While the worst of this summer's heat seems to have passed in the U.S. and Europe, Japan is in the throes of a dangerous heat wave.
The end of the rainy season last week brought a dangerous heat wave that claimed the lives of 57 people in Japan and sent tens of thousands to the island nation's hospitals for heat related illness, the Japan Times reported.
The week that started on July 29 saw triple the number of heat-related hospitalizations as the week before. At 18,347, that's the second highest number since heat-related records started in 2008, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, as the Japan Times reported.
The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said the surge in hospitalizations, deaths and people collapsing from heat stroke is partly due to people's bodies, which adapted to the cool weather of the rainy season and did not sweat much, have been unable to cope with the sudden spike in temperature, according to the Japan News.
The JMA said a seasonal rain front lingered over Honshu from late June to mid-July. Plus, a high pressure system in the Sea of Okhotsk also brought cold winds from the north, resulting in cloudy, cool weather across the country, as the Japan News reported. That ended abruptly.
From July 1 to July 23, one person died in Japan from heat stroke. The following week, the official end of the rainy season, saw 11 deaths when temperatures reached 98.6 degrees in central Japan, according to the JMA. Last week when 57 people died, temperatures in Kumagaya City and Isesaki City reached 101 degrees, while Fukushima and Osaka registered readings of 98 and Tokyo 95, according to the UPI.
While Japan suffered from more hot temperatures today, Japanese authorities asked residents to stay cool and hydrated since the heat is expected to last until September.
Last Sunday night, Yohei Yamaguchi, a 28-year-old part-time amusement park worker, died from heatstroke after practicing a dance routine outdoors in a mascot costume on Sunday night, the Japan Times reported.
Yamaguchi was rehearsing on an outdoor stage in Hirakata amusement park for about 20-minutes in a costume that weighed over 35 pounds when he lost consciousness lost consciousness around 8 p.m., according to police and reported by The Asahi Shimbun.
Deadly heat waves like this are becoming an annual occurrence in Japan, where authorities are lobbying to designate public facilities, shops and other places as "temporary rest areas" where people can take respite from the heat. Last summer, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency declared the extreme heat a natural disaster after 65 people died of heat-related medical conditions in one week and temperatures set a new record at 106 degrees Fahrenheit, as Time reported.
By Grant Smith
From 2009 to 2012, Gregory Jaczko was chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which approves nuclear power plant designs and sets safety standards for plants. But he now says that nuclear power is too dangerous and expensive — and not part of the answer to the climate crisis.
"Nuclear power was supposed to save the planet," Jaczko wrote in a recent op-ed for The Washington Post. As an atomic physicist, he once endorsed that view. But his years on the NRC changed his mind:
This tech is no longer a viable strategy for dealing with climate change, nor is it a competitive source of power. It is hazardous, expensive and unreliable, and abandoning it wouldn't bring on climate doom. The real choice now is between saving the planet and saving the dying nuclear industry. I vote for the planet.
Jaczko describes how his experience revealed the pervasive political influence of the nuclear power industry in Congress and among his fellow commissioners. Their opposition derailed much of the safety measures he proposed in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. In 2011 an investigative series by the Associated Press detailed the collusion between regulators and the industry to weaken safety standards to keep existing plants economically viable.
Jaczko's efforts to protect the American public likely cost him his career at the NRC. He now leads an offshore wind power startup and is speaking out at an important juncture for the nation's energy future.
Electric utilities that operate nuclear plants are boasting of being "carbon free" by mid-century. They insist that their aging nuclear plants must be part of the equation to keep costs down. But even though Japan closed most of its reactors after Fukushima, carbon emissions went down, because the Japanese ramped up energy efficiency and solar investments.
"It turns out that relying on nuclear energy is actually a bad strategy for combating climate change," Jaczko wrote. "One accident wiped out Japan's carbon gains. Only a turn to renewables and conservation brought the country back on target."
Jaczko's heightened concern for a nuclear accident in the U.S. is also well founded. The former director of the nuclear safety project at Union of Concerned Scientists, David Lochbaum, determined that the industry's efforts to continue to run aging nuclear plants 20 to 30 years or even longer than their initial licenses allowed for is akin to playing Russian roulette.
Since Fukushima, Germany has ordered the shutdown of all nuclear plants by 2022. Japan has reopened only a few reactors. Even France, long a champion of nuclear power, is ramping down its nuclear fleet because of safety concerns. But in the U.S., the Trump administration and lawmakers in some states continue to support taxpayer-financed subsidies to bail out money-losing nuclear plants. On grounds of both economics and safety, that's a fool's bet.
Grant Smith is a senior energy policy advisor with Environmental Working Group.
See how you can save money on solar panels in Florida.
Florida is well-known as the Sunshine State because of its year-round sunny weather that draws millions of tourists each year, but historically, Florida hasn't actually been a national leader when it comes to solar energy generation. That said, financial incentives like Florida solar tax credit and rebate opportunities have played a huge part in its rise to become one of the top states for solar energy.
To the glee of clean energy advocates across the state, various Florida solar incentives have succeeded in bringing solar power throughout the state. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, in 2020, Florida ranked third in the nation for solar energy capacity, and it had the second-most installations during the second quarter of 2021.
This progress in the solar field comes from many different sources, not the least of which is Florida solar incentives. For any homes or businesses feeling left behind while the rest of the state goes solar, these types of solar tax credits are still widely available across Florida, which will be discussed in this article.
For most homeowners, the decision to go solar comes down to cost. To see how much you'd pay for a home solar system (and how much you can shave off that price with Florida solar tax credit and incentive opportunities), you can get a free quote from a top solar company near you by using this tool or filling out the form below.
Florida Solar Tax Credits and Solar Rebates
As much as transitioning to clean energy is the best thing for the environment and the fight against climate change, the reality has always been that such changes would be slow to happen (if they happened at all) unless they made sense financially. When solar energy systems are proven to save money for those who pay the high upfront costs to install them, those purchases are better considered a worthy investment.
As such, some of the most effective policies encouraging solar installations have been those making the decision a no-brainer from the budgetary perspective. Let's take a look at some of the top Florida solar incentives.
|Florida Solar Incentive||Program Overview|
|Florida Net Metering Programs||Credits homeowners when their solar panels produce extra electricity and it is exported to the local power grid|
|Florida Tax Exemptions||Property tax exemptions and sales tax exemptions for solar and other renewable energy equipment|
|Local Incentives||Incentives, rebates and low-interest financing programs at the town, city, and county level that encourage local solar installations|
Florida Net Metering Programs
Regardless of the state, one of the most critical types of energy policy for solar panels is known as net metering. Through net metering, homeowners can feed excess electricity produced by their solar panels into the power grid in exchange for utility credits. These credits can be used to pay for the energy a home uses when panels aren't producing (such as at night).
Net metering tends to be a state-by-state policy, as there is no federal policy regarding net metering. Florida is one of the states where there is, in fact, a statewide net metering program, applicable for homeowners regardless of which utility serves their area.
The specific net metering provision covers up to 2 megawatts (MW) of capacity for any customers who generate electricity with a renewable energy source. Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy have the largest net metering programs in the state.
The availability of such net metering serves as an incentive for Floridians to install solar panels on their property. Not only do they benefit by reducing their power bills from pulling energy from the grid less often, but they can even profit when the utility pays them for generating more power than they consume, bringing their solar payback period down.
Florida Solar Tax Exemptions
Another financial mechanism that the Florida state government offers to solar system owners is solar tax exemptions. To start, Florida doesn't want to make the upfront cost to purchase and install solar equipment to be any higher than the open market says it should be, so since 1997, all solar energy systems have been completely exempt from Florida's sales and use tax.
Once a solar photovoltaic system is purchased and installed, there is a statewide property tax abatement that further helps homeowners avoid paying taxes on it. Most home additions, such as a new shed or outdoor patio built in a home's backyard, would be appraised to determine the value it added to the property and thus increase the overall property tax. However, the added home value of solar panels is excluded from the property's taxable value.
Florida is also a large, diverse state, so in addition to the state solar incentives, many local jurisdictions enact their own policies to encourage and support installation of solar energy systems. At the town, city or county level, Floridians will commonly find low-interesting solar financing options, specific solar incentives or rebates, and more.
You can determine whether your locality offers such incentives by investigating your local government websites or talking to utility company representatives. When you do, you may come across such successful programs as Jacksonville's $2,000 rebate for solar battery installations, Boynton Beach's Energy Edge Rebate Program, or the Solar Energy Rebate Grant Program offered by Dunedin.
Federal Solar Tax Credit
Floridians, of course, can also benefit from all the tax incentives, rebates and credits that are offered at the federal level. Over the past two decades, the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) has attributed largely to the rapid growth in solar energy across business sectors, geographies and customer types.
For systems installed and operational before the end of 2022, the federal solar tax credit is equal to 26% of the value of the installation, dropping to 22% for systems installed in 2023. It is currently set to expire afterward, though the idea of extending the ITC beyond its current expiration date, as has been done in the past, has been a part of active clean energy policy debates.
FAQ: Florida Solar Incentives
Does Florida have a solar tax credit?
State-wide, there is no specific Florida solar tax credit. However, all utilities in the state of Florida do offer customers the ability to utilize net metering, Florida solar homeowners are eligible for the federal solar tax credit, and some local jurisdictions in Florida may offer their own tax credits.
Is solar tax exempt in Florida?
In Florida, the purchase and installation of a home solar system is exempt from all sales tax, and the value of renewable systems are excluded from 100% of residential property taxes.
How much is the solar tax credit for 2022?
For any solar panel system installed before the end of 2022, the federal solar investment tax credit is equal to 26% of the value of the system.
Is Florida a good state for solar?
Florida is a great state for solar from the perspective of having year-round sunny weather, higher-than-average solar irradiance and a policy landscape conducive to solar installations. Because of these factors, Florida ranked third among all states in terms of solar capacity installed in 2020 (rising to second when looking at the third quarter of 2021), per the SEIA.
How much do solar panels cost in Florida?
Based on market research and data from top solar companies, we've found the average cost of solar panels in Florida is $2.53 per watt. However, this is only an average, and prices can vary widely depending on where you live, the number of solar panels you need and more.
To get a free estimate for your own home solar system, you can get connected with a pre-screened local installer by using this tool or entering your home's information below.
By Eon Higgins
Its official name is the "Akademik Lomonosov," but critics call it a "floating Chernobyl."
Whichever title you prefer, the floating barge nuclear plant is heading across the Arctic Circle. A project of the Russian government, the plant is headed to the far eastern town of Pevek on Russia's Arctic north coast to provide power to energy projects in the North Pole.
According to CNN:
The Admiral Lomonosov will be the northernmost operating nuclear plant in the world, and it's key to plans to develop the region economically. About 2 million Russians reside near the Arctic coast in villages and towns similar to Pevek, settlements that are often reachable only by plane or ship, if the weather permits. But they generate as much as 20 percent of country's GDP and are key for Russian plans to tap into the hidden Arctic riches of oil and gas as Siberian reserves diminish.
The Lomonosov has been the target of criticism from Greenpeace for years. The environmental group first coined the name "Chernobyl on ice."
But the company behind Lomonosov, Rosatom, takes exception at comparing its barge plant to the famed site of the world's worse domestic nuclear disaster.
"It's totally not justified to compare these two projects," the Lomonosov's chief engineer for environmental protection, Vladimir Iriminku, told CNN. "These are baseless claims, just the way the reactors themselves operate work is different."
The barge's operators have learned from the disaster at Fukushima, Japan as well, they said.
"This rig can't be torn out of moorings, even with a 9-point tsunami, and we've even considered that if it does go inland, there is a backup system that can keep the reactor cooling for 24 hours without an electricity supply," said Lomonosov deputy director Dmitry Alekseenko.
Bellona, a nonprofit that observes nuclear projects and their environmental impacts, found in April that 24 hours could be insufficient time to avoid disaster if the rig was torn out of its moorings and landed somewhere where escape is difficult due to the polar environment.
In an interview with The Verge, Dale Klein, the former head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission under President George W. Bush, called the plant's nickname a "scare tactic." However, Klein acknowledged that the potential for disaster from the Lomonosov could be catastrophic if something were to go wrong.
"If there were a problem out in the middle of the ocean, you would probably never see it on land," said Klein. "Or, you might be able to measure it, but it would be such a minimal impact [on land] because the ocean is so big. But if you have this barge that's anchored providing electricity 24 hours, seven days a week, and you had a spill, then it could get into the environment locally onshore."
"And so," said Klein, "you'd have to make sure that that never happens."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
- Former U.S. Nuclear Safety Chief: 'New Nuclear Is off the Table ... ›
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Ben Lecomte, the first man to swim across the Atlantic in 1998, will attempt another grueling, history-making ocean crossing.
On Tuesday, the 50-year-old Frenchman and his crew will set out from Tokyo for a 5,500-mile swim across the Pacific, Reuters reported. If all goes as planned, Lecomte will arrive in San Francisco six to eight months later.
The purpose of "The Swim" is not just to break a record. "The mission of my historic swim is to bring to light the current state of our oceans," Lecomte said in a statement, adding that the research he and his team collect "will ultimately help us better protect our oceans."
According to a press release, Lecomte and the crew are collaborating with 27 scientific institutions, including NASA and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Along the trans-Pacific journey, the team will collect more than 1,000 samples to help understand the ocean's state, from mammal migrations to plastic pollution. The route will cut through the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive trash vortex floating off the coast of California.
"I remember my father and he was the one who taught me how to swim in the Atlantic. I remember times when we would go on the beach and walk and never see any plastic. Now, everywhere I go, on the beach I see plastic everywhere," Lecomte told Reuters.
"If we are all aware of it then after it is much easier to take action and to change our behavior because the solution is in our hands. We know what we have to do."
Among other endeavors, the team will also collect data on the spread and concentration of radioactive seepage from Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. The effort will also help medical researchers gain insight about endurance, the human body in extreme conditions, as well as the effect of low gravity on bones and vision.
Lecomte spent the last four years training for the event. Once in the waters, he will kick and paddle for eight hours a day, covering about 30 miles and burning though 8,000 calories. For the rest of the day, the swimmer will recover and refuel on a sailboat with his support team. Doctors and other specialists on land will monitor his physical condition and provide any required support.
Lecomte partnered with science publisher Seeker.com and Discovery to bring the expedition and its scientific findings to viewers around the world. The journey will be captured in multiple platforms, including live video from the boat, Instagram stories and weekly swim updates. The effort will culminate with a feature-length documentary in 2019.
"Not only are we documenting history, but we will be creating never-before-seen content in real-time from deep in the Pacific. Additionally, Seeker will shed light on key marine conservation issues, with the goal of driving viewers to take action to reverse the negative impact that humans have had on our oceans."
Lecomte's 1998 swim from Cape Cod to France measured 3,700 miles over 73 days. After his incredible feat, he told Oprah Winfrey on her talk show: "When I arrived after swimming the Atlantic, my first words were, 'Never again.' Then a few months after, I said, 'No, I need to go back.' It's something that I need. It's within me. I need to find another challenge and to push myself."
As 1.5 Million Flee Hurricane Florence, Worries Grow Over Half Dozen Nuclear Power Plants in Storm's Path
By Julia Conley
With 1.5 million residents now under orders to evacuate their homes in preparation for Hurricane Florence's landfall in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, the region faces the possibility of catastrophe should the storm damage one or more of the nuclear power plants which lie in its potential path.
As the Associated Press reported on Monday, "The storm's potential path also includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous eastern hog farms that store animal waste in massive open-air lagoons."
The plants thought to lie in the path of the hurricane, which is expected to make landfall on the Southeastern U.S. coast on Thursday, include North Carolina's Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant in Southport, Duke Energy Sutton Steam Plant in Wilmington, and South Carolina's V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville.
"Florence will approach the Carolina coast Thursday night into Friday with winds in excess of 100mph along with flooding rains. This system will approach the Brunswick Nuclear Plant as well as the Duke-Sutton Steam Plant," Ed Vallee, a North Carolina-based meteorologist, told Zero Hedge. "Dangerous wind gusts and flooding will be the largest threats to these operations with inland plants being susceptible to inland flooding."
This nuclear power plant is literally directly in the path of Florence, at the southern coast near Wilmington… https://t.co/z4Aezopkou— Climate State (@Climate State) 1536680444.0
Flooding-prone Brunswick Nuclear Plant among rickety old Fukushima-style reactors in likely path of Hurricane Flore… https://t.co/W2WMWx1iOB— Scott Stapf (@Scott Stapf) 1536587689.0
In 2015, the Huffington Post and Weather.com identified Brunswick as one of the East Coast's most at-risk nuclear power plants in the event of rising sea levels and the storm surges that come with them.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Hurricane Florence was thought to have the potential to cause "massive damage to our country" according to Jeff Byard, associate administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The storm was labeled a Category 4 tropical storm with the potential to become a Category 5 as it nears the coast, with 130 mile-per-hour winds blowing about 900 miles off the coast of Cape Fear, North Carolina.
Meteorologists warned of hurricane-force winds in the region by mid-day Thursday, with storm surges reaching up to 12 feet or higher.
Based on current forecasts, #Florence could produce the highest storm surge on record in the Carolinas: 15 to 20 fe… https://t.co/9LAUDiUUvJ— Weather Underground (@Weather Underground) 1536603636.0
The 2011 Fukushima disaster remains the highest-profile nuclear catastrophe caused by a natural disaster. The tsunami that hit Japan in March of that year disabled three of the plant's reactors, causing a radioactive release which forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
In 2014, Shane Shifflett and Kate Sheppard at the Huffington Post reported on the risk storms like Florence pose to nuclear plants:
Most nuclear power facilities were built well before scientists understood just how high sea levels might rise in the future. And for power plants, the most serious threat is likely to come from surges during storms. Higher sea levels mean that flooding will travel farther inland, creating potential hazards in areas that may have previously been considered safe.
During hurricanes, many nuclear facilities will power down—but this is not a sure-fire way to avoid disaster, wrote Sheppard and Shifflett.
"Even when a plant is not operating, the spent fuel stored on-site, typically uranium, will continue to emit heat and must be cooled using equipment that relies on the plant's own power," they wrote. "Flooding can cause a loss of power, and in serious conditions it can damage backup generators. Without a cooling system, reactors can overheat and damage the facility to the point of releasing radioactive material."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
You can add radiation to the list of pollutants for which the Trump administration is looking to loosen restrictions.
That loosening could come as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) already controversial proposal "Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science," The Associated Press reported Tuesday.
The proposal, which has been criticized by the scientific community for limiting the kinds of studies the EPA can use to make regulatory decisions, could also open the door to raising the safe threshold for exposure to certain toxins, including radiation. That's because it includes a provision instructing regulators to consider "various threshold models across the exposure range" when it comes to setting rules for dangerous substances.
The proposal doesn't mention radiation in particular, but the press release announcing the proposal quoted University of Massachusetts toxicologist Edward Calabrese, who is a proponent of raising the threshold for radiation exposure, saying doing so would save money and boost health. Calabrese, who was set to testify on the proposal at a Congressional hearing Wednesday, believes that small doses of radiation and other carcinogens can actually strengthen the body's ability to repair itself, in the way that exercise or sunlight do.
"The proposal represents a major scientific step forward by recognizing the widespread occurrence of non-linear dose responses in toxicology and epidemiology for chemicals and radiation and the need to incorporate such data in the risk assessment process," Calabrese said in the press release.
Current government regulations say that any exposure to harmful radiation could cause cancer, and opponents of the change say raising that threshold could put nuclear workers, oil and gas employees, medical professionals conducting X-rays or CT scans and people living near Superfund sites or any other radiation leak at risk.
"If they even look at that—no, no, no," said Terrie Barrie, a Craig, Colorado resident and nuclear exposure compensation advocate for her husband and other workers at the closed Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant Terrie Barrie told The Associated Press. "There's no reason not to protect people as much as possible."
Physicist Jan Beyea, who has done work on the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant accident for the National Academy of Sciences, told The Associated Press that the notion advocated by Calabrese and others, that small doses of radiation can be helpful, was "generally dismissed by the great bulk of scientists."
The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements reaffirmed that there was no risk-free level of radiation exposure this year after a review of 29 public health studies.
Up until March, the EPA's online guidance on radiation said that "Current science suggests there is some cancer risk from any exposure to radiation." But an edit in July emphasized low individual cancer risk for small doses of exposure. "According to radiation safety experts, radiation exposures of ... 100 millisieverts usually result in no harmful health effects, because radiation below these levels is a minor contributor to our overall cancer risk," the updated guidance says.
EPA spokesperson John Konkus said Tuesday that the science transparency proposal would not change radiation policy. "The proposed regulation doesn't talk about radiation or any particular chemicals. And as we indicated in our response, EPA's policy is to continue to use the linear-no-threshold model for population-level radiation protection purposes which would not, under the proposed regulation that has not been finalized, trigger any change in that policy," he said.
Public comment on the draft proposal closed in August and the EPA said it would review the more than 590,000 comments it had received this fall.
Cell Phone Radiation Risks: California Issues Groundbreaking Guidelines https://t.co/Ucn0KrrVY6 @goodhealth @WHO @Healthy_Child— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch) 1513383609.0
By Paul Brown
Key projects have been abandoned, costs are rising, and politicians in countries which previously championed the industry are withdrawing their support.
This latest trend—the production of hydrogen from excess wind and solar power—raises the possibility of replacing natural gas, at least in part, for domestic heating and cooking and for power stations.
Many existing gas pipelines and domestic networks are equally capable of taking natural gas, biogas and hydrogen, or a mixture of all three.
The speed with which the transition is taking place has exceeded all official estimates. In favorable locations across the world, including the U.S., Europe and India, onshore wind and solar farms are the least expensive way of producing electricity.
Even off-shore wind, five years ago more expensive than nuclear power, has developed so quickly that the latest Dutch off-shore farms are to be built without any subsidy at all.
These advances in renewables that are cutting the cost of power are in sharp contrast to continued cost overruns and delays in nuclear power stations.
An analysis of countries' plans for tackling climate change showed that 108 were looking to expand renewables and just nine wanted to build new nuclear stations.
The biggest single blow to nuclear power's expansion came in August: two nuclear reactors under construction in South Carolina were abandoned when 40 percent complete. This was a humiliation for the U.S. giant Westinghouse, already in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings to escape its creditors.
The models concerned were its flagship design, AP 1000 pressurized water reactors, which were supposed to spur a nuclear revival. Their cost, already $9 billion, was expected to rise to $25 billion by the time the reactors were completed—three years behind schedule.
This month in the nearby state of Georgia, building work on the only other plants of this design still under construction was allowed to continue despite already accumulated delays and costs. When the project is completed it is expected to increase consumer bills in the state by 10 percent.
The continued difficulties of nuclear power are reflected in the French government's declared intention to reduce nuclear's share in electricity generation from 75 percent to 50 percent, by closing old stations and building more renewables.
While it will not close old reactors as fast as it originally intended, France does not plan to build any new nuclear plants beyond the one still awaiting completion at Flamanville, which is years late and over budget.
The South Korean government has similarly been promising to halt nuclear expansion and develop more renewables. Japan, still suffering from the after-effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, is abandoning plans to restart some of its older reactors because of public resistance and the expense of upgrading safety.
Even in China and Russia, where state control means market economics have little effect on decision-making, plans to build more nuclear stations appear to be on hold, although no official statements have been made.
This has not stopped the nuclear industries in all these countries trying to export their technologies—notably to the UK, which is inviting all of them except Russia to build their latest nuclear power station design on its shores. If the plans succeed, the UK would have four different designs.
The most advanced of these, Hinkley Point C in the west of England, is a set of two reactors of similar design to the badly delayed French reactor at Flamanville. It was originally due to be completed by Christmas 2017, but is now scheduled for 2025, although that is now seen as optimistic.
Even the former UK energy secretary Sir Edward Davey, who signed off on the Hinkley Point deal, said "the economics have clearly gone away." He doubted that the building would ever be completed, he told Greenpeace in an interview.
All the other UK nuclear projects are still at various stages of planning, and how any of them will be paid for is yet to be worked out. It is already clear that none can be financed without government subsidy.
An important political development in 2017 was that for the first time both the U.S. and the UK admitted that their support for the nuclear industry is linked to the need to maintain their military capability in nuclear submarines and personnel. This is key, because both powers have previously claimed that there is no link between civil and military nuclear industries.
Even before their admission it was already clear that the big economies which have no nuclear weapons, like Germany, can see no point in having a civil nuclear industry.
That does not stop smaller countries, some without any nuclear power stations at all at present, from signing agreements with the Russian state-owned company Rosatom. In what many see as a Russian policy to extend its international influence, Rosatom already says it is building reactors in Belarus, China, India, Bangladesh, Hungary, Turkey, Finland and Iran, and is seeking to expand, with tenders in for 23 other reactors abroad.
These include Sudan, where the current president is wanted for war crimes. Whether all the plans will come to fruition remains doubtful.
The claim to a bright future which the nuclear industry clung to for the last 20 years was that the technology produced large quantities of low carbon electricity at a low price—something that intermittent renewables could not do.
In 2017 it is clear this argument has fallen apart. Nuclear is ever more expensive, and the cost is growing, while renewables are getting cheaper all the time.
But perhaps most important is that, with the development of batteries, biogas and hydrogen, the output from renewables can be stored and balanced out. Base load nuclear power is no longer needed.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
Indian Point Energy Center is a three-unit nuclear power plant station located in Buchanan, New York, just south of Peekskill. Tony Fischer / Wikipedia
By Joseph Mangano
In the late 1970s, the rate of new thyroid cancer cases in four counties just north of New York City—Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties—was 22 percent below the U.S. rate. Today, it has soared to 53 percent above the national rate. New cases jumped from 51 to 412 per year. Large increases in thyroid cancer occurred for both males and females in each county.
That's according to a new study I co-authored which was published in the Journal of Environmental Protection and presented at Columbia University.
This change may be a result of airborne emissions of radioactive iodine from the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which is located at the crossroads of those four counties and has been operating since the mid-'70s.
Exposure to radioactivity is the only known cause of thyroid cancer. Indian Point routinely releases more than 100 radioactive chemicals into the environment. These chemicals enter human bodies through breathing and the food chain, harming and killing healthy cells. One of these chemicals is radioactive iodine, which attacks and kills cells in the thyroid gland, raising the risk of cancer.
The new study calls for much more research on thyroid cancer patterns. According to the New York State cancer registry, the 1976-81 four-county thyroid cancer rate was 22 percent below the U.S. rate. Since then, thyroid cancer has increased across the U.S., but the local increase was much greater—rising to 53 percent above the U.S. rate from 2000-2014. That's statistically significant.
"The statistical aberration of increased cancer rates should be a concern to us all," said Peter Schwartz, a Rockland County businessman diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 1986. "After Fukushima, it finally occurred to me that my thyroid cancer was connected to Indian Point."
"I am concerned that radiation may have contributed to thyroid cancer in my family," says Joanne DeVito, who spoke at the Columbia University event. She was diagnosed with the condition, as were each of her three daughters. "Our family has no history of thyroid disease, and doctors are at a loss to explain why this happened," said DeVito. She now lives in Connecticut, but for many years lived close to Indian Point.
Little is known about thyroid cancer causes. Risk factors according to the Mayo Clinic include being female, genetic syndromes and exposure to ionizing radiation. Earlier studies found high rates of thyroid cancer in those treated with head and neck irradiation (which ceased in the 1950s), survivors of the 1945 Hiroshima/Nagasaki atomic bombs, and the 1986 Chernobyl and 2011 Fukushima reactor meltdowns.
A 1999 National Cancer Institute study concluded that as many as 212,000 Americans developed thyroid cancer from the above-ground nuclear weapons tests in Nevada. Radiation exposures from those test were considered low-dose. Above-ground testing was banned in a 1963 treaty.
From 1980 to 2014, the U.S. thyroid cancer incidence rate more than tripled for all ages, races and genders. Most scientific articles in the professional literature concluded that improved diagnosis cannot be the sole reason.
In a recent study in the journal Laryngoscope, researchers at Hershey Medical Center found local residents near the Three Mile Island plant diagnosed with thyroid cancer after the 1979 partial meltdown had a significantly lower proportion of the BRAFV600 mutation, which is not associated with radiation-induced thyroid cancer, compared to cases diagnosed before the accident and many years afterwards. The authors suggested the meltdown could have contributed to the disease.
Indian Point is located in Buchanan, New York, in northwest Westchester County. Its two functioning reactors began operating in 1973 and 1976. An agreement to close the plant by 2021 between Entergy (which owns and operates the plant) and New York State was reached in January of this year.
Joseph Mangano is the executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
By Dahr Jamail
Former nuclear industry senior vice president Arnie Gundersen, who managed and coordinated projects at 70 U.S. atomic power plants, is appalled at how the Japanese government is handling the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
"The inhumanity of the Japanese government toward the Fukushima disaster refugees is appalling," Gundersen, a licensed reactor operator with 45 years of nuclear power engineering experience and the author of a bestselling book in Japan about the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, told Truthout.
He explains that both the Japanese government and the atomic power industry are trying to force almost all of the people who evacuated their homes in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster to return "home" before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
This March Japan's federal government announced the subsidies that have, up until now, been provided to Fukushima evacuees who were mandated to leave their homes are being withdrawn, which will force many of them to return to their contaminated prefecture out of financial necessity.
And it's not just the Japanese government. The International Olympic Commission is working overtime to normalize the situation as well, even though conditions at Fukushima are anything but normal. The commission even has plans for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to have baseball and softball games played at Fukushima.
Gundersen believes these developments are happening so that the pro-nuclear Japanese government can claim the Fukushima disaster is "over." However, he noted, "The disaster is not 'over' and 'home' no longer is habitable."
His analysis of what is happening is simple.
"Big banks and large electric utilities and energy companies are putting profit before public health," Gundersen added. "Luckily, my two young grandsons live in the U.S.; if their parents lived instead in Fukushima Prefecture [a prefecture is similar to a state in the U.S.], I would tell them to leave and never go back."
Reports of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which began when a tsunami generated by Japan's deadly earthquake in 2011 struck the nuclear plant, have been ongoing.
Seven more people who used to live in Fukushima, Japan were diagnosed with thyroid cancer, the government announced in June. This brings the number of cases of thyroid cancer of those living in the prefecture at the time the disaster began to at least 152.
While the Japanese government continues to deny any correlation between these cases and the Fukushima disaster, thyroid cancer has long since been known to be caused by radioactive iodine released during nuclear accidents like the one at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. A World Health Organization report released after the disaster started listed cancer as a possible result of the meltdown, and a 2015 study in the journal Epidemiology suggested that children exposed to Fukushima radiation were likely to develop thyroid cancer more frequently.
The 2011 disaster left 310 square miles around the plant uninhabitable, and the area's 160,000 residents were evacuated. This April, officials began welcoming some of them back to their homes, but more than half of the evacuees in a nearby town have already said they would not return to their homes even if evacuation orders were lifted, according to a 2016 government survey.
Officials from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the company responsible for cleaning up the disaster, announced this February they were having difficulty locating nuclear fuel debris inside one of the reactors. Radiation inside the plant continues to skyrocket to the point of causing even robots to malfunction.
Cancer cases continue to crop up among children living in towns near Fukushima.
And it's not as if the danger is decreasing. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Earlier this year, radiation levels at the Fukushima plant were at their highest levels since the disaster began.
TEPCO said atmospheric readings of 530 sieverts an hour had been recorded in one of the reactors. The previous highest reading was 73 sieverts an hour back in 2012. A single dose of just one Sievert is enough to cause radiation sickness and nausea. Five sieverts would kill half of those exposed within one month, and a dose of 10 sieverts would be fatal to those exposed within weeks.
Dr. Tadahiro Katsuta, an associate professor at Meiji University, Japan, is an official member of the Nuclear Reactor Safety Examination Committee and the Nuclear Fuel Safety Examination Committee of the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Truthout asked him what he was most concerned about regarding the Japanese government's handling of the ongoing nuclear disaster at Fukushima.
"What I regard as the most dangerous, personally, is the fact that the Japanese government has chosen the national prestige and protection of electric power companies over the lives of its own citizens," Katsuta, who wrote the Fukushima update for the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, said.
Gundersen thinks it simply makes no sense to hold the Olympics in Japan.
"Holding the 2020 Olympics in Japan is an effort by the current Japanese government to make these ongoing atomic reactor meltdowns disappear from the public eye," Gundersen said. "I discovered highly radioactive dust on Tokyo street corners in 2016."
According to Gundersen and other nuclear experts Truthout spoke with, the crisis is even worse.
Fukushima and Surrounding Prefectures Radioactively "Contaminated"
"The Japanese government never dedicated enough resources to trying to contain the radiation released by the meltdowns," Gundersen said.
Gundersen said that during his first trip to Japan in 2012, he stated publicly that the cleanup of Fukushima would cost more than a quarter of a trillion dollars, and TEPCO scoffed at his estimate. But now in 2017, TEPCO has reached and announced the same conclusion, but as a result of its inaction in 2011 and 2012, the Pacific Ocean and the beautiful mountain ranges in Fukushima and surrounding prefectures are contaminated.
One of the tactics that Prime Minister Shinzō Abe's administration chose to deploy at Fukushima to contain radiation was an underground "ice wall."
"As the 'ice wall' was being designed, I spoke out that it was doomed to fail, and was [an] incredibly expensive diversion," Gundersen said. "There are techniques that could stop water from entering the basements of the destroyed reactors so that the radioactivity would not migrate through the groundwater to the ocean, but the Japanese government continues to resist pursuing them."
Gundersen argues that Japan could and should build a sarcophagus over all three destroyed reactors and wait 100 years to dismantle them. This way, the radioactive exposure will be minimized for Japanese workers, and ongoing radioactive releases to the environment would be minimized as well.
Gundersen also points out that it is equally important that radioactive water continues to run out of the mountain streams into the Pacific, so a thorough cleanup of the mountain ranges should begin right now, but that is a mammoth undertaking that may never succeed.
In addition to his other roles, Arnie Gundersen serves as the chief engineer for Fairewinds Energy Education, a Vermont-based nonprofit organization founded by his wife Maggie. Since founding the organization, Maggie Gundersen has provided paralegal and expert witness services for Fairewinds. Like her husband, she's had an inside view of the nuclear industry: She was an engineering assistant in reload core design for the nuclear vendor Combustion Engineering, and she was in charge of PR for a proposed nuclear reactor site in upstate New York.
When Truthout asked her how she felt about the Abe government's response to Fukushima, she said, "Human health is not a commodity that should be traded for corporate profits or the goals of politicians and those in power as is happening in Japan. The Japanese government is refusing to release accurate health data and is threatening to take away hospital privileges from doctors who diagnose radiation symptoms."
Maggie Gundersen added that her husband also met with a doctor who lost his clinic because he was diagnosing people with radiation sickness, instead of complying with the government's story that their illnesses were due to the psychological stress of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns.
M.V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia in Canada, and is also a contributing author to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report for 2016. Like the Gundersens, he is critical of the Abe administration's mishandling of Fukushima.
"I am not sure we can expect much better from the Abe administration that has shown so little regard for people's welfare in general and has supported the nuclear industry in the face of clear and widespread opposition," Ramana told Truthout. "As with restarting nuclear power plants, one reason for this decision seems to be to reduce the liability of the nuclear industry, TEPCO in this case. It is also a way for the Abe administration to shore up Japan's image, as a desirable destination for the Olympics and more generally."
"Prime Minister Abe has neither the knowledge about the issue of Fukushima accident nor the interest at all," Katsuta said. "The Abe administration has yet to clearly apologize for its responsibility for promoting the nuclear energy policy."
Instead, according to Katsuta, the Abe administration has lifted evacuation orders in an effort to "erase the memories of the accident."
Fukushima Evacuees "Forced" Back Home
In the immediate wake of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns, 160,000 people fled areas around the plant. The Abe government has been providing housing subsidies to those who were evacuated, but its recent announcement means those subsidies will no longer be provided. Many "voluntary evacuees" will be forced to consider returning despite lingering concerns over radiation.
"This is very unfortunate," Ramana said of the withdrawal of the subsidies. "The people who were evacuated from Fukushima have already been through a lot and for some of them to be told that the government, and presumably TEPCO, does not have any more liability for their plight seems quite callous."
He explains that, in enacting this callous move, the Japanese government is claiming that radiation exposure is now within "safe levels" for people to return home. This claim ignores the fact that levels now are even higher than before the accident, and also disregards the widespread uncertainties plaguing the measurement of radiation in the affected areas.
Katsuta expressed similar concerns.
"The lifted evacuation area has not been restored completely, as the radiation dose is still high, and decontamination of the forest is excluded," he said. "Besides, the decontamination waste is often stored in the neighborhood, and there were many families who did not return, and then the local community collapsed."
Katsuta added that the subsidies only amount to $1,000 per refugee, so paying them for the next 10 years is "not expensive" in order to safeguard human lives.
Given her work in PR for the nuclear industry, Maggie Gundersen had an interesting position on the Abe government's tactics.
When she was working for the atomic power industry, she was "carefully taught" certain misinformation about atomic power reactors by industry scientists and engineers. She said she would never have done that work if she had known the "hidden truth." She and Arnie were both taught that atomic power was the "peaceful use of the atom"—she does not support war and believes that the use of atomic weapons or depleted uranium are horrific crimes—and she explains that she never would have worked for or promoted atomic power knowing what she knows now.
"Arnie and I immediately noticed that TEPCO and the Japanese government were using the same playbook that was used at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island (and for that matter, Deepwater Horizon)," Maggie Gundersen explained. "Governments immediately minimize the amount of radiation being released, or in the case of Deepwater Horizon, the amount of oil."
She added that in each of these cases, the mainstream press dutifully reported shortly after the crisis that there was nothing to fear, even though there was no evidence to support these assertions. The governments' objectives were to minimize fear and chaos, and most media simply echoed officials' claims. The responses to the Fukushima disaster are following the same pattern.
"Is the Abe regime glossing over the seriousness of the Fukushima meltdowns and ongoing radioactivity? Absolutely," she said. "What is happening in Japan to the known and unknown victims is a human rights violation and an environmental justice debacle."
2020 Tokyo Olympics to be Held Amidst "Hot Particles"
Katsuta said that the Fukushima evacuees are "extremely worried" that their plight will be overshadowed by the Olympics. He believes the Japanese government is using the Olympics to demonstrate to the world that Japan is now a "safe" country and that the Fukushima disaster "has been solved."
"In Japan, the people are really forgetting the Fukushima accident as … the news of the Olympics increases," he said.
Arnie Gundersen doesn't think it makes sense to have some of the Olympic venues (soccer, baseball and possibly surfing) in Fukushima Prefecture itself.
"Radioactively 'hot particles' are everywhere in Fukushima Prefecture and in some of the adjacent prefectures as well," he said. "These 'hot particles' present a long-term health risk to the citizens who live there and the athletes who will visit."
Ramana, too, believes that the events held closer to Fukushima "may be adding to the radiation dose of the competitors and the spectators."
Fukushima Disaster "Will Continue for More Than 100 Years"
Maggie Gundersen pointed out that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission consistently claims it has learned lessons from Fukushima, but she doesn't think the commission—or the Japanese government, or corporations—learned any lessons at all.
"Energy production is all about money," she said. "After the meltdowns, many banks in Japan invested in keeping the atomic power reactors on hold until the disaster could sort itself out. Those banks and the government supporting its access to the use of the atom have a vested interest in starting the old reactors up."
Katsuta has a dire outlook for the future of Fukushima, and said there are already numerous evacuees who have given up hope of returning because they are aware of the crisis being unsolvable by the current means of TEPCO and the Abe administration.
"Even if decontamination and decommissioning work progresses, the problem will not be solved," he said. "We have not yet decided how to dispose of decontamination waste and decommissioning waste."
Ramana believes Fukushima should be a reminder of the inherent hazards associated with nuclear power, and how those hazards become worse when entities that control these technologies put profits over human wellbeing.
Arnie Gundersen had even stronger words.
"The disaster at Fukushima Daiichi will continue for more than 100 years," he explained. "Other atomic power reactor disasters are bound to occur. Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi should have taught everyone around the world that nuclear power is a technology that can destroy the fabric of a society overnight."
According to him, the remains of the reactor containments at Units 1, 2 and 3 are highly susceptible to damage from another severe earthquake, and any earthquake of 7.0 or higher at the Fukushima site could provoke further severe radiation releases.
Shortly after the meltdowns, Maggie and Arnie Gundersen both spoke about Japan being at a "tipping point": It could respond to the disaster by leading the world in renewable energy while choosing to protect people and the pristine rural environment through sustainable energy economies.
But obviously it didn't work out that way.
"The world saw Japan as technologically savvy, but instead of moving ahead and creating a new worldwide economy, it continues with an old tired 20th century paradigm of energy production," Maggie Gundersen said. "Look at the huge success and progress of solar and wind in other countries like Germany, Nicaragua and Denmark. Why not go energy independent, creating a strong economy, producing many more jobs and protecting the environment?"
Arnie Gundersen has plans to return to Japan later this year on a crowdsourced trip with scientific colleagues in order to teach Japanese citizen scientists how to take additional radioactive samples. Fairewinds Energy Education is currently fundraising to make this possible.
In the meantime, dramatic examples of the ongoing dangers of nuclear power in Japan abound.
In June, radioactive materials were found in the urine of five workers exposed to radiation in an accident at a nuclear research facility in Japan's Ibaraki Prefecture. In that incident, one of the workers had a large amount of plutonium in his lungs.
Recent polls in Japan show that the Japanese public has lost faith in nuclear safety regulation, and a majority of them favor phasing out nuclear power altogether.
Meanwhile in the U.S., President Donald Trump has put nuclear energy first on the country's energy agenda and has announced a comprehensive study of the U.S. nuclear energy industry. Trump's energy secretary Rick Perry said, "We want to make nuclear cool again."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Truthout.
Captured by an underwater robot on Saturday, footage released by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (Tepco) shows for the first time what appears to be melted nuclear fuel inside one of the destroyed Fukushima reactors in Japan.
According to the Japan Times:
"This is the first time Tepco has found something likely to be melted fuel. When the utility sent a different robot into reactor 2 in January, it found black lumps sticking to the grating in the primary containment vessel but said they were difficult to identify.
The objects spotted this time look like icicles hanging around a control rod drive attached to the bottom of the pressure vessel, which holds the core, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said at an evening news conference Friday.
Enclosed by the huge primary containment vessel, the pressure vessel originally contained the fuel rod assemblies. But the rods melted into a puddle and burned through its bottom once the plant lost power after being swamped by the monstrous tsunami of March 11, 2011."
Fukushima Radiation and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics https://t.co/jUKWSDTThL @nukereaction @StopNukePower— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch) 1500327609.0
The footage indicates just how much damage exists inside the three destroyed reactors at the plant. "The search for melted fuel in the two other reactors," reported the Guardian, "has so far been unsuccessful because of damage and extremely high radiation levels."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
Summer is a time for escape reading. But that designation need not be limited to fiction; books written for the general reader on topics outside one's area of expertise can also provide passage to exciting new places. This month's bookshelf includes six non-fiction titles, five novels and one collection of short stories. The last three titles are now in paperback, suitable for a vacation or some beach time. Good reading to you!
The descriptions are drawn from publishers' catalogue copy. When two dates of publication are provided, the second marks the release of the paperback.
Books Overlooked in Earlier Thematic Bookshelves
1. Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change, by Ashley Dawson (Verso Books 2017, 384 pages $29.95)
Today, the majority of the world's megacities are located in coastal zones, yet few of them are prepared for the floods that will increasingly menace their shores. Instead, they develop luxury waterfront condos for the elite and industrial facilities for corporations that not only intensify carbon emissions, but also place coastal residents at greater risk. In Extreme Cities, Dawson offers an alarming portrait of the future of our cities, describing the efforts of Alaskan residents to relocate; Holland's models for defending against the seas; and the development of New York City before and after Hurricane Sandy. Our best hope lies not with fortified sea walls, he argues, but with urban movements already fighting to remake our cities in more just and equitable ways.
2. Energy: A Human History, by Richard Rhodes (Simon & Schuster 2018, 480 pages, $30.00)
Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author Richard Rhodes reveals the fascinating history behind energy transitions over time—wood to coal to oil to electricity and beyond. Rhodes looks back on five centuries of progress, through such influential figures as Queen Elizabeth I, King James I, Benjamin Franklin, Herman Melville, John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford. He addresses how we mastered these energy transitions, and capitalized on their opportunities. Rhodes also looks at the current energy landscape, with a focus on how wind energy is competing for dominance with vast supplies of coal and natural gas. In Energy, he also addresses the specter of global warming, and a population hurtling towards ten billion by 2100.
3. Brave New Arctic: The Untold Story of the Melting North, by Mark C. Serreze (Princeton University Press 2018, 264 pages, $24.95)
In the 1990s, researchers in the Arctic noticed that floating summer sea ice had begun receding. This was accompanied by shifts in ocean circulation and unexpected changes in weather patterns throughout the world. And the Arctic's perennially frozen ground, known as permafrost, was warming; treeless tundra was being overtaken by shrubs. What was going on? Brave New Arctic is Mark Serreze's riveting firsthand account of how scientists from around the globe came together to find answers. In this gripping scientific adventure story, Serreze shows how the Arctic's extraordinary transformation serves as a harbinger of things to come if we fail to meet the challenge posed by a warming Earth.
Editor's Note: Last month's bookshelf, a list of books on the denial and obstruction of climate science, should have included Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Climate Change (2009), by DeSmog Blog co-founder James Hoggan.
New Big-Picture Books
4. Come On! Capitalism, Short-Termism, Population and the Destruction of the Planet, by Ernst Ulrich von Weissacker and Anders Wijkman (Springer 2018, 220 pages, $29.95)
Pope Francis said it clearly: our common home is in deadly danger. Analyzing our crisis, this book concludes that the world needs a "new enlightenment"; one that is not based solely on doctrine but instead seeks a balance between humans and nature, as well as a balance between markets and the state, and the short versus long term. To do this we must leave behind working in "silos" in favor of a more systemic approach that will require us to rethink the organization of science and education. This book is full of optimistic case studies and policy proposals that will lead us back to a trajectory of sustainability. But it is also necessary to address the taboo topic of population increase. Finally, an optimistic book from the Club of Rome.
In his nonfiction, William T. Vollmann has won acclaim as a singular voice tackling some of the most important issues of our age. Now he turns to a topic that will define the generations to come – global warming. In the first volume, No Immediate Danger, Vollman examines and quantifies the many causes of climate change, from industrial manufacturing and agricultural practices to fossil fuel extraction, economic demand for electric power, and the justifiable yearning of people all over the world to live in comfort. Turning to nuclear power first, Vollmann recounts multiple visits he made over the course of seven years to the contaminated no-go zones and sad ghost towns of Fukushima, Japan. No Good Alternative, the second volume focuses on human experiences related to coal mining and oil and natural gas production.
6. Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth, by Adam Frank (W.W. Norton 2018, 272 pages, $26.95)
In Light of the Stars, Astrophysicist Adam Frank shows how we as a civilization can only hope to survive climate change if we recognize what science has recently discovered: that we occupy just one of ten billion trillion planets in the universe. And it's highly likely that many of those planets hosted technologically advanced alien civilizations that also faced the challenge of civilization-driven climate change. Writing with clarity and conviction, Franks builds on pioneering work of scientists such as Frank Drake, Carl Sagan, Vladimir Vernadsky, James Lovelock, and Lynn Margulis. Light of the Stars explores what may be the most challenging question of all: What can the likely presence of life on other worlds tell us about our own fate?
New Cli-Fi Novels & Short Stories
7. The Overstory: A Novel, by Richard Powers (W.W. Norton 2018, 512 pages, $27.95)
In his twelfth novel, National Book Award winner Richard Powers delivers a sweeping novel of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of the natural world. The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond, exploring the essential conflict on this planet: the one taking place between humans and nonhumans. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe. If the trees of this earth could speak, what would they tell us? "Listen. There's something you need to hear."
(Editor's note: Also see Amy Brady interview with the author here.)
8. Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation, edited by Phoebe Wagner, and Bronte Christopher Wieland (Upper Rubber Boot Books 2017, 254 pages, $13.99)
Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation is the first anthology to broadly collect solarpunk short fiction, artwork, and poetry. A new genre for the 21st Century, solarpunk is a revolution against despair. Focusing on solutions to environmental disasters, solarpunk envisions a future of green, sustainable energy used by societies that value inclusiveness, cooperation, and personal freedom. Sunvault focuses on the stories of those inhabiting the crucial moments when great change can be made by people with the right tools; stories of people living during tipping points, and the spaces before and after them; and stories of those who fight to effect change and seek solutions to ecological disruption.
9. Blackfish City: A Novel, by Sam J. Miller (Ecco Press 2018, 336 pages, $22.99)
After the climate wars, a floating city is constructed in the Arctic Circle, a remarkable feat of mechanical and social engineering, complete with geothermal heating and sustainable energy. The city's denizens have become accustomed to a roughshod new way of living, however, the city is starting to fray along the edges—the contradictions of incredible wealth alongside direst poverty are spawning unrest, and a new disease called "the breaks" is ravaging the population. Blackfish City is a remarkably urgent—and ultimately hopeful—novel about political corruption, organized crime, technology run amok, the consequences of climate change, gender identity, and the unifying power of human connection.
(Editor's note: Again, see Amy Brady interview with the author here.)
Recent Cli-Fi Novels Now in Paperback
10. New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Hatchette Book Group 2017/2018, 613 pages, $28.00)
As the sea levels rose, every street became a canal. Every skyscraper an island. For the residents of one apartment building in Madison Square, however, New York in the year 2140 is far from a drowned city. There live the market trader, the detective, the immigration lawyer, the internet star, beloved by millions for her airship adventures, and the building's manager. Then there are two boys who don't live there, but have no other home. Lastly there are the coders, temporary residents on the roof, whose disappearance triggers a sequence of events that threatens the existence of all—and even the long-hidden foundations on which the city rests.
11. Walkaway: A Novel, by Cory Doctorow (Tor Books 2017/2018, 496 pages, $18.99
After watching the breakdown of modern society, Hubert really has nowhere left to be—except amongst the dregs of disaffected youth who party all night and heap scorn on the sheep they see on the morning commute. After falling in with Natalie, an ultra-rich heiress trying to escape the clutches of her repressive father, the two decide to give up fully on formal society—and walk away. It's still a dangerous world out there, the empty lands wrecked by climate change, dead cities hollowed out by industrial flight, shadows hiding predators. Still, when these walkaways flourish, more people join them. Walkaway is a multi-generation sf thriller about the wrenching changes of the next hundred years … and the very human people who will live their consequences.
12. South Pole Station: A Novel, by Ashley Shelby (Picador 2017/2018, 368 pages, $17.99 paperback)
Do you have digestion problems due to stress? Do you have problems with authority? How many alcoholic drinks to you consume a week? Would you rather be a florist or a truck driver? These are some of the questions that determine if you have what it takes to survive at South Pole Station, a place with an average temperature of -54°F and no sunlight for six months a year. Cooper Gosling has just answered five hundred of them. Her results indicate she is abnormal enough for Polar life. A warmhearted comedy of errors set in the world's harshest place, Ashley Shelby's South Pole Station is a wry and witty debut novel about the courage it takes to band together when everything around you falls apart.
(Editor's note: Once more, see Amy Brady's interview with the author here.)
The fossil fuel era must end, or it will spell humanity's end. The threat isn't just from pollution and accelerating climate change. Rapid, wasteful exploitation of these valuable resources has also led to a world choked in plastic. Almost all plastics are made from fossil fuels, often by the same companies that produce oil and gas.
Our profligate use of plastics has created swirling masses in ocean gyres. It's worse than once thought. New research concludes that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is 16 times larger than previously estimated, with 79,000 tonnes of plastic churning through 1.6 million square kilometers of the North Pacific. That's larger than the area of Quebec—and it continues to grow! Researchers say if we don't clean up our act, the oceans will have more plastics by weight than fish by 2050.
The Great Pacific garbage patch is now twice the size of Texas. https://t.co/4MGzVMOUjK— Greenpeace USA (@Greenpeace USA) 1522083613.0
The Ocean Cleanup Foundation commissioned the study, published in Nature, based on a 2015 expedition using 30 vessels and a C-130 Hercules airplane to look at the eastern part of the patch.
According to a CBC article, researchers estimate that the patch holds 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, much of it broken down into microplastics less than half a centimeter in diameter. They also found "plastic bottles, containers, packaging straps, lids, ropes and fishing nets," some dating from the late 1970s and into the '80s and '90s, and large amount of debris from the 2011 tsunami in Fukushima, Japan.
When plastics break down into smaller pieces, they're more difficult to clean up, and marine animals often ingest the pieces, which is killing them in ever-increasing numbers. Larger pieces can entangle marine animals, and bigger animals often ingest those, too.
The North Pacific patch isn't unique. Debris accumulates wherever wind and ocean conditions and Earth's rotation create ocean gyres, including the North Pacific, North Atlantic, South Pacific, South Atlantic and Indian Ocean. There's also one in the Arctic Ocean, although it isn't a gyre, but an "accumulation zone," where water from warmer areas sinks as it cools.
As the 5 Gyres organization points out, plastics are everywhere, not just in the gyres. It says the idea of a floating island of garbage is a misconception: "In the ocean, plastic is less like an island, and more like smog."
Although some of the plastic comes from ships, most is washed from land into the seas via runoff, rivers and wind.
Scientists are conducting research into ways of cleaning up some ocean plastic, but say the only way to adequately address the problem is to stop it at its source. Marcus Eriksen, 5 Gyres co-founder and research director, told CBC that governments need to implement policies to get manufacturers to clean up their acts, "And make smarter products and think of the full life cycle; stop making something that, when it becomes waste, becomes a nightmare for everyone."
Fossil fuels and the products derived from them have made life easier, but at what cost? We've only been using plastics since the 1950s, and our excessive fossil fuel use is also a relatively recent phenomenon. Putting plastics in the recycling bin isn't the only answer either. Low fossil fuel prices and lack of profitable markets for recycled materials means a lot of plastic doesn't get recycled, and it doesn't biodegrade.
We don't have to stop using fossil fuels and producing fossil-fuel-derived plastics overnight, but we can't continue to regard the industry as the backbone of our economies and ways of life, and we must stop being so wasteful.
As individuals, we can help reduce the amounts of plastic waste in the oceans and on land by eschewing single-use items like plastic bags, drink containers, straws and excessively packaged items; by avoiding clothing made with plastic microfibers and products containing microbeads; and by choosing reusable containers or disposables made from other materials, such as aluminum, that are more likely to be recycled. Be wary of compostable plastics. Although made from plant materials, they require large industrial facilities to break them down.
The real solution is to buy less stuff in the first place, reduce waste, conserve energy and shift to cleaner, renewable power sources and product materials. It's past time to take pollution, climate change and waste seriously.
- Ocean Plastic Projected to Triple Within Seven Years ›
- U.S. Asks China to 'Immediately Halt' Ban on Foreign Waste ›
- Great Pacific Garbage Patch Is Now Twice the Size of Texas ›
Next week is Go #Green week at LSBU. Watch out for the exciting events happening on campus. Check out the full programme on our student portal MyLSBU. (Link in bio). 😃♻️ 🍃 #GoGreen #lsbu #teamlsbu #green #eco #recycling #earth #savetheplanet #environment #sustainability #sustainable #uni #university #londonuniversity #london #unilife #studentlife #teamlsbu #save #week #students #studentlife #campus #londonlife #ecofriendly