The Commission’s first report looks just like every report that ever comes out of the Ministry for the Environment.
It is firmly aligned with the loudest climate change activists. It never deviates from the ‘party line’ that 12.25°C was the perfect global average temperature and that changes in climate are all terrifying. It knows we can control future weather if only we are prepared to make sacrifices now.
Above all, the report assumes that there will be no significant changes in energy-related technologies during our lifetimes. If they are wrong about that, then they are wrong about everything.
This same party line is also pushed by wealthy campaigners who dominate the news – telling us daily that global warming is an existential threat to humanity, the nemesis of our planet, and the greatest moral challenge of our times. Their stated fears are laid on with a trowel, and the hyperbole is so transparent as to be patronising.
Yet we know that they don’t mean a word of it – Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio, John Kerry, Michael Bloomberg, James Cameron, Bill Gates and many others own private jets, multiple mansions, diesel yachts and seaside homes. They are acting. The ‘caring’ overkill is merely building their celebrity profile to meet some expensive PR plan. And the click-bait media has bought into this cynicism.
All these fears/tears could be eliminated at a stroke by an international agreement to move to carbon-free nuclear energy. Sure, there would be risks, but they can be readily quantified. There are costs, but they are affordable. We could readily convert a scary, undefinable, unlimited threat into a well-worn and manageable set of minor issues.
Leading climate scientists (including James Hansen, ‘the father of global warming’) have long advised that nuclear power is the only viable route to global net zero emissions
“A build rate of 61 new reactors [Gen III] per year could entirely replace current fossil fuel electricity generation by 2050. Accounting for increased global electricity demand driven by population growth and development in poorer countries, which would add another 54 reactors per year, this makes a total requirement of 115 reactors per year to 2050 to entirely decarbonise the global electricity system in this illustrative scenario. We know that this is technically achievable because France and Sweden were able to ramp up nuclear power to high levels in just 15-20 years.”
Our leaders shun this easy overnight solution. Ordinary people can learn something important from this: our celebrities/leaders must believe that the terrible threat posed by unbounded global warming is not actually too bad at all. It is not even as bad as having to rely upon nuclear energy.
Modern nuclear power is not much of a threat at all. Consensus or not, it will almost certainly replace coal and gas as the primary source of the world’s electricity in future.
Has the climate scare peaked?
With my submission on the 2019 Zero Carbon Bill, I presented a paper showing that the climate scare could be gone by 2030 ! This prediction was based on China’s current programme of Generation III nuclear reactors and the cooperation of G20 countries in the Generation IV Forum.
The IEA prediction that global nuclear energy production will only double in the next 30 years, takes little account of technology advances. China has halved the cost of Gen III over the past decade and its new plants are already competitive with gas, when protected by a $20 carbon tax.
After endless years of stultifying paperwork, the start-up NuScale has finally received formal safety approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build its first Gen IV small modular reactor (SMR). It has a $4 billion fund form the Department of Energy to help it reach commercial production within the next decade.
TerraPower, launched by Bill Gates way back in 2006, now anticipates commercial production during this decade and hopes to sell its outputs for as little as $3/mwh. Other SMR demonstration plants are currently being built or planned in Canada, Russia, China, Argentina and Poland.
Meantime, the UK hopes to produce isotope batteries powered by nuclear waste at a price of $7-17/mwh.
These and other newly-engineered power sources will become ubiquitous in the 2030s. Their widespread adoption will be market-driven and require no intervention on the part of governments. The carbon-intensity of power systems will drop so precipitously that net-zero emissions targets will become an easy ask.
A least-cost solution
Many politicians in developed countries lack the stomach for lengthy guerrilla warfare with anti-nuclear activists. Regulatory approvals might be spun out for a decade or more and the whole issue might become as much of a “third rail” as climate change itself.
The answer is to build the power stations in someone else’s back yard.
The simplest, cheapest and surest way of achieving a global net zero increase in the second half of this century (as the Paris Agreement asks) is to ensure that all the energy needs of China and India are met largely by new nuclear plants.
By 2030, China is expected to have increased its 2010 emission levels by 50-100%, while the IEA predicts that emissions in India will treble. India will be the largest contributor to global emissions over the next 20 years. These two countries alone will comprise two-thirds of the global total within a decade.
It makes no sense at all for New Zealand policymakers to be obsessing over its parochial 0.16% of the global problem, when they could instead be working to solve the 67% produced by our two Asian neighbours.
China and India are going nuclear anyhow, but they currently find it economic to supplement that effort with large numbers of new coal and gas plants. The rest of the world needs to help change that economic mix so that the interests of the two home countries are best served by tripling or quadrupling their nuclear programmes. This means money and resources. It might even mean a global ‘manhattan project’ approach – but that would be much more productive than global climate change conventions.
This is not to say that all the world’s nuclear capacity will be built in just two countries. Once the precedents are settled, and the resources multiplied, the scheme will extend to Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria, Pakistan and other developing countries. Both scale and innovation will produce major cost reductions over time.
At the same time, rapid advances with SMRs and other Gen IV plants will make nuclear power acceptable to the NIMBY west. By about 2060, fossil fuel plants could be nearly extinct throughout the world (although there still may be a role for gas-fired peakers).
The choice of 2050 as a target year is arbitrary. But if the elimination of fossil-fuelled energy is seen as too slow, it could be augmented by a programme of tree-planting in all the non-arable areas of China and India – both huge geographical areas. This project would take advantage of low-cost labour, including those who have lost their jobs in coal mines and the like. The developed countries can help with genetically-improved seedlings, silviculture technology transfer and training, etc.
This would be much more cost-effective than growing trees on New Zealand farmland.
Millions of doorstop reports on climate change are produced by bureaucrats and academics around the world on a daily basis. Why do they all say essentially the same things? Why the same hackneyed ideas and overused phrases? Where is the innovation?
“Why on all matters climate do so many otherwise sensible, appropriately skeptical, and numerate people – people who understand the necessity of trade-offs, the reality of unintended consequences, and the limitations of governments – lose their judgment and join the hysterical masses who treat global warming as the existential threat that it most certainly is not? I can’t stop wondering why.”
 It is not prudent to propose emissions budgets that could only be met if new technologies were developed and deployed”. (p54)
 Over 120 private jets fly into Davos to condemn CO2 emissions. 25,000 fly to each COP which could have been held by Zoom
 Nuclear has long been the No 1 source of energy for France, and No 2 source for USA. Neither country has had a single death.
 Within China: 11 being built, with 51 planned. But 72 new stations are under construction throughout the world, mainly in Asia.
 Gen IV plants do not rely upon water cooling, and avoid the massive safety costs associated with traditional plants. Some use molten salt and thorium, while others fast-breed uranium. Some aim to bring nuclear submarine technology ashore. They are highly diverse.
 David Boudreau (amended
Barry Brill, OBE, JP, LL.M(Hons), M.ComLaw, OPM(Harv) is the Chairman of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition. Barry was formerly a Minister of Science & Technology, and has been Chairman of the NZ Gas Council, Waitemata Electricity, NZ Manufacturers Federation, Business New Zealand, and the Electricity Supply Association.