represtented scarely one twentieth of the radiation generated by a single passenger plane.
According to Brand, romanticism overwhelms trust in science for many environmentalists. "A feeling with nature is profound and engenders heartfelt emotion and action that has a quasi-religious quality to it."
"They'll probably never admit to mistakes," Brand explains of romanticist environmentalists. "Whereas the best scientists will -- it's what science is."
"Antinuclear positions get posed in an absolute way, usually with the argument 'this is not natural. We humans don't really know what we're doing, and we'll unleash forces that will surprise us in terrible ways'," Brand explains.
Brand and Lovelock are not alone in their advocacy of nuclear energy. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, has also identified nuclear energy as having the potential to help prevent (or at least reduce the intensity of) climate change.
These are not merely individuals who are environmentalists: they are individuals who helped craft the environmentalist agenda, including the initial opposition to nuclear energy, often for precisely the same reason sited by Brand: a romanticism-driven fear of nuclear holocaust.
Even while the environmental movement moves to cannibalize these progenitors, the quandry raised by the about-face in attitude toward nuclear power by these individuals cannot be ignored.
If they are willing to change their attitudes toward nuclear energy, certainly Elizabeth May and the Green Party can, too. Whether or not they are willing to is a bigger question.
They may want to keep in mind that the solution to climate change they so desire probably depends on it.