Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Hard Choices

James Lovelock, arch-environmentalist and author of the Gaia hypothesis, says that nuclear power is the only green solution to the problem of global warming. And he's right. If we want to seriously prevent climate change, then we need to dramaticly reduce our use of fossil fuels now. And sadly, the best technological option to do so looks to be nuclear fission.

Climate change is a global problem. Nuclear power is, at worst, a local problem. Compared to burning coal, it is clearly the lesser of two evils. That isn't to say that countries like the US, Britian and China should focus only on nuclear; rather, that if they are serious about reducing greenhouse emissions and slowing global warming, it should play a larger role in their energy mix.

As for us, our situation is nowhere near dire enough to justify the risks of siting a reactor in New Zealand. We have plenty of options for "green" generation - and we're not being slow in pursuing them (this year's electricity demand growth will be met almost entirely by wind turbines). We're lucky enough to have good hydro, geothermal and wind resources, and this should allow us (once the market distortion of cheap Maui gas has passed) to generate almost all of our electricity from non-greenhouse-emitting sources, without having to resort to fission.