Purpose and target audience of BraveNewClimate.com

Before I write a scientific paper, I always try to identify: (1) my main message [MM], in 25 words or less, and (2) my target audience [TA]. Doing this helps focus the ‘story’ of the manuscript on a key point. Papers that try to present multiple messages are typically confusing and/or too long for busy researchers to read. It also dictates the background and specialist terminology that the reader might be safely assumed to understand, as well as guiding the choice of journal that I will submit to. For instance, a paper written for Nature requires more general context setting than one sent to Wildlife Research.

However, it occurred to me that I’ve never tried to define the main message of the BraveNewClimate.com blog, nor really reflected on who the chief audience is. So let’s try.

In reality, both have evolved over time. Back in late 2008 – early 2009, when the blog (and my thinking on climate change policy) was in its infancy, it would have read something this:

2009 MM: Communicate the scientific evidence for anthropogenic global warming to the general public and policy makers, and advocate the need for, and urgency of, effective mitigation.

2009 TA: People seeking understanding of past climate change, current/future impacts, and the basis of modelled forecasts – all explained in relatively straightforward terms. A secondary target audience was those who were confused by, or enamored of, the repeated assertions of ‘the sceptics’.

Although I was proud to have developed the website on this scientific and philosophical foundation, neither of the above MM or TA are appropriate to BNC’s central purpose in 2012. So let’s try again.

2012 MM: To advocate an evidence-based approach to eliminating global fossil fuel emissions, based on a pragmatic and rational mix of nuclear and other low-carbon energy sources.

2012 TA: Environmentalists who disregard or oppose nuclear energy, and instead believe that renewables are sufficient (or that continuing to rely on fossil fuels is a rational energy policy).

The main message changed because I became progressively more interested in educating people on practical solutions to the problems of global change, rather than preaching doom-and-gloom. This shift in purpose was not because I don’t still consider the impacts of climate change to be incredibly serious and the evidence (ever increasingly) compelling — I do! It’s rather that I found the generic message of: “This is really bad, we must do something!” to be ineffectual, unappealing, and frankly, depressing. Besides, there are other sites that do this very well, so I now tend to leave it in their capable hands.

Instead, I became interested (okay, obsessed is a better word) with grasping and communicating the high-level issues associated with which low-carbon energy solutions will work most effectively at displacing fossil fuels and thus ‘solving’ climate change, at scale, in time, and within reasonable costs.

The new target audience is more specific than previously – this is quite deliberate. The rationale goes something like this, using admittedly broad and weakly quantified generalisations:

A) Roughly 50 % of the public (at least in OECD countries) are somewhere between reasonably and very seriously concerned with climate change, and want action to be taken to phase out fossil fuels. Within this fraction, 10 % have looked pragmatically enough at the problem of future energy supply to support a rational mix of nuclear and ‘renewable’ sources. Another 30 % are somewhere between mildly to fairly strongly opposed to nuclear fission, and hope (or earnestly believe) that a completely renewable-energy-powered society is feasible. The final 10 % of this segment of the populace are implacably anti-nuclear (for various reasons) and this opposition matters to them far more than climate change.

B) The other 50 % of the population range somewhere between indifferent to strongly sceptical of the anthropogenic climate change problem, and are most concerned with energy security and cost. Most, perhaps 40 %, accept the premise that nuclear energy can deliver an alternative to fossil fuels, although many within this group don’t believe that nuclear can or will displace fossil fuels any time soon. Perhaps 5 % refuse to ‘believe’ in climate change but still like the idea of renewable energy as the eventual successor to fossil fuels, and the other 5 % strongly favour nuclear energy for non-climate reasons.

C) Policy makers (politicians) are of secondary importance, because they will follow public sentiment rather than drive it, especially when urgency is not perceived to be high (c.f., war time).

I aim, via BNC, to provide the evidence and supporting arguments to persuade the 30 % of Group A that nuclear power cannot be spurned if they want real and effective action on climate change, and to reinforce the positive arguments for nuclear (and a sensible balance of renewables) within the 40 % of Group B who could: (i) move from weak to strong support for nuclear, and (ii) might be convinced that taking real action on climate change need not imply ill-conceived or uneconomic energy policies.

I have skipped over a lot of the nuances behind my position, but that’s at least the broad-brush motivations.

Feedback is welcome: e.g., Who do you refer on to BNC? How and why did you find BNC? What is your MM when you talk to people about climate and energy? Who is your TA?

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Footnote: Two important and related BNC posts: A Necessary Interlude and Thinking Critically About Sustainable Energy

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45 Comments

  1. I found BNC while seeking well reasoned information about climate change and energy options. I found this one and have been reading for about 3 years now.

    Thank you, I have been enjoying.

    I am also constantly telling about this blog to friends and colleagues who seem to be confused with facts about nuclear energy.

    — Your reader from Finland

  2. It sounds like an excellent policy adjustment that should encourage more people to participate here. This camel still follows this fine blog for its educational value even though I seldom comment.

  3. I find that Brave New Climate is a great place to observe, and engage in, discussion, much of it thoughtful, and I am glad the mission has changed. I myself switched from “anti” to “pro” nuclear after deciding that I needed to at least give the technology another look in light of environmental imperatives and evolution in nuclear designs, and re-studying the issue intensively for a couple of years in the early 00’s.

    Those of us who have settled on more or less the same perspective as Barry have, I believe, an obligation to go out and engage the unthinking anti-nuclear stance asserted so often elsewhere. This can be truly tiresome work. You will find yourself discussing and providing backup, using data and logic and referencing aspects of the general scientific consensus on both climate and nuclear issues. After addressing (hopefully, with great civility) objections number 1 through 25, someone will almost invariably claim that you missed objection number 1.

    Also, people will say unkind things about you on the internet.

    As climate and energy issues have been reviewed and discussed on this site, the site has evolved, with its archives, into an enormously valuable resource for assisting those kinds of efforts. I encourage everyone who shares Barry’s general perspective to use it as such, and go out and engage what I view as an illogical, unscientific and shortsighted, but enormously stubborn, opposition.

    I grant you that it can be demoralizing work, and you may not think, while doing it, that it has any impact. But it does. You will, it is true, not convince anyone who is entirely emotionally committed to an anti-nuclear position. They need no evidence, as their righteousness is, to them, self-evident. Contrary information only makes them more sure they are right. Some of the emotionally-rootes responses that involve simply “shutting down” contrary information may actually be a characteristic of human psychology.

    However, there are others observing those dialogues, and those others can occasionally be convinced to think for themselves and to place value on a more evidence-based perspective and approach. I also believe that discussions that we do not see are going on within environmental organizations, which are often led by people smart enough to have to admit, if only to themselves, that their professed “prescription” for the problems facing this planet is, when weighed against the array of obstacles, certain to be entirely inadequate. While it is clearly difficult for an institution to change its position, we may be getting closer to bringing that about.

    The change of perspective that has happened with individuals can eventually happen with organizations. When organizational barriers start to fall, progress on energy and climate will hopefully become much easier.

  4. I’ve read this blog for a few months now and have only just begun to participate in the discussions. We started putting together a resource providing tips and discussions on leading a greener lifestyle and often refer to this site for the science and expert opinions to back up our statements with fact.

    Appreciate the work that you do.

  5. Barry,
    Interesting that you leave out “Australia” as your target audience. Seems that most of the discussion and commenters are looking at these issues from “Australia’s” point of view.

    Keep up the good fight.

  6. I’ll be honest. I’m not totally convinced about AGW. However, I see that fossil fuels have many disadvantages and I think nuclear is the answer to most of them. One of the advantages of nuclear is energy independence and security.
    I often refer people to BNC, and I hope you will continue with it for as long as it takes.

  7. Barry,

    In answer to your specific questions (in reverse order),

    My Target Audience:

    1. My main target audience is intelligent, interested, non specialists seeking objective information on the practicality, costs and realistic timescales for cutting CO2 emissions, the policy options and the consequences of implementing them – for both Australia and the world.

    2. My target audience is a) those who think climate change is a catastrophic issue, b) those who think it is not a catastrophic issue but agree we need to cut GHG emissions for various reasons, and c) those who recognise we will need an alternative to fossil fuels for various reasons, no matter how serious is the ‘man-made climate change’ issue.

    3. More specifically, my main target audience tends to be those who believe man-made climate change is a serious to catastrophic issue but who tend to advocate policies for reducing GHG emission that are uneconomic, impracticable, economically irrational and can never be implemented in practice because voters will not support them. Voters are simply not gong to support policies, over the long term, that would cause the people in their country to take a hit and suffer relative to other countries. Except for a few wealthy people in the wealthy countries, people will not support polices that will reduce GDP growth rate, reduce productivity and make the country poorer. So, much of my message is to directed at trying to persuade these people to accept that policies must be economically rational if they are to be implemented.
    Main Message:

    We need to focus on proposing policies that have a realistic chance of being adopted and surviving. They need to be acceptable to the majority.

    Policies must be economically rational or they will not succeed over the long term.

    How and why did you find BNC?

    I wrote the article “Cost and Quantity of Greenhouse Gase Emissions Avoided by Wind Generation” for another site. It got a lot of publicity. Barry offered to post it on BNC. He checked carefully whether I knew what I was talking about, then posted the article. The rest is history.
    MODERATOR
    Your comment has been edited to excise those parts of it which are not relevant due to the Comments Policy already addressing your points – including political positions.

  8. I primarily refer people to BNC when I am making a point that requires referencing or backup. Probably the single most referenced-by-me post on this site is TCASE4, on energy system build rates for wind, solar and nuclear, which concisely and powerfully makes the point of just how resource intensive renewable energy is compared to nuclear energy.

    I just gave an hour-long talk this morning on the IFR to an audience of ~25 work colleagues, mainly physicists and engineers, very smart but no particular background in nuclear power or power transmission engineering. The talk was mainly on an introduction to the IFR, how it worked, differences to LWRs and why it is a significant development. BNC provided a lot of the content – a lot of graphics, and my own education. Much of it also drew on “Plentiful Energy”, and DecarboniseSA provided some stunning graphics. It went over pretty well, I think, a lot of questions and good feedback. No one threw a pitchfork at me. So there’s about 25 very smart people who have been pointed this way for further reading.

  9. It is always a good idea to re-group and focus on the basic rationale for any project. I feel it is imperative that BNC is, as Barry states, apolitical and am happy that a new addition to the Comments Policy expressly states that framing comments around political biases is not acceptable. We do not want to alienate any group because of a perceived political slant.
    My TA tends to be green environmentalists who are anti-nuclear because they have been misled and most other people who are not politically partisan and are uninformed about AGW and nuclear power. These are the people I refer to BNC for accurate information.

  10. Some twenty years ago I purchased a book entitled Leaving Eden: To protect and manage the Earth, by E.G. Nisbet of the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. The book was pro-nuclear from an environmental perspective.

    James Lovelock wrote a blurb for it, which began: “‘When all else fails, read the manual.'” BNC keeps this Earth manual updated.

  11. I just sent Dr. Brook a warning on nuclear energy as being a major GW cause because trapped energy in atoms gets released into the biosphere and stays trapped as heat energy Heat energy is the motion of molecules, and the Law of Gravity prevents molecules from escaping the biosphere. So they move faster causing warming. In my e-mail to Dr. Brook I pointed out that our massive ever-growing messes of organic wastes are going to be overwhelming our children’s futures. They are a RESOURCE, an already harvested forever biofuel supply system that we are presently mishandling at great costs to cause major environmental messes with escapes of toxics, drugs and germs while the wastes get biodegraded to reemit needlessly CO2 trapped by nature in plants. I hope Dr. Brook will post his thoughts on making organic wastes into a RESOURCE so that humankind won’t be overwhelmed by them.
    Dr. J. Singmaster, Environmental Chemist, Ret. Fremont, CA, USA

  12. I was in that 30% of group A, with objections to nuclear based on waste management and cost.

    I was at a Water Industry regional conference that Barry spoke at very briefly – there were about four speakers who each had very few minutes to convince the audience of their solution to the impending energy and climate crisis.

    Barry’s allocated time was used very persuasively, and convinced me that the technology exists to manage waste in a reasonable timeframe (and perhaps even to add value to it).

    My TA is close friends and acquaintances who trust me and perhaps defer to my expertise in most technical matters.

    My MM is that the fear of nuclear power is many times more dangerous than nuclear power itself. We should not allow this fear to stop us from debating the issues publicly in Australia.

  13. My MM is that a moderate, pro-growth carbon tax, starting at $10tCO2, can be enacted in most countries, to the benefit of all low-carbon technologies. (The carbon tax is pro-growth if most of the revenue is used to lower more burdensome levies, such as business income taxes. The poor and middle class receive direct refunds.) This message can be pitched to all groups.

  14. I’m here to learn more about what it takes to have reliable, on demand, low [buried] carbon electricity. I greatly appreciate the rational engineering approach to be found here.

    I also appreciate the helpful moderation services.

    I’m not sure I have an MM yet but my TA is certainly those interested in planning for a future which utilizes almost no buried carbon in any form.

  15. Peter Lang, on 8 March 2012 at 9:54 AM said:

    “We need to focus on proposing policies that have a realistic chance of being adopted and surviving.”

    The CEO of NRG in the US today (just go to wsj.com) basically said that Nuclear was too expensive and that is why they shut down the 2 nukes they had already started. He is calling for NG and solar PV.

    I have solar panels on my roof and they were around 800$ per 210 W per panel . Very expensive but w/ the rebates it was realistic (LCOE .07 cents/kwh after rebates)

    I know I know I don’t want a lecture about the subsidies but I decided to go look and look what you can buy now for low cost solar PV and it was about 1$/watt. granted a cheap ass Chinese panel but still …quite an improvement.

    The bottom line is GETTING COSTS DOWN on Nuclear PP’s.

    Just like PL has been saying.

  16. I’d like to echo John Morgan’s comment above – TCASE 4 is probably equal to the death’s per TWH by energy source article, over at Next Big Future, as the article I refer people to more than any other. Together they really put into perspective the environmental and health impacts of nuclear power relative to other energy sources.

    BNC is also superior to most websites which espouse nuclear energy, in that it gives plenty of information on next generation reactors. It’s a great source for information on IFRs in particular.

    It’s also (mostly) really good for the lay-person, which I think is important.

  17. The world is divided into two camps. Those who are doing ok and those who are not. The first camp isn’t going to do shit for your cause.
    The second camp is divided into two camps – those who think they can (re-)join the first camp and those who don’t. The first camp isn’t going to do shit for you.
    Without going further I think you are left with less than a plurality who are going to help at all.
    I understand this is Lovelock’s belief as well, and my concordant belief grows all the time.
    Of course you should keep up the good fight as long as you can.

  18. Barry,

    I was interested in your exposition and congratulate you for making BNC into such a valuable resource. I would, however, like to explain why I have some misgivings over your selected TA which omits “policy makers (politicians)” due to the fact that they are “followers of public sentiment when urgency is not perceived to be high”.

    I can understand why, as an Australian,you may hold this opinion. You live in a country that is energy resource rich, which has largely escaped the global financial crash and which has a population density that is low by European standards. As a UK citizen, I believe that a ” sense of urgency” is needed in spades for energy security and economic reasons. I accept that the same expedition for the solution to climate change is equally needed, but agree with you that it is generally not perceived to be by the public at large. I am therefore not convinced that a campaign designed to alter public opinion such that politicians become secondarily willing to act will be effective in time to avert catastrophe of some sort. I do, however, accept that persuasion of your target audience is desirable and that a blog is not necessarily the optimum medium to use for direct exertion of influence on politicians.

    Could you explain how it was that the French rapidly went 80% nuclear electric? This is not a rhetorical question – I genuinely don’t know the background thinking to their decision. I doubt, however, that it had much to do with public pressure except insofar as it related to dislike of expensive energy. I also suspect that such action by the French Government would not have been possible in the present context of the current liberalised energy market, particularly in the EU with its commitment to high renewable penetration and subsidies.

    I am also a little concerned about putting renewables on a par with nuclear. I can see that this may be a successful strategy to appeal to your Group A target audience, but it could be counter-productive to group B. It seems that it is equally plausible to argue that renewables are obstacles to a clean energy transition – an expensive blind alley that allows politicians to be seen to be doing something about climate change albeit in a totally counter-productive manner. I suspect that Peter Lang, for example, would hold the latter view and it is one with which I concur.

    I think it entirely possible that democratic governments will be unable to survive a prolonged period of falling discretionary incomes, something that is bound to occur should energy availabilty be constrained or its price greatly increased. I also cannot understand how it will be possible to transition to clean nuclear energy in a liberalised energy market without very strong government direction and guarantees -perversely something provided for renewables, but not nuclear.

    In summary, I think that the politicians and their expert advisors are the most appropriate target audience.

  19. I discovered BNC by a link given by another blogger. I do not spam people with links, but I find BNC is a very useful resource of data on the subject of replacing fossil fuels by something else. I already knew a french speaking website along this line since the beginning of the 2000s ( manicore.com ).

    When I speak about energy, my point is that hydro & nuclear power are the best way to produce electricity, and that I am concerned that there is no alternative to fossil fuels that can scale up when it comes to transportation & heating.
    I did not take to define a target audience, which is a shame.
    (All this must put me in part A of the OECD public opinion, section nuclear fans).

    Like Douglas Wise, I think that any advocate of any cause, least of all climate change mitigation, should not disregard politicians. Time is of the essence now, and it will take time after public opinion has changed (if it ever does) for the politicians to notice. But I think a blog (or any website) can only be a showcase if one ever wants to engage policy makers. It is also very hard to engage politicians or grass roots party members. In France, the guy running manicore.com (so he is engaged in the matter since >10 years) he has always seen the same people and that the state of the debate is the same, with a lot of people with very little expertise speaking very loud. (I concur that the debate in France on these subjects is in a sorry state, for these very same reasons).

    To answer Douglas Wise, indeed, the french nuclear splurge was the result of experts’ and engineers’ proposal endorsed by politicians. The main driver of the decision was energy safety, and that the cost of nuclear power was low enough. A few details:
    * France has very few domestic (conventional) oil & gas sources
    * France had nearly exhausted most of its coal by the end of the 60s. The decline was visible for all to see. Today the only source of coal in France are spoil tips.
    * To make matters worse, the oil shock of 1974 demonstrated that security of supply was no small concern. To this date, France still has a stockpile of imported uranium to cover a few years of electricity production.
    * there was experience in nuclear with graphite/gas techno and enrichment techniques (for the nuclear bomb)
    * the fact that EDF was state owned gave access to cheap debt, which helped a lot, but in the end, EDF required little capital infusions and repaid the debt in the 90s.
    * To be able to reproduce this feat, stability in regulations and bipartisan commitment are necessary. The problem of EU policy is more the feed-in tariffs given to the intermittent renewables. that make them a safe investment, and most new capacity nowadays are those renewables (surprise!)

    To this date the choice of nuclear power has been vindicated, because France has the cheapest electricity of all western Europe, and competitive even when oil was cheap like in the end of the 90s.

  20. Proteos, thank you for the insight on French nuclear energy generation, it was very informative.

    I found BNC by accident several years ago and was immediately impressed by the high level of evidence based debate and the wealth of data and information.
    I have always supported nuclear power since I went to a State Energy Commission seminar in the early 1970s where the engineers told us that nuclear power is the only viable alternative to fossil fuels. Must have held the same views as the French engineers.
    While concerned about climate change most of my life, it was always going to be a problem for future generations until the birth of my grandchildren 5 years ago and I realised that this will impact greatly on them later this cenetury.

    My MM is global warming and depletion of fossil fuels are the real issues for the 21st century and that the solution to both is nuclear energy.
    My TA audience are letters to the papers (very few get published), letters to the engineer australia magazine and letters to politicians (I think this is the most effective). I worked for Main Roads most of my working life and know just how effective written letters to ministers can be, particularly if they are regular and represent a cross section of the community.

  21. Barry, when you talk about “nuclear” is this uranium or thorium fuelled or both? Is it true that thorium is safer and more plentiful than uranium? I read somewhere that if the Fukushima reactors had been thorium-fuelled they would have shut down safely and the failure of the cooling water supply would not have been a problem?

  22. Sometimes I delude myself into thinking that I’m talking to young people, urging them to take charge of the rescue of the climate — their climate. All too often I find am just shouting negatives at the deaf. Perhaps it isn’t a time for logical persuasion, but a time for a drum-beat by poets and revolutionaries. Bob Dylan sang out a rally for my generation. I cock an ear for the oncoming wave, but may well be the one of the last to hear it.

  23. Policy makers (politicians) are of secondary importance, because they will follow public sentiment rather than drive it

    At least in the US, politicians have ‘surrogates’ that float ideas and then they watch before taking a position. They generally don’t want to be associated with any policy that the public will reject outright.

  24. Barry, your target audience rationale is intriguing. If I have understood it correctly and summarise it somewhat, it looks like this:

    Group A (half the total) – accept climate change but 40% are mildly to strongly anti-nuclear

    Group B (the other half) – are indifferent to strongly sceptical about climate change but only 5% are anti-nuclear.

    What is it about climate change supporters that make them 8 times more likely to be anti-nuclear? Could it be that those inclined to be environmentalist see more danger in nuclear power than those that are less inclined?

    If this is so, what is the nature of the danger that seems to worry those that are concerned about the environment significantly more than it worries those that are less concerned?

    If the danger was imminent local community safety then you would expect both Group A and B would be equally concerned. But if the danger is the long term impact on the earth, then you might expect the numbers you are proposing. Greater clarity here might help hone the main message.

  25. Martin Nicholson notes “What is it about climate change supporters that make them 8 times more likely to be anti-nuclear?”

    Perhaps it is that this subgroup includes all those people who are anti-change, regardless of what the change actually is. Such people don’t have to understand what “climate change” is, to know that they are against it. And as far as this newfangled nuclear stuff is concerned, well, that’s got to be trouble.

    By the same token, such an audience would like to be reassured that the sky can be cleared of smoke, childhood bronchitis will vanish, old-age emphysema will be a thing of the past, fields will remain green, cows will give good milk and the climate will continue to be as kind as it was in the good old days.

    They are not actually against power stations, they are just against power stations that they can see in the media. All the more reason to be designing power stations without chimneys or cooling towers. Just some boring redbrick buildings with a token windmill out the front. … and lots of pipes and powerlines out the back.

  26. Martin, the answer is buried in your question as attitude toward risk. The threat of climate change is enormous, but cause is displaced from effect in both time and space. Perception of the threat requires the ability join cause and effect over these gaps which needs (need a better word) imagination.

    Those who are anti nuclear and concerned about climate change tend to be conservative, cautious and risk adverse. They think a lot about how things could go wrong. Thus the over engineering of nuclear plants, the difficulty of establishing storage facilities, etc. to meet these fears. Those who are pro nuclear and unconcerned about climate change are grasshoppers, and are fine as long as nothing hits the fan

    A problem that Eli has with BNC is that it oversells the nuclear solution. We needed to get seriously started twenty years ago on a mix of renewables, nuclear and other non carbon based solutions FOR WHICH THE TECHNOLOGY EXISTED EVEN THEN. Waiting for a miracle is waiting to fail, or, with the Rabett’s more cynical hat, a tactic to preserve the status quo. As the French example shows, start with what you have and improve on it.

    The American and Russian examples are also instructive. The first generation of nuclear plants had major issues with safety, siting and reliability built in by post WWII optimism about atomic energy. Many of these have been since (thankfully) been decomissioned, but the newer plants have great operating records. In essence, although no plants have been built in the US since TMI, improvements have essentially doubled (WAGNER) the amount of energy the existing plants produce as down time has dwindled.

  27. Some changes in conditions could rapidly alter public attitudes to nuclear. With a return to dry weather and the permanent arrival of $2/L petrol the public will want reliable low carbon by yesterday. I also think a change of plans by Germany would have a significant effect on public perceptions.

    So great is the thrall of wind and solar I suspect even new gas fired plant is being built in the middle of nowhere to maintain the illusion.
    http://www.agk.com.au/dalton/ Note the bicycle riding staff.

    Sometimes the public doesn’t want to think too hard about alternative scenarios. Watching the ABC farming show (Landline) the default assumption was for bumper crops and flowing rivers. We prefer to wear rose coloured glasses more often than not.

  28. Douglas, Proteos, Eli, Martin, and others, thanks for your feedback. I’m not in disagreement with most of what you’ve said, but I think it’s a matter of audience-specific emphasis and pragmatic partitioning of time and effort.

    The blog’s target audience is different from the TA of other outreach methods. Politicians are better reached by face-to-face meetings, for instance – they typically don’t have the time or inclination to read a blog. A radio interview will often also reach the notice of pollies and other decision-makers more than a blog.

    The situation of France in the 1970s was driven by decision makers, but those days are, I suspect behind us (although there may be a point, within the next few decades, when they return!). Today, no Western government would now do what the French did back then, any more than the decisions made in war time economies can be made in times of peace. China, India, and the middle east are seeking a massive growth in baseload electricity supply, and so are under very different planning pressures. Meanwhile, in the West, there’s also a socio-political zeitgeist against rational energy planning, something that will be hard to turn around.

    Eli, the relative balance of advocacy for nuclear compared to renewables reflects my guesstimate of how much each is likely to be capable of in displacing fossil fuels, so I’d argue that I’m not overselling or underselling. But I’ve been accused of both, in about equal measure!

  29. Barry Brook,

    I agree with you: a blog is not the right tool to reach out to politicians or even the fence sitting public. Only those already interested in the subject will take the time to read (long) posts.

    I also agree that the matters of nuclear power and the issue of electricity production can not any more be limited to an experts’ discussion. They have entered the public arena for better or worse, they will not exit any time soon. Only in countries like China can it be limited to that.

    The zeitgeist in the West is not only against rational energy planning, it’s also against big industries, or technical innovations they propose. Yet when it comes to the pollution they emit, results are impressive since the 70s. In France, emissions of lead are down 98% in 2009 wrt 1990; emissions of SO2 are down 92% from 1973 (see http://www.citepa.org/emissions/nationale/index_en.htm ). Innovation and technical advances have made this possible. But I keep hearing voices in the media talking like if we were living in the most polluted environment ever. If mitigation actions of climate change like promoting nuclear power or energy storage are to succeed, this technophobia will have to recede. Yet it’s hard to see how!

  30. I stumbled across BNC somewhere in the late 2009 – 2010 timeframe. I had been “lurking” about the internet, reading every nuclear-related site (both pro- and con) that I could find, for several years by that point. As an ex US Navy nuke, I had spent the better part of two decades torn between a fierce pro-nuclear stance, and a bitter frustration at the gross misrepresentation that passed for information available to the public.

    It is perhaps amusing to note that someone quite well versed in the design, operation, and theory behind nuclear power, as well as significant “hands on” experience in this supposedly “esoteric” and “complex” field, could be baffled by something as simple as the basic operation of a computer. Such is my sad lot, and I ain’t laughing… much.

    I confess to a certain amount of despair in the mid ‘90’s to the early 2000’s as to the quality of internet information available on the subject at the time. To say that the pro-nuclear message was dwarfed by the “anti” propaganda is to understate the case at a level that would make even the most innumerate, “ignorant as to the exponential function” anti-nuke blush. Compounding matters was the fact that any pro-nuke forum that invited feedback was inundated with a veritable tsunami of vicious anti-nuke rhetoric and barraged with endlessly repeated misinformation. Of course, this is still the “norm” out there, but to me, BNC (among a growing number of other sites) has been a welcome refuge from that storm and a ray of hope that the tide is changing.

    My “MM” per nuclear has always been from an economic/environmental/humanitarian perspective. Given this audience, there’s no need to expand on those topics… it would take a week.

    As it happens, however, waxing expansive on precisely those topics is something of a passion of mine… perhaps to a fault. My “TA” is whoever I encounter who has the time, patience, and opportunity to have the conversation with. I have no “high power” connections to speak of, so this mostly consists of friends, family, and the occasional hapless acquaintance who can’t find a convenient excuse to “get away”! Happily, I am often surprised at being unexpectedly well received. Another source of reassurance and hope…

    It is an occupational hazard of the compulsive internet pro-nuke to harbor a scarcely repressed sense of rage at the silliness of the opposing contingent. When I find myself getting cynical about the knowledge level in the public on energy generally, and nuclear specifically, I remind myself that my 12 year old daughter has often had to help me navigate the internet. As a “captive” member of my TA, and a sweet, trusting daughter, she understandably considers me as the smartest nuclear expert in the world! The fact that I don’t know a “bookmark” from a “hyperlink” confuses her… after all, to her mind, to master the difficult while remaining ignorant of the obvious simply doesn’t compute. No doubt many here have felt similar pangs of confusion at the persistence of the empty anti-nuke message. There is hope, and BNC is part of it.

    The good news is that while these cyber-folks are relentless and strident, they must not be confused with “real” people. As the various issues/concerns associated with energy have become increasingly glaring, most people will listen to (and at this point, are craving) a reasoned response to the question, “How do we fix this energy mess?”

    You’re doing a great job, Professor Brook. You attract excellent discourse to the subject. Most of all, you have the one trait most important in a high-profile pro-nuclear advocate… persistence! Keep it up!

    Thanks, John Rogers

  31. I have followed BNC for perhaps three years and the intensity has increased with time. I ran into BNC from some random googling about climate change and nuclear energy. I find it remarkable that here at the other side of the planet, we (rather few of us unfortunately) discuss things based on BNC. You have done remarkable public service well beyond Australian borders. This is helped by the fact that you often post articles with clear global connection. (Posts by Geoff Russell on feeding the world come to mind.)
    Thank you!

  32. “2012 MM: To advocate an evidence-based approach to eliminating global fossil fuel emissions, based on a pragmatic and rational mix of nuclear and other low-carbon energy sources.
    2012 TA: Environmentalists who disregard or oppose nuclear energy, and instead believe that renewables are sufficient (or that continuing to rely on fossil fuels is a rational energy policy).”

    Ok I can accept that however my main visits to BNC lately have been to oppose the blatant renewable misinformation that appears here. One recently was especially bad with my objections repeated almost verbatim by the original paper’s authors.

    If as you state the future energy requirements of our society are to be in part supplied by renewables then about some more articles on their benefits? Also how about moderating some of the more extreme anti-renewable posters and their misinformation campaigns?

    Additionally I do not agree that facing the facts that there exists the possibility that no combination of renewables or nuclear will fix our society is a gloom and doom position. If this is the case then considering the implications of the worst aspects of climate change could also be considered gloom and doom however this does not stop people modelling and exploring this scenario. Peer reviewed science shows that there is a chance that we can overshoot and collapse despite our technology. As a scientist I cannot see how you can ignore this. You started some good posts on food supply however squelched discussion when it got into this territory.

    I would find BNC more readable if it was less extreme nuclear. As far as I can see you are not addressing your main message and your target audience will not visit.
    MODERATOR
    Moderation on BNC follows the Comments Policy of the site as set by Professor Brook. Comments are subject to editing when there is a violation of this policy. This applies to nuclear power advocates as well as pro-renewable proponents. Please refresh your memory on the Comments Policy (on the About drop-down tag) by reading it in full. Thankyou.

  33. I first came here over two years ago, maybe nearly three years.

    After spending the previous decade being a member of Group A’s 10% it occurred to me I was being completely biased as I hadn’t bothered to look at nuclear at all, only write it off as being too dangerous, period.

    It was on this blog I first read the phrase “to say nuclear power is unsafe because of the Chernobyl accident is like saying air travel is unsafe because of the Hindenburg accident”. Reading that changed me.

    I still have friends who attend anti-nuclear protests. That 10% mostly become highly non-rational when the topic of nuclear power comes up.

  34. My MM would be that coal is definitively worse than nuclear. Coal is even worse than a nuclear accident. Then I’d detail why exactly coal is that bad, with the info that coal kill 400 times more people by TWh than nuclear in developed countries, and 4000 tile more in China ( http://www.knowtex.com/nav/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source_20176 ). That the long term effects of coal are many time worth than the long term effects of Tchernobyl. That coal today kills more people in the US than Chernobyl does in Ukraine, and the WHO data shows it, when you care to read it

    Then I’d add that coal is cheap, and because of that, coal is almost 40% of the electricity in the world. If you want to replace it fast and effectively, for this kind of very large amount of energy, nuclear ends up being the only option.

    Next about renewable, I’d think I’d insist on the fact that there is two main type of energy sources :
    – the ones that are available on demand
    – the ones that are not

    And that there’s a golden list of 3 resources that are both renewable and on demand :
    – hydro
    – geothermic
    – biomass

    *If* you have enough of those three to generate all your electricity, then it’s very probably the best possible option.
    A few selected countries have that option, and they already do it.
    But most countries in the world don’t have by far enough of those resources to do it, and that’s why they use so much coal.

    The last added benefit is that those 3 have a reasonable cost (not true in every case for biomass, but…), so there’s really no reason not to choose them everytime it’s possible.

    Then I’d add that the energy sources that are not available on demand can be used for at most around 20% of your energy need.
    If you don’t have enough hydro, biomass and geothermic to provide 80% of your electric energy need than you need something in addition, and it won’t be renewal because you can’t provide the part you’re missing with something that’s not available on demand.

    And if you don’t want that one to generate carbon, then it has to be nuclear.

  35. JMD – you will find, if you read more of BNC, that all your points are, in fact, discussed in great detail. The BNC blog agrees with everything you are saying. Nevertheless, it is good to have the messages reiterated, as you have done here. Thankyou.

  36. Thanks for the positive appreciation, I’ve read enough of BNC (starting during the Fukushima crisis) to know all of this has already been said.

    But I’ve also read enough of BNC to see there’s a state of mind where you get so tired of the overhype about nuclear risks, as well as the overhype about the feasibility of renewal, that you end you with a disconnect with the feelings of a layman about the two. It’s easy then to lose focus about which message will be the most convincing for him, and instead have a discourse that looks a lot like an all out against renewals, just forgetting to insist on the fact that in real life people who reject nuclear are in effect choosing coal, and that hydro/geothermic/biomass can be very adequate but there’s just by far not enough of them.

  37. It is rather hard to paint a cheerful picture of the imminent climax and long-term decline of the weed species, Homo sapiens. However these are facts, or at least projections based on strong science. On the other hand, it is possible to present a much more cheerful prospect for attitudes than facts.

    For all the marvellously nerdy voices that we hear on this website, we hear little from the other side of campus. We have fellow professionals whose expertise lies in the arousing of passions, finding of courage, laying out pathways of cultural adaption that we teckos cannot contemplate.

    Economists routinely explore the consequences of a shrinking economy. Perhaps it is time they spoke to the rest of us of examples where a shrinking economy gave rise to desirable cultural change. Anthropologists might experiment with ditching the word “primitive” and paint for us instead a long-distant future world of simpler, shorter lives. Theologians could no doubt reassure the fearful that we will be drawn ever closer to God as Nature becomes ever more hostile. And of course there are poets and songsters.

    We ought to be hearing more from them all. For my taste, I would like to hear the chanting of young voices in the street …

  38. Salut! As I did, many first-time visitors surely see the name of this website as an invitation to Bravely contemplate the New Climate ahead.

    A mixed message can corrode our communication too. We really ought to check our choice of words in debate or even posting a comment. By using baggage-burdened terms used by our audience, we often unintentionally agree with the values that have misled them.

    Instead of the term “renewables” when they mean wind and solar, we should simply say “wind and solar”. Is quite clear what we mean, it’s the same number of syllables, and we avoid implying we are endangered by limits to our resources. (We can retort that we have instead run out of somewhere to put our waste gases, pre-empting argument about the most threatening wastes).

    Another is our frequent failure to call methane what it is, “methane”, cueing in its identity as one of the greenhouse gases. If instead we say we should “replace natural gas”, we can be painted as horrible people who dare to question the value of Natural Goodness. People in the Oilpatch only ever speak of “gas”, seeing the adjective as spin from their marketing people for us muppets* to parrot off. But the word “methane!” is an instant pejorative, something we want to be shat of as soon as we can. On the other hand, “this little golfball*” is downright glowing with approval.

  39. Pingback: The future of Brave New Climate « BraveNewClimate

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