2017-08-12 05:51:55 UTC
Target enough extraction sites, industry and power plants and it'llDear Canadian Redneck,
certainly reduce the _increase_ in CO2.
certainly reduce the _increase_ in CO2.
Are you being this big an idiot on purpose?
The Carbon Footprint Of Nuclear War
Almost 700m tonnes of CO2 would be released into the Earth's atmosphere by
even the SMALLEST nuclear conflict, according to a US study that compares
the environmental costs of developing various power sources
Just when you might have thought it was ethically sound to unleash a
nuclear attack on a nearby city, along comes a pesky scientist and points
out that atomic warfare is bad for the climate. According to a new paper
in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, even a very LIMITED nuclear
exchange, using just a THOUSANDTH of the weaponry of a full-scale nuclear
war, would cause up to 690m tonnes of CO2 to enter the atmosphere - more
than UK's annual total.
The paper's author, Mark Z Jacobson, a professor of civil and
environmental engineering at Stanford University, calculated the emissions
of such a conflict by totting up the burn rate and carbon content of the
fabric of our cities. "Materials have the following carbon contents:
plastics, 38-92%; tyres and other rubbers, 59-91%; synthetic fibres, 63-
86%; woody biomass, 41-45%; charcoal, 71%; asphalt, 80%; steel, 0.05-2%.
We approximate roughly the carbon content of all combustible material in a
city as 40-60%."
But why would a Stanford engineer bother calculating such a thing? Given
that the nuclear exchange would also kill up to 17 million people, who's
going to be thinking about the impact on global warming?
The purpose of the paper is to compare the total human and environmental
costs of a wide range of different power sources, from solar and wind to
nuclear and biofuels. One of the side-effects of nuclear power, the report
argues, is an increased risk of nuclear war: "Because the production of
nuclear weapons material is occurring only in countries that have
developed civilian nuclear energy programs, the risk of a limited nuclear
exchange between countries or the detonation of a nuclear device by
terrorists has increased due to the dissemination of nuclear energy
"As such," Jacobson continues, "it is a valid exercise to estimate the
potential number of immediate deaths and carbon emissions due to the
burning of buildings and infrastructure associated with the proliferation
of nuclear energy facilities and the resulting proliferation of nuclear
weapons ... Although concern at the time of an explosion will be the
deaths and not carbon emissions, policy makers today must weigh all the
potential future risks of mortality and carbon emissions when comparing
I'm not a huge fan of nuclear energy, and I agree that a large roll-out of
atomic power must on some level increase the likelihood of nuclear
terrorism or war. However, it does strike me as faintly absurd to try and
quantify this risk - particularly the way Jacobson does it. Here's how he
crunches the numbers:
"If one nuclear exchange as described above occurs over the next 30 years,
the net carbon emissions due to nuclear weapons proliferation caused by
the expansion of nuclear energy worldwide would be 1.1-4.1g CO2 per kWh,
where the energy generation assumed is the annual 2005 generation for
nuclear power multiplied by the number of year being considered."
In other words, if nuclear power leads one exchange of fifty 15 kilotonne
nuclear devices over 30 years, then that equates to 4.1 grams of extra CO2
for each kilowatt of nuclear energy produced. Why, you might ask, has
Jacobson chosen one exchange, 50 nuclear war heads and 30 years? Good
question. Those figures, as far as I can tell, are entirely arbitrary, and
as such I'm rather surprised that the Royal Society for Chemistry are
prepared to publish them in their journal.
Putting those doubts to one side for a moment, it's interesting to note
that nuclear looks very bad in the report even if you ignore the warfare
component of the carbon footprint. Far more serious (by a factor of 15 to
25) is nuclear's opportunity cost: the emissions savings lost during the
decades of planning and building of each nuclear station. Once again,
however, there's no explanation about how these figures are calculated, so
it's hard to know whether they're valid.
Either way, nuclear doesn't come out as badly as first- or second-
generation biofuels. These, the author remarks, are "ranked lowest overall
and with respect to climate, air pollution, land use, wildlife damage, and
chemical waste," and may actually "worsen climate and air pollution"
relative to fossil fuels. Carbon capture and storage also gets a thumbs
down. By contrast, wind, solar and marine energy score well on the wide-
ranging criteria, which include carbon emissions, land demands and even
As the first study to compare energy sources in so many different ways,
the report is both interesting and welcome. Unfortunately, it's unlikely
to make much of an impact - not just because there's no mention of the
economics of each energy source, but because the half-baked quantification
of nuclear war's climate impact makes the whole study seem somewhat
Gawd, you're stupid.