Anonymous asked: Hello! What are your thoughts on nuclear energy? Do you believe it's a viable alternative to oil/coal? I've read some of your older posts on nuclear energy, but I couldn't quite sense your position on it. Thanks!
Thanks for your nice question. I don’t have a problem with nuclear energy in general. The reality is that really no one is seriously building new nuclear power plants, so there’s that.
Generally, nuclear energy is tough to comprehend for a lot of folks. It’s scary, the media sucks at covering it, and it’s hard to comprehend how it really works.
Take human harm for one example - I’ve posted this chart on my tumblr a few times. It shows that coal and oil are far, far more dangerous to people (let alone the environment) than nuclear, yet no one is protesting their local coal power plant (there’s probably one right near your house). Yet despite the facts, my inbox fills with standard anti-nuke rah rah from my fellow enviros (also, I hate blogging about energy, I prefer what to discuss the topic of my blog - environmental risks from climate).
Anywayyyy, it’s the “viable alternative” part of your question that’s an issue.
What does “viable” really mean? If it means “capable” - as in, is nuclear energy is capable of replacing coal/oil? - then yes of course it’s capable. There’s simply no way to argue that it’s not capable - after all, it’s a math question not a socio-economic one.
But, if we discuss “viable” in terms of reality, like in terms of actually making the switch from fossil to nuke? Then no way, it’s just not viable. There’s not enough support from the public, politicians, or energy companies - even environmentalists hate it (despite the facts it’s less harmful, and despite the impending CO2 doom).
I wrote earlier today that the last time a nuclear power plant was built in the US was way back in 1978. One new plant was permitted in 2012, but it will not come online for at least 20 years. Considering that the US has thousands of operational fossil fuel power plants, with hundreds more being built or proposed, nuclear is just not “viable” in a realistic way. It’s the same for the EU, China, and India.
There is simply no shift towards nuclear energy anywhere in the world. And literally thousands of coal and natural gas power plants are being built or will be built in the coming decades.
So, yes, it’s mathematically brilliant, but in reality it’s not viable because societies aren’t interested in figuring it out.
Please no more energy questions!
Anonymous asked: Hi, after reading your response to the previous post about thorium reactors, and your link to the UK rejection, I think you will find it says that "world-wide there remains interest in thorium fuel cycles and this is not likely to diminish in the near future." Surely this suggests not currently. As a physicist I find it hard to understand how an educated person, such as yourself, can dismiss nuclear so easily, yet it is the most viable and efficient future energy source...
There are 194 countries in the world. Other than the occasional, novel research project, zero countries are building thorium reactors as part of their energy mix.
You’re also wrong about the UK. The Brits have dismissed thorium as an option.
It is incumbent upon you to convince policy makers of the so-called benefits of thorium rather than, as I wrote earlier, harass bloggers and hang out in the comment sections of news sites…
sosungalittleclodofclay asked: What are your thoughts on Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors?
Hey sosungalittleclodofclay! There’s a lot of talk about thorium becoming a better, safer alternative fuel source to uranium in nuclear power plants. I don’t see it. The energy sector generally is not taking it seriously (indeed, the UK has dismissed thorium when the gvt analyzed their energy options last year). Thorium is written off as infeasible with no ultimate benefits. True, there are one or three boutique research projects. In reality, it is more than difficult to build a nuclear power plant. The last time a nuclear power plant was licensed in the US was in 1978 (one proposal was approved recently, but won’t be online for nearly 20 years). Worse, natural gas from Obama’s fracking boom has shut down dozens of new bids for nuclear power plants, never mind thorium. There are zero plans for (serious) thorium power plants anywhere in the developed world. To me, talk of thorium is gibberish and fantasy. I’ve watched a few prezos and talks on thorium. Thus far, thorium researchers haven’t convinced anyone in the energy sector, and supporters of the technology seem to propagate in the comment sections of energy news articles. So, it’s just a fringe issue. m
journalwoman asked: Are you drinking tea or coffee in your profile pic?
Coffee in Seattle. :)
fuq-auffe asked: Do you actually read the articles you share? Or just share them because they fit your blog's category? Discussion with you about a topic you cover almost always ends in "reread the article" or "I didn't see that in the article". You have little to no personal input on anything you share, and so bares my question.
Hey fuq-auffe! Yep, I read every article. I also cross reference sources and check researchers’ backgrounds on the majority of the more complicated stories. You’re right about my terse replies. Two things about this, first the answer really is in the article/link (often times the answer is right in my post!). I recently posted about a free climate change class. The post literally had “free…class” in the title and got several questions asking if the class is free. Blows my mind. Second, holy cow I am busy! I have contracts around the world, and juggle so many projects that I cannot fully interact. m
Calling All Tumblrs - Great Opportunity for Photographers!
Wilderness50, in partnership with Nature’s Best Photography and the Smithsonian Institution, recently announced the opening of this summer’s “Wilderness Forever” public photography contest. Winning images will be part of a 2014 exhibition in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. that will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.
Contest guidelines and entry instructions are available online at naturesbestphotography.com/guidelines.
The BLM is proud to manage many of the nation’s wilderness areas and to participate in the Wilderness50 group. Check out the Wilderness50 website for more information: http://www.wilderness50th.org/.
This is great.
Climate change leaves the animals at risk of drought, disease and death as the heat causes freshwater supplies to dwindle, infectious diseases to spread faster and brings with it one of the biggest killers of elephants in Myanmar - heat stroke.
The study found that elephants thrive at an optimum temperature of 23°C (74°F), and deviations from this leave them more vulnerable. The Myanmar region is predicted to experience a rise of 0.1 to 3°C, over the next 30 to 40 years – a seemingly small change, but one that could wipe out the entire elephant population.
‘We think of elephants as very resilient animals, very robust, but then we see at the same time there is a very narrow range at which they are at their optimal survival. If the climate changes by even a few degrees it can substantially reduce survival,’ says Hannah Mumby from the University of Sheffield.
The discovery that calves are particularly threatened by rising temperatures is important, since these offspring are integral for the survival of the species. Elephants, like humans, reproduce later in life and if the calves die before they can mate then the species will be unable to survive.
The variations in temperature between seasons in Myanmar are already large, but the climate projections show that not only will temperatures rise but there will be fewer monsoon months. The higher the rainfall, the better the chance of survival is for the elephants; dryer hotter months could prove to be fatal.
More elephant slaughters. We’re up to 30,000 kills every year now. Assault rifles are the kill tool of choice. Ivory collectors in Japan and China are major drivers of this poaching trend.
Durban - Gunmen allied to the Seleka rebel group, who killed 13 South African soldiers six weeks ago in the Central African Republic (CAR), have started to massacre forest elephants in a World Heritage Site.
Rod Cassidy, a South African tour operator who fled the CAR by boat the day after the military coup, said he had received information that a group of at least 17 heavily armed men entered the Dzanga-Sangha national park this week. Gunfire was heard on Tuesday night.
The gunmen appeared to be targeting forest elephants at Dzanga-Bai, a world-famous forest clearing and salt-lick where elephants gather every night.
A former Durban man, Cassidy set up a tourism lodge in the elephant sanctuary four years ago. He fled from the park with his wife and son on March 24, shortly after the Seleka rebel group entered Bangui, the capital of the republic.
“Gunshots were heard throughout the night. The situation is very worrying for the future of our heritage,” a senior park official pleaded in an e-mail.
“The government is aware of the massacres. Please put pressure on the NGOs and other partners to save the situation.”
Dzanga-Sangha national park, in the south-western corner of the country bordering Cameroon and the Republic of Congo, was declared part of a three-nation World Heritage Site last year.
Officials at the World Heritage Centre in Paris could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night. Late last week, however, Unesco director-general Irina Bokova voiced “deep concern” about the looming threat to the park’s population of forest elephants, gorillas and bongo antelope.
Noting that almost 30,000 elephants were being shot for ivory every year across Africa, Bokova said her organisation was alarmed by the surge in elephant poaching in central Africa and she noted that there had been a series of attacks by armed men in the vicinity of Dzanga-Sangha in recent weeks.
The park has more than 3 000 forest elephants, whose “pink” ivory is prized in Japan.
A zoom in of Marcos Island, Florida, an upscale community on the Gulf Coast side of the state. The city is was built on marshy barrier islands and is susceptible to beach erosion and sea level rise. It’s surrounded by protected conservation land, marine protected coast land, and was, until today, restricted from rapid development and expansion. The Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, is set to reverse the trend by signing a slate of bills that would allow aggressive development in this and other protected areas around the Everglades. Over 20 environmental regulations and decades of environmental and land conservation battles are about to be destroyed at the stroke of a pen. But, if you’re a real estate developer, it sure is a pretty place to bulldoze…
Do this if you are young. Travel. Take calculated risks. And document it for your future family. I think I’m too old now to ride a motorcycle from the US to Argentina, though I dreamed about it for many years. It is a minor regret…
From the rider:
Alaska to Argentina in 500 Days, the sights and roads of a motorcycle journey, a one man video documentary of the craziest, most beautiful and intense roads the Western World has to offer.
From Michael Marten’s series, Sea Change, which explores rising sea levels from regular tides and also climate change. His statement:
‘Sea Change’ is a study of the tides round the coast of Britain. The views in each diptych are taken from identical positions at low tide and high tide, usually 6 or 18 hours apart.
I am interested in showing how landscape changes over time through natural processes and cycles. The camera that observes low and high tide side by side enables us to observe simultaneously two moments in time, two states of nature.
Recent landscape photography often focuses on human shaping (and reshaping) of the environment - urbanisation, globalisation, pollution. Even when critical and committed, this approach can emphasise, even glamorise, humankind’s power over nature. I’m interested in rediscovering nature’s own powers: the elemental forces and processes that underlie and shape the planet.
The tides are one of these great natural cycles. I hope these photographs will stimulate people’s awareness of natural change, of landscape as dynamic process rather than static image. Attending to earth’s rhythms can help us to reconnect with the fundamentals of our planet, which we ignore at our peril.
‘Sea Change’ also comments on climate change. The tide floods in and quickly recedes again, but rising sea levels will flood our shores and not recede for thousands or millions of years. Many of the views in these pictures may have disappeared in 100 years’ time.
— Michael Marten
If you are wandering around Greenland’s ice sheet and you run into this crazy thing, it is NASA’s GROVER (
government acronym for somethingGoddard Remotely Operated Vehicle for Exploration and Research). It is solar powered and it crawls around Greenland on its own and uses ground-penetrating radar to look at ice. And it’s cool.
NASA robot explores ice in Greenland. Video. Will explore for months at a time via remote. Possibly prototype to explore other planets.