UN Climate Report Is Biased Against Nuclear Energy, Scientists Say


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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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A group of scientists are pushing back against a United Nations report on climate change, accusing the report of being biased against nuclear energy.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) released a jarring report earlier in October, finding that the world must take “unprecedented” actions to reduce carbon emissions or else deal with irreversible consequences from climate change. The study implored international leaders to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

While they agree with the urgency needed to address climate change, a large number of energy experts are taking umbrage with the report’s recommendations for battling it.

In a letter sent to sent to G20 leaders Thursday, a group of about three dozen scientists and other experts claim that the U.N. report is incorrectly biased against nuclear energy. The scientists say that the IPCC’s findings include “misinformation about nuclear energy, contrasts nuclear negatively to renewables, and in some cases suggests an equivalency with fossil fuels.”

The critics point out a number of environmental benefits from nuclear energy: It is the safest form of electricity production; its carbon dioxide output is far less than the emissions released from coal, natural gas, biomass and even solar; and they pointed out that nuclear energy is far more reliable than wind or solar, which produce electricity at intermittent rates.

“While we are gravely disappointed by the double standard with which the IPCC treated nuclear and other low-carbon energy sources, we are hopeful that you … can rectify such misinformation through your words and actions,” read a portion of the letter. “We strongly encourage you to do everything in your power to speak out for nuclear and expand its share of electricity production, heating, and transport, including shipping production, to achieve the intertwined goals of climate change mitigation.”

Thermal Nuclear Plant. Shutterstock

Thermal Nuclear Plant. Shutterstock

The response comes as many environmentalists are divided on nuclear energy. While nuclear proponents argue it can be the key to solving the world’s energy dilemma — producing electricity with little to zero emissions — others believe nuclear facilities are dangerous.

In their response, the authors of the letter point out that much of the public reactions to nuclear plant scares have been greatly overhyped — pointing out, for example, that the evacuation from the Fukushima Daiichi plant caused more harm to people than the small amount of radiation that leaked after an earthquake. (RELATED: Environmentalist: Why Are Americans Fearful Of Nuclear Energy?)

“The IPCC says, correctly, that even 1.5 degrees of warming is dangerous, especially for the developing world. We agree with that, on the other hand it throws cold water on what empirically is the fastest way to mitigate emissions we know about today,” Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric science professor at MIT and signer of the letter, stated to Axios.

Nuclear energy currently provides 30 percent of the globe’s zero-carbon energy. It continues to provide more total electricity than the renewable energy sources that are widely lauded by environmental activists. Nuclear accounted for about 11 percent of the world’s electricity in 2017, while wind and solar only provided only 3.9 and 1.3 precent, respectively.

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