And yet even as progressive environmentalists wring their hands at the G.O.P.’s climate change denial, there are biases on the left that stray just as far from the scientific consensus.
“The left is turning anti-science,” Marc Andreessen, the creator of Netscape who as a venture capitalist has become one of the most prominent thinkers of Silicon Valley, told me not long ago.
He was reflecting broadly about science and technology. His concerns ranged from liberals’ fear of genetically modified organisms to their mistrust of technology’s displacement of workers in some industries. “San Francisco is an interesting case,” he noted. “The left has become reactionary.”
OK, if you want to make this argument, using the half-assed argument of a Silicon Valley capitalist may not be your strongest talking point. But that’s where we are at. But what is getting in the way of this climate change action in San Francisco? Morons who don’t vaccinate their children? Chemtrail conspiracy theorists? I guess that’s some left-leaning anti-science thought, but I don’t see the connection.
Still, liberal biases may be most dangerous in the context of climate change, the most significant scientific and technological challenge of our time. For starters, they stand against the only technology with an established track record of generating electricity at scale while emitting virtually no greenhouse gases: nuclear power.
Oh, so that’s what this is. A big feint for another article on nuclear power. Yawn. Look, here’s the deal with nuclear. One can make a case for it as part of a solution, I guess. But there are so many problems. First, these plants are tremendously expensive to build. Second, the global supplies of uranium are far from limitless. At best, nuclear power is a relatively small part of a clean energy future. Third, the nation still lacks, 71 years after the nuclear age began, a decent place to store nuclear waste. Fourth, while there’s no question of the damage done to the planet by coal, if a nuclear accident happens–which it will, someday–it will leave an area uninhabitable for up to hundreds of years. Fifth, the problems with nuclear plants are mostly kicked down the road. Effectively, they need to be kept running or carefully dismantled at some point. If they shut down on their own, i.e., the core melts down, you have little Chernobyls everywhere there’s a plant. Someday, during a war perhaps where you have long-term power outages, this sort of thing can and probably will happen. Might be 500 years in the future, but that’s still a real debt we are telling the future to pay.
There’s a lot of problems with nuclear! There are problems with every energy source, yes. Society does have to make choices about energy. But there are some pretty big issues here. To be concerned with the effects of nuclear does not make people on the left anti-science. But that’s a useful epithet for Silicon Valley capitalists interested in investing in nuclear power.