Issues

Is nuclear power a global warming solution?

The contribution of nuclear energy to reduce the cause of global warming is only 10%

The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts a strong increase of the carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2030. Additionally, IEA investigated to which extent the above mentioned emissions of CO2 could be prevented if politics applied rigorous measures.

From all measures investigated, nuclear energy was found to have the least effect (only 10%). Almost 80% of the desired effects are due to increasing the energy efficiency.

How to mitigate the cause of global warming

This result is surprising, in particular if you think about how nuclear power is praised as solution to global warming by politicians like George W. Bush and Tony Blair. It seems like they would (again) head into the wrong direction.

Instead of talking about measures to increase the energy efficiency, which accounts for 80% of the effects, some politicians propagandize building nuclear power plants, which according to IEA can only account for 10% of the desired effects. Here the focus is clearly on the wrong subject!

 

CO2 - the major cause of global warming

Increase of world temperature
Global warming is caused by the emission of greenhouse gases . 72% of the totally emitted greenhouse gases is carbon dioxide (CO2), 18% Methane and 9% Nitrous oxide (NOx). Carbon dioxide emissions therefore are the most important cause of global warming.
Recent investigations have shown that inconceivable catastrophic changes in the environment will take place if the global temperatures increase by more than 2° C (3.6° F). A warming of 2° C (3.6° F) corresponds to a carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration of about 450 ppm (parts per million) in the atmosphere.

Cumulative CO2 emissions by country

The following graph shows the cumulative CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions by country for the years 1900 until 2002. This is the sum of all CO2 emissions in the years 1900 until 2002 for each developed country. Data source was the World Resources Institute (WRI).

On the page link here, you can find the CO2 emissions by country and/or per capita by country .

It does make sense to look at the sum of all CO2 emissions because the lifetime of the greenhouse gases like CO2 in the atmosphere is between 50 and 200 years. The current global warming is an effect of all greenhouse gases put in the atmosphere during the last 100 years, global warming is not just caused by the greenhouse gases emitted this year or last year! This is also one of the reasons why immediate action is required to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, because the effects of the greenhouse gases will last for about 100 years.

CO2 emissions by country

Carbon dioxide emissions per capita in the year 2002

The graph shows the total CO2 emission in million tons by country for the year 2002. Data source was the World Resources Institute (WRI). The CO2 emissions for the year 2006 are about 12 to 15% higher than the figures shown here.

The second chart shows the CO2 emissions by capita and country for the year 2002. Data source was again the World Resources Institute (WRI). Some remarks to these values:

  • The world-wide average is 4 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person per year
  • The average of all industrialised nations is about 11 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person per year
  • In the medium and long term, a world-wide average emission of maximum 2 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person per year must be targeted. This amount is nowadays considered to be the maximum allowed quantity for a sustainable living on earth.
  • The International Energy Institute (IEA) predicts a further increase of the world-wide CO2 emissions by 55% within the next 25 years if no immediate actions to stop global warming are put in place. However, even in their alternative scenario where "... vigorous new policy measures already being contemplated.." are introduced, IEA predicts a growth of the CO2 emissions by 28% compared to 2004!

Nuclear energy and nuclear weapons per country

Nuclear power by country

World-wide, there are currently 435 nuclear power plants in operation and 28 under construction (January 2007). The chart on the right hand side shows the number of nuclear power plants in operation by country.

For countries with nuclear weapons, the bar is red, for countries without nuclear weapons, the bar is blue.

Interesting findings:

  • 4 out of the 6 countries with most nuclear power plants do also have nuclear weapons
  • More than half of all nuclear power plants (55%) are located in countries who are known to have nuclear weapons
  • The 6 countries with most nuclear power plants own 97% of all nuclear weapons world-wide.

Therefore it appears to be quite doubtful that using nuclear power for civil purposes is independent from military applications. The graph above seems to rather indicate "the more nuclear power plants, the more likely nuclear weapons". Read on...

Prediction of energy consumption world-wide

Prediction of the world-wide energy consumtion by fuel type

According to the American Energy Information Administration (EIA) and to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world-wide energy consumption will on average continue to increase by 2% per year.

A yearly increase by 2% leads to a doubling of the energy consumption every 35 years. This means the world-wide energy consumption is predicted to be twice as high in the year 2040 compared to today (2007).

By far the highest increase in world-wide energy consumption is predicted to be from all three fossil fuels: oil, coal and natural gas (see graph)! The renewable energies are predicted to grow as well, but much less than fossil energies. Nuclear energy is predicted to grow relatively moderate.

We have a serious problem

It is only possible to mitigate global warming if the world-wide consumption of fossil fuels can be drastically reduced in the next 10 to 15 years. There is simply no room for a scenario as it is predicted by the International Energy Agency IEA.

It is also obvious that no combination of alternative technologies can replace the current usage of fossil fuels. There is simply not enough non-fossil fuel available for this. In order to mitigate global warming, we have to use the available energy much more efficiently. But this won't be enough either: We will have to change our behaviour to reduce our personal energy consumption. We must change our current live style and seriously strive for a sustainable living .

Read on for details and background...

 

Effects of global warming

There are two major effects of global warming:

Effects of global warming: Muir glacier retreat

 

  • Increase of temperature on the earth by about 3° to 5° C (34° to 41° Fahrenheit) by the year 2100.
  • Rise of sea levels by at least 25 meters (82 feet) by the year 2100.

More details about these effects of global warming :

Known and unknown unknowns

"There are no knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns - that is to say, there are things we now know we don't know but there are also unknown unknowns.

There are things we do not know we don't know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that's basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns. And each year we discocover a few more of those unknown unknowns."

Pros and cons of nuclear power

Pros and cons of nuclear power plants

As a result of the current discussion how further global warming could be prevented or at least mitigated, the revival of nuclear power seems to be in everybody's - or at least in many politician's - mind. It it interesting to see that in many suggestions to mitigate global warming, the focus is put on the advantages of nuclear power generation, its disadvantages are rarely mentioned.

Below is a short summary of arguments for and against nuclear power plants.

 

 

Cause and effect for global warming

Almost 100% of the observed temperature increase over the last 50 years has been due to the increase in the atmosphere of greenhouse gas concentrations like water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and ozone. Greenhouse gases are those gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect (see below). The largest contributing source of greenhouse gas is the burning of fossil fuels leading to the emission of carbon dioxide.

Read on and see graphs about the greenhouse effect and global warming caused by the greenhouse effect.

 

 

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