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Human-caused climate change and air pollution remain major global-scale problems and are both due mostly to fossil fuel burning. In our recently published paper, we provide an objective, long-term, quantitative analysis of the effects of nuclear power on human health (mortality) and the environment (climate).
Our paper demonstrates that without nuclear power, it would have been even harder to mitigate human-caused climate change and air pollution. To compute potential future effects, we started with projected nuclear energy supply for 2010-2050 from an assessment by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency that takes into account the effects of the Fukushima accident. The largest uncertainties and limitations of our analysis stem from the assumed values for impacts per unit electric energy produced.
Our findings also have important implications for large-scale “fuel switching” to natural gas from coal or from nuclear. We conclude that nuclear energy – despite posing several challenges, as do all energy sources – needs to be retained and significantly expanded in order to avoid or minimize the devastating impacts of unabated climate change and air pollution caused by fossil fuel burning.
Pushker Kharecha is an associate research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University’s Center for Climate Systems Research. I'm a total cartophile - there's something about seeing a massive, information-rich view of some field. The fact that the Earth's climate has changed over its history - sometimes with cataclysmic consequences, called mass extinctions, for many of the planet's inhabitants - is not disputed. The Earth's position relative to the sun is also not as constant as you might like to think, we're not in a circular orbit and the tilt of the planet also changes, causing changes in how all that heat and light from the Sun hits the planet's surface. Such large eruptions are however rare, in fact, the phrase ''once in a blue moon'' probably comes from the change in the atmosphere caused by ash plumes from the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. The final reason why climates change - and this is where the controversy comes in - relates to human activity, or anthropogenic global warming, which is what is meant when you read a news story about climate change. The main greenhouse gases are: water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2),methane, water vapour, ozone, nitrous oxide and CFC-12, a chlorofluorocarbon the use of which in many countries as an aerosol propellant and refrigerant has been banned. The most common of these gases and thought to be the most significant greenhouse gas is water vapour but it's one on which human activity has little effect.
Plants, which rely on CO2 to survive and which use and store it as they photosynthesise are said to be natural carbon sinks and over history natural variations in the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are thought to have been balanced by their action.
However, since around the middle of the 18th Century, human activity affecting the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has rapidly increased.
In July 2010 the British Government's Meteorological Office and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued findings that they said showed unequivocally the world was warming. The reason why climate change has become so controversial is because people are being asked to make massive lifestyle changes in their lifestyle to help mitigate the effects of man made global warming. The roots of world-wide action on climate change date back to the 1988 foundation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) by the World Meteorological Organisation, a department of the United Nations in 1988. Since its foundation it has reported regularly on the state of climate change, with its 1990 report inspiring the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the first international treaty that aimed to reduce global warming, which was signed at the so-called Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. One of the key moments in the growth of concern about global warming was the release in 2006 of the film, An Inconvenient Truth. The countries that signed the treaty have met since, with much fanfare, but often to little effect. Much of what has been agreed is also controversial, particularly so-called carbon trading arrangements which aim to set a marketplace for carbon credits sold by those who live with a small carbon footprintor contribute to carbon reduction by, for example, planting trees, to those who pollute. Again, the possible consequences of climate change are the subject of much to-ing and fro-ing with accusations of irresponsible scare-mongering and reprehensible complacency flying between the parties. However, the IPCC has produced estimates - and the sheer complexity of climate systems and thus the difficulty of predicting how they will react using computer models makes them open to criticism - of what may happen as temperatures rise.

Unless you've already moved under a rock in preparation for climate chaos, you will have noticed that the issue of global warming is a controversial one. There has been criticism of the IPCC and its work, the so-called climategate scandal involving leaked emails from the University of East Anglia's climate studies centre and doubt has been cast on the very idea that humans could be causing warming of the globe.
One of the strongest ideas of the green movement has been 'think global act local', which empowers people to believe that their own actions can have an effect on problems that are as big as the planet. However, once you accept the idea of climate change, then doing nothing doesn't really seem an option. The good news is that changing your lifestyle to reduce your carbon footprint might not just be cheap; it might even save you money, because broadly speaking, the less you consume, the less damage you are likely to do.
Reduce your car use and try and drive more fuel efficiently, if you can, buy a car powered by alternative, greener means.
The move to exploit rainforest and peatland with no motive other than profit is finally being stopped. A new theory on why we have such biodiverse islands, while some are literally desert has been long in coming, but itA’s here.
When dolphins are 'rescued' in various countries, the car given seems to be ill-considered. According to studies, climate change will lead to more contaminated food, a further decrease in food supplies, and will cause food prices to rise even higher.
Mitigation efforts for both of these problems should be undertaken concurrently in order to maximize effectiveness. We were motivated to write it after witnessing the widespread backlash against nuclear power from much of the world public and some governments following the Fukushima nuclear accident. This is fundamentally because historical energy production data reveal that if nuclear power never existed, the energy it supplied almost certainly would have been supplied by fossil fuels instead (overwhelmingly coal), which cause much higher air pollution-related mortality and GHG emissions per unit energy produced. This amounts to at least hundreds and more likely thousands of times more deaths than it caused. We assumed that all of this projected nuclear energy is canceled and replaced entirely by energy from either coal or natural gas. However, we emphasize that our results for both prevented mortality and prevented GHG emissions could be substantial underestimates, because (among other reasons) our mortality and emission factors are based on analysis of Europe and the US (respectively), and thus neglect the fact that fatal air pollution and GHG emissions from power plants in developing countries are on average substantially higher per unit energy produced than in developed countries.
Although natural gas burning emits less fatal pollution and GHGs than coal burning, it is far deadlier than nuclear power, causing about 40 times more deaths per unit electric energy produced. The opinions expressed by the authors and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Earth Institute or Columbia University. However, what has been the cause of fierce debate is whether or not human activity is currently causing a warming of the world. These trends are much bigger and much longer term than a hot summer or a cold winter, we're thinking more of ice ages than cold snaps when we talk about climate change.
As the continents have moved through the process of plate tectonics they see changes in their climate, both as a result of the influence of the changing oceans and the size of landmass. Volcanic activity too can change climate by putting large amounts of material into the Earth's atmosphere and thus reflecting heat away from the surface.
It's also been theorised that asteroid strikes on the planet have a similar effect, throwing material into the sky, and some scientists believe that the end of the age of the dinosaurs may have been caused by a giant asteroid hit. While a greenhouse warms the air by allowing in and retaining heat and not allowing in cooling air, greenhouse gases warm the planet by absorbing the Sun's heat and then reemitting it into the atmosphere. With the exception of CFC-12, which is man-made, these gases have historically existed in the atmosphere and there have been natural fluctuations (for example volcanoes emit CO2) in their levels. As air warms it can hold more water, the increase in water vapour is said to be responsible for a possible amplification of global warming as the temperature warms. Since the industrial revolution took hold we not only burned more CO2-emitting fuels, from wood to coal to oil, but we have also massively reduced the amount of vegetation on the planet. Using 10 indicators, seven temperature measures and three ice or snow cover measures, they said that each of the last three decades has been warmer than the last and successively broken temperature records.
If action on climate change amounted to legislation to outlaw, say, wooden pencils then, while scientists may debate the rights and wrongs of the issue, you can almost be sure that our media would not be filled with the dispute.

The documentary followed former US Vice President Al Gore as he tried to convince audiences about the seriousness of climate change. The most recent major meeting was at Copenhagen in 2009 and was widely criticised by environmentalists. For example, the British Government's Climate Change Act of 2008 set legally-binding targets of a 34% reduction by 2020 and at least 80% by 2050. Broadly speaking, most are catastrophic to both human life and to many other species on the planet.
Environmentalists often refer to climate sceptics as climate deniers, claimed by their opponents to be a deliberate attempt to ally them in the public mind with far right wing holocaust deniers. It's possible to join any number of groups which campaign for environmental issues and almost all of which make global warming a major part of their efforts. Try not to use products made from oil, looking for green and vegetable-based alternatives is a good idea. Plants are carbon sinks, if you have land and can plant trees then you're making a difference.
Indonesia has needed to act on mining, forestry and agriculture for decades, and finally the ball is rolling.
Now the Arctic is defrosting and sea levels even affect your seaside holiday, perhaps it is too late. Several previous scientific papers have quantified global-scale greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions avoided by nuclear power, but to our knowledge, ours is the first to quantify avoided human deaths as well as avoided GHG emissions on global, regional, and national scales.
An average of 76,000 deaths per year were avoided between 2000-2009.  Likewise, we calculate that nuclear power prevented an average of 64 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent net GHG emissions globally between 1971-2009. We calculated that this nuclear phaseout scenario would lead to an average of 420,000 to 7 million deaths and 80–240 gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent net GHG emissions globally.
Also, such fuel switching is practically guaranteed to worsen the climate problem for several reasons.
Hansen, Goddard’s former director, is an adjunct professor at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. Gore won a Nobel peace prize as a result, but, like everything else to do with climate change the film has been the subject of much debate, particularly when schools have tried to show it to pupils. Has even become a plaintive refrain of whole western nations shrugging their shoulders as they watch the rapid and dirty industrialisation of new economic giants like China and India.
Lobbying your elected representatives as an individual or as part of a group is your right as a voter.
But given the unprecedented talking about carbon limitations and political action, the classic crunch could come next year, when there could be a slight cooling. They could even end up in commercial aquarium shows, but they certainly rarely make it back to the sea.
This emissions range corresponds to 16-48% of the “allowable” cumulative CO2 emissions between 2012-2050 if the world chooses to aim for a target atmospheric CO2 concentration of 350 parts per million by around the end of this century. First, carbon capture and storage is an immature technology and is therefore unlikely to constrain the resulting GHG emissions in the necessary time frame. It is equivalent to the past 35 years or 17 years of CO2 emissions from coal burning in the US or China, respectively. In other words, projected nuclear power could reduce the CO2 mitigation burden for meeting this target by as much as 16–48%. In effect, nuclear energy production has prevented the building of hundreds of large coal-fired power plants.
Third, potentially usable natural gas resources (especially unconventional ones like shale gas) are enormous, containing many hundreds to thousands of gigatonnes of carbon (based on a recent comprehensive assessment. For perspective, the atmosphere currently contains about 830 gigatonnes of carbon, of which 200 gigatonnes are from industrial-era fossil fuel burning.

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