The Kernel
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The Kernel

The Risk of Wallowing in Climate Guilt

It’s normal to feel guilty about climate change. The important thing is to get things right from now on.

Extinction Rebellion calling for truth. Will we find it? (Photo by Joël de Vriend on Unsplash).
Energy reality: fossil fuels remain king. (BP Statisitical Review of World Energy 2018)
Coal still dominates the electrical power sector.

Greenpeace were right. Friends of the Earth were right. They were right, and we ignored them.

We built a Wall.

The Wall was inside our minds.

We labelled climate activists as unwanted outsiders, as disrupters looking to mess up a system that had made a lot of people rich.

Walls keep things out, but they also hide what’s on the other side (Photo by Miko Guziuk on Unsplash).

The politics of climate change

Against all evidence, traditional greens continue to vilify nuclear power, despite the prospect of catastrophic climate change (Photo by Ra Dragon on Unsplash).
Right about climate change, wrong about other science issues like genetic engineering and nuclear power (“GM Protest in Montpellier” by Peter Curbishley is licensed under CC BY 2.0).
Cooking with dirty fuels is a killer. Women and children suffer most.

The Wall begins to crumble

Nature abhors a vacuum

Nature abhors a vacuum

- Aristotle

  • We weren’t shown convincing evidence for why nuclear plants had to be shut down.
  • We weren’t told why having renewable energy was more important than reducing carbon emissions.
  • No one explained why a decentralized grid was necessarily better than a centralized one.
  • We weren’t shown how we would manage frequency and voltage without the massive of inertia of huge turbines in nuclear and conventional power stations.
  • No one pointed out that a drive towards all things “natural”, to harmonize with nature, would place even more pressure on our fragile land.
  • Was it really morally right to tell poorer countries they shouldn’t use cheap, dirty energy, when that was exactly had brought the West out of poverty?

Our climate guilt was so overwhelming that almost no one stopped to ask if any of this made sense.

Anti-nuclear activists and NY Governor Cuomo want to close Indian Point nuclear plant, which will send NY’s carbon emissions up. If you think that’s crazy, sign this letter to Cuomo!
Overwhelming guilt can be blinding; it impairs our decision-making (Photo by Jacqueline Day on Unsplash).
  1. Is this guilt appropriate and, if so, what is its purpose?
It’s good to realise when you’ve done something wrong, but focus on making the right choices in the future (Photo by Francisco Gonzalez on Unsplash).

The way forward?



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David de Caires Watson

Nuclear futurist, chartered physicist, safety engineer, amateur birder and pedal power enthusiast. Writer for The Kernel mag. Founder of Atomic Trends.