Nuclear & Regionalization: A Proposal for the Climate Crisis
The climate change crisis causes a dilemma for world leaders. The planet is warming at an alarming rate and greenhouse gas emissions (GGE), specifically carbon dioxide emissions (CE), increase yearly. The clear answer is to reduce CE consumption. Unfortunately, most proposed solutions conflict directly with the free-market mantra that globalization has grown around in the last century. This dilemma was clearly demonstrated during the yellow vest riots in France, that started in 2018. GGE policy clashed directly with the needs of the country’s denizens, resulting in a violent rebuke of France’s government. So arises the predicament of the energy crisis. To counter the problematic scenario, a shift from traditional globalization practices is needed. Additionally, a long overlooked technological solution must be revisited. With a shift from comfortable Laissez-Faire policy and an expansion of an old energy source, a dent in current CE projections is possible.
The fundamental change in energy policy is a two part solution. Firstly, we must revisit the punching bag of the 20th century. Nuclear energy as a means of electricity production needs to be reevaluated. Nuclear energy is one of the most efficient energy sources available. Nuclear plants have a capacity factor of 92.3% (U.S. EIA, 2016), the fractional time of annual activity. This far exceeds all other energy sources.
Yet in much of the western world, specifically the United States, nuclear energy is ignored or criticized. In the U.S, proposing the energy as a solution is political suicide. The dogma surrounding nuclear energy is unfounded. For one, nuclear energy as a means of electricity generation is realistic. France gathers 71% of its energy from nuclear power plants. France’s contribution to CEs is relatively low compared to other developed nations. Nuclear energy can be paired with other forms of modern green energy to make up EROI shortcomings, as well.
The energy alternative is also safer than fossil fuels. Yes, the fears developed from the Chernobyl and Fukashima incidents still linger. However, the grand reality must be faced. Pollutants that are produced from fossil fuel activity kill nearly three million people a year (W.H.O, 2012). This does not include deaths related to conflict over fossil fuel extraction. In opposition, nuclear energy has the fewest annual deaths attributed to it. Nuclear power plants only emit innocuous water vapor as gaseous waste. Opponents of the energy will point towards nuclear waste, yet even exhausted nuclear rods can be decomposed of safely. Existing solutions of burying rods beneath the Earth in remote locations is safe, especially with the advent of robotic technologies which could automate the process.
The second part of the climate solution targets global demands of fossil fuels. Over half of CEs are a result of transportation and electricity generation. Electricity generation can be reduced by the aforementioned focus on nuclear energy. On the side of transportation, roughly half of emissions are a result of commercial services. When discussing emission reductions, tendency to focus on local communities often overlooks the nearly fifty million annual car’s worth of pollution emitted by single freight ships. Considering that there are normally over ten thousand cargo ships at sea on a given day, these hulking merchant ships outproduce personal car emissions by orders of magnitude.
Many of these cargo vessels transport more fuel. Ocean routes are the most common mode of transporting crude oil and natural gas. The production and transport of the fuel isn’t simply being pushed by big oil, although a role is played. There is a demand for imported energy. Japan imported over 93% of its total energy consumption in 2015. Nearly 40% of the United Kingdom’s energy use was imported. Even major energy consumers, like the United States and China, imported around 10% of their energy consumption in the same year (theglobaleconomy.com, 2015). The world’s dependence on crude oil drives a necessity to fuel the metal behemoths.
We must commit to more sustainable practices. To curtail GGEs related to commercial transportation we need to shift to regional focused economies. A shift to regional based economies will involve rewriting trade routes to reduce the necessity of trading across major oceans. Nations need to develop new and strengthen old continental based trading organizations. Countries with suburban expanses, need to encourage the migration of people into cities. In doing so, the demand for commercial land cargo will be reduced. Supply chains must aim to establish a presence on continental locations.
Ironically, the eschewing free trade policies is an externality of the current trade war conducted by President Trump. However, regionalization does not need to be motivated by nationalistic fervor. In an age of digital media, where leaders can contact each other in seconds, there is no excuse for the fortification of borders. The agreement of nations to move to regional plans is necessary. Squabbling nations will not be able to overcome the challenges climate change will present over the next century. Certain nations, such as Japan, will have no choice but to work closely with their neighbors. The shift to regionalization will put a dent in emissions. Even a reduction of commercial transportation related consumption by half can reduce global emission by more than 10%.
As a final thought, implementing a new climate policy today is not enough. While skeptics bickered between solutions and the validity of scientific findings, the climate threat evolved into an assault. The impacts of GGEs are being felt today. Regardless of the climate policy that the world intends to adopt, a realization of a transitory period must be accepted. Fossil Fuel emissions will not end overnight. Between the time my proposed plan is adopted and a noticeable reversal of global warming begins, will be a period in which the planet continues to produce GGEs at a threatening rate. Coastline cities, drought prone regions, and other sensitive habitats can expect cataclysmic damage. In addition to long term policy, a transitory plan is required to preserve endangered environments and cities across the planet.