Nuclear lobby backs Abbott’s $4m gift to climate contrarian Lomborg

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Pro-nuclear lobby groups applaud Abbott’s decision to give $4m to climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg, while claiming renewables cannot meet society’s needs.

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The pro-nuclear lobby has welcomed the decision by the Abbott government to award $4 million to Bjorn Lomborg, a climate “contrarian” who favours nuclear energy and opposes deployment of renewable energy.

Michael Schellenberger, president of the US-based Breakthrough Institute, a pro-nuclear think tank, tweeted over the weekend that the Australian government’s granting of funds to Lomborg was no different to the German government’s funding of an environmental think tank that favours renewable energy.

The difference may be that the Energiewende, or energy transition, is official bipartisan government policy in Germany. But Australia does not – at least officially, although its actions suggest otherwise – embrace climate obstructionism and nuclear technology. And it has defunded independent climate analysis such as that from the Climate Commission.

The tweet from the Breakthrough Institute might be unremarkable, but for that institution’s recent alliance with the pro-nuclear lobby in Australia, and the joint release of an “EcoModernist Manifesto” last week that says present day renewables are incapable of providing zero carbon energy, and that nuclear fission is the only technology capable of meeting most, if not all, the energy demands of a modern economy.

This, it would appear, seems to concur with the not-so-subtle secret agenda of Australian Coalition government policy. The Abbott government appointed Dick Warburton – a man who holds similar views, supporting nuclear and decrying renewables – to head the review of renewable energy target.

The government’s review stopped all investment in large-scale renewables in Australia, and it is still refusing to accept a compromise offer that would see the 2020 target reduced by nearly half. Warburton wanted the RET scrapped altogether.lomborg

Lomborg wants the government to go further. He told ABC Radio last December that no more solar modules should be installed. Instead, the world should wait for the next generation solar technology, and nuclear.

The authors of the “EcoModernist Manifesto”, which include Barry Brook, who is professor of environmental sustainability at the University of Tasmania and a member of the “experts panel” for South Australia’s Royal Commission into the nuclear industry, appear to be of a similar view.

They argue that “most forms of renewable energy are, unfortunately, incapable” of meeting the needs of a modern society. The only technologies that can, they say, are high efficiency solar cells – yet to be developed – and next generation nuclear fission.

In the meantime, they recommend, the world could build more hydro plants, or construct more coal-fired generators with carbon capture and storage. This ignores the reality that carbon capture and storage is nothing more than a coal marketing boondoggle – incredibly costly, and unlikely to be deployed at any scale. The two solutions they propose – high efficiency solar and next generation solar – are yet to be built.

This view contrasts with studies by universities – most recently by the ANU in conjunction with WWF, and previously UNSW – that Australia could go 100 per cent renewables with no additional economic cost.

A new study by the China National Renewable Energy Centre says that country could be powered 80 per cent by renewables by 2050. Another study by the national Renewable Energy Agency in the US says that country could achieve the same.

Achim Steiner, under-secretary general of the United Nations and executive director of the UN environment programme, wrote in The Guardian on Tuesday that the clean energy future “isn’t just possible and desirable”, it is essential.

He wrote: “Beyond all the numbers, though, there’s also an intangible energy building behind renewables. Simply put, people are inspired by clean energy and realise that it’s an idea whose time has come.”

Australia’s Climate Change Authority has also underlined the urgency, calling for an emissions cut of between 40 and 60 per cent (on 2000 levels) by 2030. It will release its updated emission target recommendations on Wednesday.

And while most climate scientists talk of the need to accelerate deployment of renewables to address the decreasing “carbon budget,” the nuclear lobby appears determined to slow down the deployment of renewables – an outcome that favours few people apart from the owners of coal-fired generators, and those with a vested interest in centralised generation.

The biggest hurdle to this lies in the soaring costs and problems facing its preferred technology, nuclear, just as the costs of renewables continues to fall.

France, for instance, has placed its faith in next generation nuclear technologies, but its new reactor at Flamanville is proving a nightmare, already running years late, and with massive cost over-runs. Those delays and costs are likely to increase because of a new finding by France’s nuclear safety authority that the builders may have used the wrong sort of steel for the pressure vessel, meaning they may have to start over again on that crucial piece of the plant.

This technology is supposed to provide the blue-print to re-boot the UK’s nuclear plan. But the planned Hinckley C complex, already costing $43 billion, may not go ahead. Despite offering tariffs starting at nearly $180/MWh, and rising with inflation to nearly $500/MWh 35 years later, as well as massive loan guarantees, the UK government is refusing to take the risk of cost-overruns. So too is the French government, which owns the companies proposing to build the reactor, and also the the Chinese state-owned companies brought in as co-investors.

The EcoModernist Manifesto has been criticised by other environment experts for its attachment to the so-called Anthroprocene – a term used to describe man’s influence over nature, particularly with the impact of climate change.

The EcoModernist authors talk of creating a “good anthropocene” and even a “great anthropocene.”

Australian author, climate expert and Professor of Public Ethics Clive Hamilton wrote “those who argue for the ‘good Anthropocene’ are unscientific and live in a fantasy world of their own construction.”

He told Climate Progress: “In the face of all of the evidence of the harm that climate change will cause this century, some of which is now locked in, talk of a ‘good Anthropocene’ was delusional. But looking forward to a ‘great Anthropocene’ verges on the obscene.”

He said the eco-modernists and other advocates of the phrase “good Anthropocene,” however, use it to advance policies that, if followed, would insure future generations live in the “definitely catastrophic Anthropocene.”

And their objection to Energiewende? That is the name given the German energy transition that aims to phase out nuclear energy by 2022, and build an energy system around renewable energy. EnergiewendeGER is a small information unit run by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, a think tank that receives funding from The Greens, and from the German government’s development aid budget.

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8 Comments
  1. Stephen Gloor 4 years ago

    Barry Brook promoting Lomberg now – that is a turn up for the books. It seems is thirst and bias for nuclear has overtaken his studies on climate change. Strange bedfellows indeed.

    So we should wait for vapourware nuclear and next gen solar rather than use technologies that work and are being installed now???????????

    Let us hope Anthony Watts or Ball do not get on the nuclear bandwagon or we see the same people trumpeting their views. I wonder how far they would go to advance nuclear……

    Brave New Climate indeed ………

    • Ken Dyer 4 years ago

      Both Brook and Lomberg are an irrelevant distraction. Solar is reaching towards critical mass as the preferred least cost and distributed business model most beneficial to the worldwide community. Unfortunately, Abbott’s blinkered and obsolescent view powered by the coal lobby is not helping either.

  2. barrie harrop 4 years ago

    Lomborg’s, pearls of wisdom now bought to you via the taxpayers of Aust,we need to support this fool,at his 6 star hotel suites and 1st class air travel so he can keep up appearances.

  3. Alastair Leith 4 years ago

    That confirms loss of any benefit of the doubt BreakThrough Institute qualifies for. Endorsing the appointment of a serial Climate Change denier and obfuscater in the pay of Koch Brothers.

    When you link a tweet Giles make it a live link so we can reply Mr Shellenberger 😉

  4. Martin 4 years ago

    That would be the Heinrich Böll Stiftung (Foundation) and http://energytransition.de/ .

  5. Ken Fabian 4 years ago

    Deniers of climate science who insist only nuclear can possibly be good enough are not promoting solutions to the climate problem, just raising an unpopular bar too high in order to keep climate action of all sorts stalled. It is pro-fossil fuel interests riding on the back of the anti-nuclear sentiment they claim to abhor in order to prevent action on climate of any significance. Divide and conquer.

    Leading nuclear for climate advocates cannot bring themselves to accept that climate science denial and it’s deliberately deceptive successor, Lukewarmism, is profoundly damaging to nuclear – which is clearly aimed at undermining any sense the urgency and seriousness of the problem – and without that broad acceptance of the urgent need for this ‘most serious’ of solutions in a world where there is no ‘most serious’ problem the result will be business as usual.

    Sorry, but Lukewarmism is as antithetical to fixing the climate with nuclear as it is to fixing it with renewables, despite the surface appearance of being pro-nuclear; when the chips are down they will do as suggested by the Ecomodernists – use as much coal as it takes for as long as it’s cheap, discounting the climate costs until the world is so rich it can fix climate easily. Or be so rich as to not care. ie they still reject climate science, just choose to deny they deny for strategic reason. Reminds me of the LNP.

    The most influential voices for nuclear sold it out for a couple of decades in favor of doing nothing about climate; why fight for nuclear to fix climate when you can fight for not fixing the climate at all? If you can’t get the supporters of nuclear within commerce and industry, who claim the problem is imminently fixable, to commit to climate action – and are in fact the backbone of opposition – it really does get left to those who care, most of whom remain dubious of nuclear.

    Nuclear advocacy is so threaded through with climate science denial that it’s leading proponents cannot bring themselves to purge itself of their loony fringe… err, loony near majority. The Lukewarmers are determined to continue the “it’s all the fault of Environmentalists” theme via the endless, diversionary and time wasting renewables vs nuclear debate, mixed in with their providing intellectualised basis for opposition to climate action.

  6. Miles Harding 4 years ago

    Tony Abbott must think Bjorn Lomborg is a gift from heaven; At last, a source of opinion that aligns with his own.

    We should be encouraging Tony to take Lomborg’s opinions to the world stage, thus hastening his own demise.

    I would like to add Nuclear to the list of alternatives that are incapable of meeting the needs of a modern society. The story mentions cost overruns which make nuclear risky and likely ultimately prohibitive, but doesn’t mention the availability of fuel. It would appear that the proponents over-estimate the amount of fuel that is actually available by a large amount and if the world decided that nuclear was the solution to our energy needs, the massive build-up of nuclear capability would exhaust the fuel supply in a few decades, making nuclear an expensive and short-lived stop-gap measure. The vast majority of Uranium reserves are in very low grade deposits, making mining expensive or impractical

  7. David Boxall 4 years ago

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