VT Gov. Shumlin on “Our Continuing Irrational Exuberance About Burning Fossil Fuels, in Light of These Storm Patterns”

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"VT Gov. Shumlin on “Our Continuing Irrational Exuberance About Burning Fossil Fuels, in Light of These Storm Patterns”"

Vermont Governor“We’ve got to get off fossil fuels as quickly as we know how, to make this planet livable for our children and our grandchildren.”

Below the jump is a guest post, “Surviving My Own Predictions: A Vermont Climate Scientist Faces Hurricane Irene.”

A house in Sharon, Vermont, that started out the week on the other side of this underpass, via Masters.

The storm of the century — at least for large parts of New England — is over.  But Irene’s 1-in-100 year deluge leaves devastation in its wake.   Meteorologist and former hurricane Hunter Dr. Jeff Masters summed it up this way yesterday:

Record flooding continues in the Northeast from Irene’s torrential rains. Hardest hit was Vermont, where heavy rains in the weeks prior to Irene’s arrival had left soils in the top 20% for moisture, historically. Irene dumped 5 – 8 inches of rain over large sections of Vermont, with a peak of 11.23″ at Mendo. The reading from Mendo was the greatest single-day rainfall in Vermont’s history…. beating the 9.92″ that fell at Mt. Mansfield on 9/17/1999 during the passage of Tropical Storm Floyd.

Governor Peter Shumlin (D-VT) spoke Tuesday about the danger human-caused climate change poses to his state and others:

I find it extraordinary that so many political leaders won’t actually talk about the relationship between climate change, fossil fuels, our continuing irrational exuberance about burning fossil fuels, in light of these storm patterns that we’ve been experiencing.

We had storms this spring that flooded our downtowns and put us through many of the same exercises that we’re going through right now. We didn’t used to get weather patterns like this in Vermont….

We in the colder states are going to see the results of climate change first…  Myself, Premier [Jean] Charest up in Quebec, Governor [Andrew] Cuomo over in New York, we understand that the flooding and the extraordinary weather patterns that we’re seeing are a result of our burnings of fossil fuel. We’ve got to get off fossil fuels as quickly as we know how, to make this planet livable for our children and our grandchildren.

What follows is a guest post by Dr. Elizabeth R. Sawin of Hartland, Vermont.  Sawin is Co-Director of Climate Interactive, a non-profit organization that creates computer simulations of climate and energy policy in the U.S. and around the world – ClimateInteractive.org.

Surviving My Own Predictions: A Vermont Climate Scientist Faces Hurricane Irene

By Dr. Elizabeth R. Sawin

31 August 2011

My daughter, Jenna, will miss her first day of high school on Wednesday. Woodstock, Vermont, where her school lies, is essentially shut down by flooding. The covered bridge in Quechee I drove across just last week is ruined, and the store where I bought hurricane provisions is just now emerging from flood waters. Across the state, 13 towns are stranded, 250 roads are impassable and more than 30 bridges are closed.

Okay, Irene was no Katrina. My family is fine. But, as a builder of climate simulations that connect burning fossil fuels to destruction like Irene’s, my ‘day job’ in the ‘real world’ and my home-life in a beautiful corner of Vermont finally collided.

Smack.

What now, Vermont? What now, World?

Around Vermont today, people are still tallying up the damage, getting water to the thirsty, offering shelter to the newly homeless, and clearing debris from all over. Those spared personal loss are pitching in where we can, volunteering our time, and donating provisions.

Attending to these immediate needs is critical, and a measure of our worth as neighbors, but responding to Hurricane Irene won’t be over soon. We face a long and expensive recovery, and, with budgets already tight, our communities face tough decisions.

How to make good decisions, under pressure of time and in the face of loss, suffering and immediate need? There is no perfect formula, of course, but from my community of systems scientists and modelers a few key messages emerge:

Re-build with a transition to clean energy in mind. If a section of power line needs to be rebuilt, prepare for the smart-grid that can transmit clean energy from wind and solar. If a bridge needs to be replaced, rebuild it with a bicycle lane. If new cable needs to be laid, make sure that it equips remote homes and businesses for the interconnectivity of the digital age.

Irene didn’t hit us at a time of business as usual. It arrived at the start of a massive global transition towards an efficient, low-carbon, smart economy. If we can hold onto to the vision of that clean energy future then the necessary work of rebuilding could propel Vermont forward to help lead that transition.

Rebuild with future disruption in mind. Like it or not, Vermont is caught up in the same global changes that are contributing to droughts in Africa and the American Southwest, the same forces that spawned last year’s forest fires in Russia and flooding in Pakistan. With more heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, Vermont, like the rest of the planet, will see more extreme weather, including more intense precipitation. We should rebuild our infrastructure with this in mind, knowing that the same streams and rivers that caused such disruption a few days ago likely will not be as quiet for the next hundred years as they have been for the last hundred.

Keep the decision making process open. The best decisions for the long-term will solicit the highest levels of democratic participation possible. Vermont’s long tradition of Town Meeting will serve us well in this regard. The voices of the least powerful among us may have the most wisdom when it comes to getting by on less, fixing what is broken, and taking care of one another.

Make the links, from dirty energy to devastated communities. Those people most affected by the current crisis have directly experienced some of what the future may hold for more and more of us if greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise. Though climate scientists will say, correctly, that no single event is the result of climate change, we also know that ‘1- in 100-year’ events are becoming more common. By sharing our experiences and linking them to the wider systemic driver – fossil fuel emissions – we can help explain the true costs of fossil energy (including paying for the costs of climate-change-related disaster relief) and help ensure that even worse disruption doesn’t plague future generations.

So, what now Vermont?

We’ll pick up the pieces, that’s for sure.

But we have the chance to go further than that. We can connect the dots between events we just lived through and global rise in greenhouse gases concentrations, and we can work together with others around the world to help phase out the pollution that makes future Irenes ever more likely. And, as we rebuild, we can make Vermont a stronger, smarter place, powered by clean energy and ready for the extremes our already destabilized climate will likely send our way.

Dr. Elizabeth Sawin. Sawin lives with her husband and two daughters at Cobb Hill Co-housing in Hartland, Vermont. She can be contacted at esawin@climateinteractive.org.

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53 Responses to VT Gov. Shumlin on “Our Continuing Irrational Exuberance About Burning Fossil Fuels, in Light of These Storm Patterns”

  1. Peter Mizla says:

    Thanks Joe for this post- which I had seen earlier today. Tiny Vermont with 660,000 people- many whom are suffering now from the aftermath of Irene, are fortunate to have a Governor (Shumlin) of such courage and integrity.

    Here in CT- we are still shattered by flooding and power outages. I called the Governors office (Malloy- A ‘Democrat’ and discussed Shumlin’s link of this extreme weather to climate change via fossil fuels- I was treated curtly. I also mentioned the tornadoes in neighboring Massachusetts, and the disaster we faced her last winter after being deluged with snow and ice- homes and business roofs collapsing….water damage, flooding…

    Then I called the Lt Governors office and was treated far better. I talked to her aide about climate models models that have predicted increasingly violent climate events and their link to C02 levels the highest in 15 million years. I mentioned the sea ice in the arctic melting again this year to new lows- He said little.

    I suggested he read Hansen’s ‘Storms of My Grandchildren’ telling him Dr.Hansen was the nations imminent climate scientist at NASA/Goddard-

    I warned,…. ‘these kind of extreme weather events will go on and on, increase in number and ferocity, cause loss of life, damage to homes and businesses and will cost billions……’ still he said nothing.

    This is Connecticut Joe, not West Virginia, Ohio or Oklahoma. The lack of scientific understanding and lack of policy initiative of what we face is perhaps the most daunting task we have in our crusade- I am frankly so frustrated.

  2. David B. Benson says:

    This from the governor that insists Vermont Yankee close down? Given that it has been re-licensed for anothr 20 years I would have supposed he would now, finally, support its continued operation.

    But nevermine; people don’t have to be consistent or rational.

    • What does nuclear energy have to do with reducing emissions? You’re not suggesting go nuke or burn the planet are you? There are other and better energy options – just check out some of Joe’s postings on this well-debated subject.

    • Lisa says:

      Wait a minute, David. From Fukashima to Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, nuclear power plants have recently experience meltdowns or near-meltdowns due to … TOO MUCH WATER.

      Yes, flooding clearly presents a significant risk in the form of loss of power, then loss of containment, and large off-site release of radionuclides.

      So contrary to your suggestion, I think Gov. Shumlin is being entirely consistent and rational.

      • Paul magnus says:

        i have to agree David/ The choice between nukes and renewables is a false one. Why would you want to replace coal with something just as dangerous.

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          Paul, I think that nuclear mania is simply a stalking horse for hydrocarbons. It is pushed, despite its manifest dangers and difficulties, simply to delay the adoption of renewables, and thus give the fossil fuel thanatocrats that much longer to profit at the expense of our children and theirs. It’s a pretty cynical ploy, but one never suffers as a Rightwing disinformationist from overly cynical posturing. This process reached a risible extreme in a recent ‘debate’ between denialists including the ghastly Plimer, and some rational people, where one of the denialists demanded that we not waste time and money on ‘outdated’ renewable technology, when nuclear fusion was just ‘twenty years away’ as it has been for sixty years.

      • John Tucker says:

        No they did not. Not even close that is false information.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Perhaps he has a moral objection to his and other people’s grandchildren and subsequent generations for millennia dying of radiation induced disease. Perhaps he has a compassionate conscience.

  3. David Smith says:

    I would add to the governer’s statement at the head of the post…”and ourselves as well”. The effects are beginning to be felt now. Not just at some vague time in the distant future.

  4. Tom Gray says:

    Note that “Mendo” is a typo. It should be Mendon.

  5. Rob Painting says:

    Joe, this recent NASA article: NASA Satellites Detect Pothole on Road to Higher Seas appears to have gone over most peoples heads. Perhaps it’s not explicit enough.

    There’s been so much rainfall over land in the last 18 months, or so, that it has caused a large drop in global sea level.

    I’m drafting up an article for SkS, but the subject might be worthy of a post or two here.

    • Wynne says:

      Thanks for the link to the ‘speedbump/pothole’ article re: sea level change and monster rains. Hope those who see this year’s drop in sea level will read the whole article, but I suppose not. Climate deniers will see the temporary (lke speedbump) drop in sea level/coupled with land-side floods, as ‘evidence’ that we’re just fine and dandy. Of course, maybe the trend will continue, along with devastating floods. Floods, rising sea levels — two sides of one coin.

  6. Malcreado says:

    I am sure it had nothing to do with the radiation leaks at that site….

  7. David B. Benson says:

    Stephen Leahy | August 31, 2011 at 7:19 pm — A poer gird largely energized via nuclear power (such as in France) is (i) reliable, (ii) on-demand, and (iii) lower costs to ratepayers.

    The fact that others are bemazed by wind power doesn’t change the facts. I recommend looking at the difficulties ERCOT (Texas) and BPA are having with wind power as well as the unfolding situation in Germany. For that last, TNYT had a front page article by Rosenthal in Monday’s paper.

    For environmental problems associated in on-shore wind, start with
    Environmental Effects of Wind Energy Projects
    National Research Council
    May 3, 2007
    http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11935

    • Lollipop says:

      Sounds awesome . . . right up until the point it blows up. Kinda less awesome after that.

      And none of that nonsense about how it won’t blow up because it’s super safe. We get to go by actual track record, which is pretty bad

    • Brooks Bridges says:

      You imply there are negatives wind power. Perfection is elusive. It would have been helpful if you had given a couple of specific examples or quotes or at least links to such.

      Your only link is to an entire book. I skimmed and it appears to say mainly that the environmental effects of wind power should be considered and need more study. It also talked about its good points.

      I searched for Rosenthal and Germany at TNYT and got nothing.

    • Paul magnus says:

      David you might not believe this, but France are actually about to do a review of the nuke energy generation due to the Japanese acident.

      And apparently its more how do we achieve the transition away from nukes rather than do we keep nukes..

  8. David B. Benson says:

    Malcreado | August 31, 2011 at 8:02 pm — It probably had more to do with the Exelon executive’s testimony before the Vermont Senate. He should have said he would look into the matter and maybe further pointed out that all water contains detectable levels of tritium. A combination of poor testimony style (common enough for technical people; Joe Romm is a rare exception) together with total ignorance of matters nuclear (together with a constant background of misinformation on matters nuclear) on the part of the Vermont senators has led to the current impasse.

    The fact is that the tritium leak was too minor to pose any health risk whatsoever; look into how tritium decays and into what.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      I believe that they have experienced ‘minor’ leaks of tritium and other radio-nuclides in Japan recently, too. But, hey, that’s no big deal, is it?

  9. David B. Benson says:

    Lollipop | August 31, 2011 at 9:10 pm — No method of generating electrical power is completely safe as the record of doing so, for well over a hundred years now, demonstrates. However, by some measures of safety, nuclear power plants are as least as safe as the other generation technologies. I’ll not go into details as I seem to have been placed on moderation; you’ll have to find the actual statistics yourself.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      That is, in my opinion, a truly audacious assertion, after Chernobyl and now Fukushima, and myriad other ‘minor incidents’, and with the problem of intractable toxic waste still unresolved. The nuclear zealots enjoy the advantage that the deaths caused by their favourite boondoggle are insidious, long-term, and eminently deniable, if you are cynical enough.

  10. David B. Benson says:

    Brooks Bridges @ August 31, 2011 at 9:58 pm — Try your public library for Monday’s (maybe Tuesday’s?) front page TNYT story of the German power situation. There is a similar but shorter article today on World Nuclear News. Sorry you were not able to locate an on-line version of TNYT article.

    Environmental consequences of wind power include:
    (1) NIMBYs — Some of these concerns are valid; there is a case going to court in this county over a proposed wind farm development. For other complaints, for example, search on ‘Virginia wind power’.
    (2) Raptors and other birds — Raptors avoid wind farms (and quite a long way downwind). Thus the environmental service provided by keeping mice and other small mammals under control is eliminated. This has ruined at least one pastorage.
    (3) Bats — Bats have no way of avoiding wind turbines and the downwind turbulence; wind turbines are serious bat killers. Despite being completely unlovable mammals, the creatures provide an important environmental service.

    I don’t know how to factor these into the decisions to allow wind farms, only that these factors appear not to be systematically considered. The aspects I know how to consider suggest that if coal, oil and natgas are not allowed for generating electricity, nuclear is more advantageous to rate payers than mixing in wind power.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Dear, oh dear-we must, apparently, reject wind power lest our pastorages be over-run by mice. One wonders whether it is better to laugh or cry, or both at once. I mean, death by murine marauding is so much more real and imminent that any minor problem one might encounter in a Fukushima or Chernobyl situation. Come to think of it, are the Ukrainian mice mutating yet?

  11. Robert In New Orleans says:

    A common thread with many if not all of this years weather diasters is a interview with one of the victims and you hear the refrain, “I or we have never seen anything like this before”.

    And this is only at a CO2 level of 392ppm.

    I am thinking that 2011 will be remembered as a tipping point year when things started to turn for worse.

    At this rate what is going to be like in five or ten years?

  12. David B. Benson says:

    Lisa @ August 31, 2011 at 9:08 pm — Fort Calhoun, Nebraska, had a ‘notification of unusual event’ as it shut done normally do to the surrounding flooding. Accordin to World Nuclear News, the flooding is now gone and the operators are checking everything before restarting operation.

    A ‘notification of unusual event’ is the lowest NRC classification and certainly was not a ‘near-meltdown’; if even a single backup generator had failed the NRC status would be one higher.

    [The way to keep flooding from becoming even more common and more severe is to stop burning coal, oil and natgas.]

    • Leif says:

      Fort Calhoun Plant shut down on or about June 24. It is not on line yet. That is over two months. So much for the 24/7 operational production mime. Has the wind been down all that time?

  13. David B. Benson says:

    Lollipop @ August 31, 2011 at 9:08 pm — By all means energy conservation & efficiency; Kansas over 18 months lowered its electricity consumption by 5%. That still leaves 95% largely energized by fossil fuels.

    Solar? Rather expensive just yet, but if you are rich maybe you don’t mind the additional cost.

    Unfortunately tidal and geothermal power are but boutique solutions. Both have some environmental issues but mostly there just isn’t enough [except geothermal in Iceland.]

    Even existing (legacy) hydro has its environmental prolblems; we’re still facing those in this hydro rich region. More hydro? Looks to be anothr boutique possiblity to me, just not enough not to mention the environmental issues.

    Wind? I’ve previously expressed my concerns and doubts.

    Nuclear? Capital intensive and requires a deep dedication to safety. Nonetheless, many countries around the world are starting to add nuclear to their energy mix. I’ve posted about that on earlier threads; anyway what I know largely comes from following World Nuclear News.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      One of the denialist industry’s silliest furphies is the observation that renewables are ‘expensive’. They see fit to deny the almost invariable experience that when new industries reach a certain level of technological development and widespread use, prices plummet due to ‘economies of scale’. And that is precisely what is happening with solar power. The one exception to this rule that I can think of is, ironically, nuclear power, which just keeps getting more expensive. And that is leaving out of calculations the cost of ‘externalities’ like anthropogenic climate destabilisation in the case of the hydrocarbons, and the mega-disasters of nuclear failure such as Chernobyl and Fukushima, and the intractable problem of toxic nuclear waste.

  14. David B. Benson says:

    Dr. Elizabeth Sawin’s essay is unusually compelling; worth rereading.

  15. Doug Bostrom says:

    Further to remarks by Robert in New Orleans:

    Vermont officials have found several other covered bridges, among the 100 or so statewide, that have been seriously damaged, but the loss of the Bartonsville bridge, built in 1871, with a wooden lattice spanning 158 feet, was considered the greatest historical blow. (Another demolished bridge, in Quechee, was covered but built of concrete in the 1970s.)

    Preservationists were also upset to learn that the Blenheim bridge on Schoharie Creek in upstate New York was totaled on Sunday. The bridge, built in 1855, was said to have the longest span of any covered bridge in the world — an astounding 210 feet — and was one of only six in the world to have two separated lanes.

    Covered Bridges, Beloved Remnants of Another Era, Were Casualties, Too (NYT)

    There’s another way of assessing the unusual nature of this storm. Those particular structures remained intact through all of Vermont’s earlier, often very impressive storms. Given what we know about increasing moisture in the atmosphere, our surprise at their loss should be a bit less than otherwise.

  16. Paul magnus says:

    “We’ve got to get off fossil fuels as quickly as we know how,”

    yes sir ree.

    What the … hell are all our politicians diking?;

    The situation is… bizarre, surreal.

  17. Alan Page says:

    Joe,
    I appreciate your attention to detail. We were blessed in central MA for a much reduced level of precipitation and an aborted wind source. It is clear that this is only the beginning – more ice, snow, wind, rain and weirdness. MA like CT has no rational and timely response to climate weirdness. I am working on a modification of the MA Forest Stewardship Issues insert which is a required part of any official Forest Management plan for tax reduction in MA. I have been denied acceptance of any plan that contains reference to climate weirdness or its effects on forests that I supposedly manage. There is no FEMA money flowing yet to those owners who have land that was devastated by the June tornado. These modifications will be posted on Common Good Forestry for comments and a link will be posted there to an open file on Google Docs where anyone can edit the file.

    However, it is time to speak clearly about the cause of the current situation. Our energy life style has been the result of a mining mentality as has our currency and credit creation system. This must change. The advocates (Jim Hansen included) are in error about the solution provided by nuclear power. In the end all options that depend on non-renewable materials must be relegated to the class of short term fixes that will be used only as a transition option to be abandoned in an appropriate time frame. I live within the 50 mile radius of VT Yankee and pass it occasionally. A storm of greater intensity than Irene could wash it down stream like the house in Sharon, VT.

    We need to recognize the primacy of infrastructure (life support systems of all kinds) to the maintenance of life as we know it, as Hansen phrases it. This starts with not damaging the climate maintenance system and includes all facets of long term proactive human endeavor. There are things we can do now to focus all human effort in a common positive direction that have little connection to with the current political conundrums. These proactive steps include:
    1. removal of the debt basis of currency creation (particularly for all infrastructure areas there is much discussion needed here) – Lincoln and Washington fought wars using Federally created credit (this is not provided as a reference for how to finance wars – we need to end our concept of empire so more needs to be said here) – we now depend on private bank created credit all with interest attached [there is much to say here that must be explored and stated clearly – banks should be utilities not profit centers],
    2. recognition that infrastructure has been left out of normal economic thought and that we are in a short term economy for all but the super rich – that this leads directly to the lack of proactive measures by normal people whose ability is limited by design [my proactive forest activities are limited by my discretionary income since no bank will lend for long term activity like growing a forest for 40 years without regular cash payments regardless of the social benefits],
    3. recognition that taxes are not the vehicle for maintenance of sovereign stability – rather they are a tool for reducing inflationary pressure from credit surpluses (a sovereign entity is never insolvent unless it wants to be at which point it should lose the term sovereign),
    4. refreezing the arctic (add a stable 10 foot ice layer over all normal Arctic areas) – combine with 5,
    5. creating liquid fuels in a carbon negative manner using biochar formation as the base for stabilizing at least half of the carbon in the feed stock – organic non fossil materials (permafrost, local wetland deposits that may emit methane) and all ag residues in a carbon negative manner – this uses technology similar to the oil shale extraction but without the release of stable carbon storage materials (normal ag residue conversion must be done locally for the locality not for export),
    6. stopping the mining of all fossil fuel materials for export and couple local exploitation to the actual creation of carbon negative soultions,
    7. abandon the global economy for normal material supplies – it is not clear to me the cost of the information economy – a global search of movie titles is not energy independent andis unlikely to be supportable over time,
    8. develop a local sustainability conversation that involves all residents in the area with the goal of limiting the buildup of unsupportable population levels that now exist as in the NE USA to say nothing of Somalia or other places where the population is a problem.

    Unfortunately, there has not been enough said of the risks of methane as the most serious green house gas and the danger of unpredictable release from sources like the Arctic ocean floor, melting permafrost, and clathrate deposits along all coastal shelves. We have no time to waste on the denial that now grips most human thought.

  18. Merrelyn Emery says:

    It would be interesting to see if a correlation could be established where those state or local govt. areas that had retained their democratic community traditions such as Town Meetings had informed politicians on the one hand, e.g. Vermont, and on the other, those states and LGAs that had embraced more ‘rugged’ individualism and got hard core denier politicians such as Texas.

    Both theory and some empirical evidence suggests that when community cohesiveness is retained, there are fewer maladaptions such as dissociation and more informed community debate and active adaptation, ME

  19. Paul magnus says:

    “help ensure that even worse disruption doesn’t plague future generations.”

    Does Elizabethg not realize that e ven worese disruption will plague our future generations?

    Civilization is on course for a reset…

  20. Great to hear an elected official speak so clearly about the link between fossil fuel pollution and extreme weather. Bravo.

  21. Len Conly says:

    Cuomo is known as a “car guy” – collects cars. This would seem to undercut any claims that he understands the results of burning fossil fuels.

    “Governor [Andrew] Cuomo over in New York, we understand that the flooding and the extraordinary weather patterns that we’re seeing are a result of our burnings of fossil fuel.”

  22. Paul magnus says:

    The party is starting… the GOP just realizing that they cant have their cake and eat it…

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/31/nebraska-governor-opposes-pipeline_n_943610.html

  23. prokaryotes says:

    btw Grading the forecasts for Irene; Katia organizing; threat of a Gulf of Mexico storm

    Better intensity forecasts threatened by budget cuts

    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1910

  24. Joan Savage says:

    The 13 stranded Vermont towns prompts me to bring up distributed energy at a community level.
    If the beleaguered Vermont towns had microturbines that run on landfill methane (e.g. Capstone turbines), the towns would have electricity to run basic services like water purification. Hooking a turbine up in conjunction with a local network of wind and solar would further increase security, even if some of it were damaged by severe weather. Placing local electric generation on rock above flood levels and out of the path of a mudslide is stating the obvious.

  25. Paul magnus says:

    http://www.accuweather.com/blogs/news/story/54490/huge-surf-in-california.asp

    So it’s not just storm surge that is going to be a big issue, but also storm waves. with the more frequent and more intense storms emerging it’s going to be a wild world.

    Little unexpected things suddenly become a big problem…

  26. David B. Benson says:

    Mulga Mumblebrain @ September 1, 2011 at 5:30 am — Solar PV will have a role to play if prices decline sufficiently, as prognosticated. Nuclear power plants (NPPs) are somewhat expensive in the USA due to the financing arrangements; other countries don’t have such a large hurdle. As I posted previously, and on an earlier thread in more detail, NPPs are one of the safest ways to generate electricity; newspapers sell by playing on the buyer’s lack of understanding of matters nuclear. In particular, in the Tohoku region of Japan the tsunami was horrible but nobody died from the radiation release from Fukushima Dai-ichi.

    The so-called spent nuclear fuel [it isn't spent nor is it fuel] still contains about 99% of the potentially extractable heat; it just needs some reprocessing. The final disposition is technically quite easy. Read the Blue Ribbon Commission’s draft report.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      As I pointed out David, nobody has died of the radiation released by the Fukushima disaster, yet, as far as we know. The insidious nature of the harms inflicted by nuclear radiation, the long lead times before neoplasia strikes and the impossibility of making a direct correlation between disease and contamination have all allowed pro-nuclear propagandists to glibly downplay the dangers. But one study of the effects of Chernobyl, citing research undertaken in the former Soviet republics, has the death-toll there from the effects of radiation approaching one million. Moreover the nuclear propagandists appear to infer that nuclear radiation is actually benign, and nothing to be concerned about. I find that position simply preposterous.

  27. David B. Benson says:

    Mulga Mumblebrain @ September 1, 2011 at 5:25 am — Having your fields ruined may destroy your livelihood. I gather you don’t live in the country off the bounty of your land, but surely you enjoy the produce of those who do.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Rising global temperatures will do more to ruin agriculture than mouse plagues. Indeed mouse plagues occur frequently. We just had one here, a little one, and the cats did more to curb it than the raptors. Raptor populations are falling because of myriad factors, wind farms but one, of disputed importance. I wonder how the raptors of Ukraine and northern Japan are faring and will fare as they ingest and concentrate the radio-nuclides released by the nuclear catastrophes there. We are faced by a choice of evils, and the negatives of wind power, in my opinion, are vastly less than those of nuclear fission.

  28. David B. Benson says:

    Paul magnus @ September 1, 2011 at 1:29 am — Interesting news; I’ll watch for news releases. But in the meantime France now experts quite a bit of electric power to Germany and won’t be able to receive any from Germany this winter. So just now EDF is crying all the way to the bank.

  29. David B. Benson says:

    Mulga Mumblebrain @ September 1, 2011 at 6:56 pm — Read BEIR VII. It is the currently best summary of the known effects of ionizing radiation. Then attempt to find studies which apply BEIR VII to what is known about the Chernobyl radiation release.

    That accident is hardly relevant for predicting anything since nobody uses that reactor design any more, operators are better trained and all currently operating NPPs have a containment vessel.

  30. John Tucker says:

    Next to Fukushima and even much worse was the Chernobyl disaster, releasing 10 times the radiation. One of the most thorough and reviewed studies on the health effects of radiation, that disaster revealed:

    The Chernobyl accident caused many severe radiation effects almost immediately. Of 600 workers present on the site during the early morning of 26 April 1986, 134 received high doses (0.8-16 Gy) and suffered from radiation sickness. Of these, 28 died in the first three months and another 19 died in 1987-2004 of various causes not necessarily associated with radiation exposure. In addition, according to the UNSCEAR 2008 Report, the majority of the 530,000 registered recovery operation workers received doses of between 0.02 Gy and 0.5 Gy between 1986 and 1990. That cohort is still at potential risk of late consequences such as cancer and other diseases and their health will be followed closely.

    Apart from the dramatic increase in thyroid cancer incidence among those exposed at a young age, and some indication of an increased leukaemia and cataract incidence among the workers, there is no clearly demonstrated increase in the incidence of solid cancers or leukaemia due to radiation in the exposed populations. Neither is there any proof of other non-malignant disorders that are related to ionizing radiation. However, there were widespread psychological reactions to the accident, which were due to fear of the radiation, not to the actual radiation doses.

    ( http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/chernobyl.html )

    From that study less than 200 deaths are attributable to Chernobyl so far and although they go on to say that something like potentially up to around 4000 casualties could develop (but these predictions have yet to be observed, even in trends) that pretty much matches the low rates of long term hard cancers from atomic bomb survivors.

    A long-term study of 86,000 atomic bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who had been exposed to an average of 170 mSv, with some exposures ranging upward of 3,000 mSv, found that although “there had been 10,000 deaths related to cancer, only 500 were related to the radiation that was received,” Boice said. ( http://classic.the-scientist.com/news/display/58087/ )

    So by that we should expect one or less from published of doses at Fukushima.

    None of this comes close to touching the effects of exposure to many industrial toxins, the effects of fossil fuels or the yearly number of casualties resulting from climate change. No where even close.

    – All matter is composed of “radionuclides” Even the stable elements are radionuclides in which the vast majority of atoms have half lives so long they have not been observed.