Monbiot: Coal is Still More Dangerous than Nuclear Energy

Ben Cohen
Publish date:
Social count:

George Monbiot comes out surprisingly in favour of nuclear power despite the tragic events in Japan, fearing a rash switch to coal as the world reels from the melting reactors:

Coal, the most carbon-dense of fossil fuels, is the primary driver of human-caused climate change. If its combustion is not curtailed, it could kill millions of times more people than nuclear power plants have done so far. Yes, I really do mean millions. The Chernobyl meltdown was hideous and traumatic. The official death toll so far appears to be 43 – 28 workers in the initial few months then a further 15 civilians by 2005. Totally unacceptable, of course; but a tiny fraction of the deaths for which climate change is likely to be responsible, through its damage to the food supply, its contribution to the spread of infectious diseases and its degradation of the quality of life for many of the world's poorest people.

Monbiot is no fan of nuclear power, but believes the threat from CO2 is so grave, all options must be on the table:

Several writers for the Guardian have made what I believe is an unjustifiable leap. A disaster has occurred in a plant that was appallingly sited in an earthquake zone; therefore, they argue, all nuclear power programmes should be abandoned everywhere. It looks to me as if they are jumping on this disaster as support for a pre-existing position they hold for other reasons. Were we to follow their advice, we would rule out a low-carbon source of energy, which could help us tackle the gravest threat the world now faces. That does neither the people nor the places of the world any favours.

It's hard to argue with his logic, but as Japan descends into chaos on live TV, it is a bitter pill to swallow. We can't see CO2 emissions, and the effects of global warming are not often immediately visible - yet Monbiot is right - it is a far deadlier threat to life on the planet than the melting reactors in Japan.