Firefighters are battling to contain larger-than-usual wildfires in the Chernobyl exclusion zone as radiation levels spike at their center.
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Germany's target for renewable energy sources to deliver 65% of its consumed electricity by 2030 seemed on track Wednesday, with 52% of electricity coming from renewables in 2020's first quarter. Renewable energy advocates, however, warned the trend is imperiled by slowdowns in building new wind and solar plants.
By Paul Brown
Virtually all the world's demand for electricity to run transport and to heat and cool homes and offices, as well as to provide the power demanded by industry, could be met by renewable energy by mid-century.
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By Paul Brown
The latest science shows how the pace of sea level rise is speeding up, fueling fears that not only millions of homes will be under threat, but that vulnerable installations like docks and power plants will be overwhelmed by the waves.
Hard to Tell<p>The agency's report says estimates of sea level rise by 2100 vary, with an upper limit of one meter generally accepted, but up to 2.5 meters predicted by some scientists. The latest <a href="https://www.dtu.dk/english/news/Nyhed?id=B2B4A1A9-AACA-4ACE-8FDD-645A8ED219CC" target="_blank">research by Danish scientists</a> suggests judiciously that with the speed of sea level rise continuing to accelerate, it is impossible to be sure.</p><p><a href="http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/wp/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/NuClearNewsNo122.pdf" target="_blank">A report by campaigners</a> who oppose building nuclear power stations on Britain's vulnerable coast expresses extreme alarm, saying both nuclear regulators and the giant French energy company EDF are too complacent about the problem.</p><p>The report said: "Polar ice caps appear to be melting faster than expected, and what is particularly worrying is that the rate of melting seems to be increasing. Some researchers say sea levels could rise by as much as six meters or more by 2100, even if the 2°C Paris target is met.</p><p>"But it's not just the height of the rise in sea level that is important for the protection of nuclear facilities, it's also the likely increase in storm surges. An increase in sea level of 50cm would mean the storm that used to come every thousand years will now come every 100 years. If you increase that to a meter, then that millennial storm is <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/extreme-sea-level-events-will-hit-once-a-year-by-2050/" target="_blank">likely to come once a decade</a>.</p><p>"Bearing in mind that there will probably be nuclear waste on <a href="https://www.edfenergy.com/energy/nuclear-new-build-projects/hinkley-point-c" target="_blank">the Hinkley Point C site</a> [home to the new twin reactors being built by EDF in the West of England] until at least 2150, the question neither the <a href="http://www.onr.org.uk/" target="_blank">Office of Nuclear Regulation</a> nor EDF seem to be asking is whether further flood protection measures can be put in place fast enough to deal with unexpected and unpredicted storm surges."</p>
By John R. Platt
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Doomsday Clock Moves to 100 Seconds Before Midnight Due to Threats of Nuclear War and Climate Change
Germany reached an agreement Thursday that will allow it to stop burning coal by 2038.
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By Paul Brown
Nuclear power is in terminal decline worldwide and will never make a serious contribution to tackling climate change, a group of energy experts argues.
Cost Pressure<p>Loss of coolant because of power cuts could also be a serious risk as climate change worsened over the 60-year planned lifetime of a reactor. However, he did not believe that even the reactors currently under construction would ever be operated for that long for commercial reasons.</p><p>"The fact is that the electricity from new reactors is going to be at least three times more expensive than that from renewables and this will alarm consumers. Governments will be under pressure to prevent consumers' bills being far higher than they need to be.</p><p>"I cannot see even the newest reactors lasting more than a decade or so in a competitive market at the prices they will have to charge. Nuclear power will become a stranded asset," Schneider said.</p><p>The report shows that only 31 countries out of 193 UN members have nuclear power plants, and of these nine either have plans to phase out nuclear power, or else no new-build plans or extension policies. Eleven countries with operating plants are currently building new ones, while another eleven have no active construction going on.</p><p>Only four countries – Bangladesh, Belarus, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey – are building reactors for the first time. In the last 12 months only Russia and China have started producing electricity from new reactors – seven in China and two in Russia.</p>
Unable to Compete<p>One of the "mysteries" the meeting discussed was the fact that some governments, notably the UK, continued to back nuclear power despite all the evidence that it was uneconomic and could not compete with renewables.</p><p><a href="https://www.ieac.info/" target="_blank">Allan Jones, chairman of the International Energy Advisory Council</a>, said one of the myths peddled was that nuclear was needed for "baseload" power because renewables were available only intermittently.</p><p>Since a number of countries now produced more than 50% of their power from renewables, and <a href="https://www.clickenergy.com.au/news-blog/12-countries-leading-the-way-in-renewable-energy/" target="_blank">others even 100% (or very close) while not experiencing power cuts</a>, this showed the claim was untrue.</p><p>In his opinion, having large inflexible nuclear stations that could not be switched off was a serious handicap in a modern grid system where renewables could at times produce all the energy needed at much lower cost.</p><p>Amory Lovins said the UK's approach appeared to be dominated by "nuclear ideology." It was driven by settled policy and beliefs, and facts had no connection to reality. "Nuclear is a waste of time and money in the climate fight," he concluded.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://climatenewsnetwork.net/nuclear-power-cannot-rival-renewable-energy/" target="_blank">Climate News Network</a>.</em></p>
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The climate crisis had its strongest showing to date in the sixth Democratic primary debate hosted by Politico and PBS in Los Angeles Thursday.
First Mentions<p><br>As <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/democratic-debate-climate-questions-2641418575.html?rebelltitem=5#rebelltitem5" target="_self">in November</a>, Sen. <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bernie-sanders" target="_self">Bernie Sanders</a> (I-Vt.) was the first candidate to mention the climate crisis before it officially came up in the debate. That mention came when he was asked if he would vote in favor of a new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Canada and Mexico that recently passed the House of Representatives.</p><p>Sanders said he would not support the new agreement, partly because it does not address environmental issues.</p><p>"And, by the way, the word 'climate change,' to the best of my knowledge, is not discussed in this new NAFTA agreement at all, which is an outrage," Sanders said, according to a debate transcript published by <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/12/20/transcript-december-democratic-debate/" target="_blank">The Washington Post</a>.</p><p>Sen. <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/elizabeth-warren" target="_self">Elizabeth Warren</a> (D-Mass.) was the next candidate to raise the issue independently when answering a question about what she would say to voters who think the economy has been strong under President Donald Trump. Warren echoed other candidates' arguments that many Americans were still struggling and said this was because the government tended to work better for the wealthy than for everyone else. The climate crisis, she argued, was a case in point.</p><p>"Works great for giant oil companies that want to drill everywhere, but not for the rest of us who see climate change bearing down upon us," she said.</p><p>After these early references, the candidates were then fielded three climate-related questions that led to a robust back-and-forth.</p>
The Question of Sacrifice<p>The first two climate questions revolved around issues of sacrifice. The first, directed at Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) asked if she would subsidize the relocation of families and businesses away from places vulnerable to <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/wildfires" target="_self">wildfires</a> or <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/sea-level-rise" target="_self">sea level rise</a>. The second, directed at former Vice President Joe Biden, asked if it was worth it to sacrifice immediate growth in the oil and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/natural-gas">natural gas</a> industries for the sake of transitioning to a greener economy.</p><p>The candidates mostly side-stepped the first question and focused on their climate policies. Klobuchar said she would rejoin the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/paris-agreement" target="_self">Paris agreement</a> and reinstate Obama-era policies like the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/clean-power-plan" target="_self">Clean Power Plan</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/vehicle-efficiency-emissions-2481798622.html" target="_self">higher auto-efficiency standards</a>.</p><p>Billionaire Tom Steyer said he would declare a state of emergency on day one of his administration, and challenged South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg to make the climate crisis a higher priority.</p><p>Buttigieg, for his part, promoted his plan to institute a carbon tax and use the dividends to fund <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/renewable-energy/" target="_self">renewable energy</a> research.</p><p>But the candidates also pushed back on the idea that <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/climate-action" rel="noopener noreferrer">climate action</a> necessarily meant sacrifice.</p><p>"Not only can we clear up the air and water in the black and brown communities where our pollution is concentrated, this is also the opportunity to create literally millions of middle-class union jobs, well-paid, across the United States of America," Steyer said, according to the transcript. "Our biggest crisis is our biggest opportunity."</p><p>Biden also argued that he would sacrifice <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/fossil-fuels" target="_self">fossil fuel</a> growth — what sacrifice moderator Tim Alberta of Politico said could cost thousands to hundreds of thousands of blue collar jobs — because "the opportunity for those workers to transition to high-paying jobs, as Tom said, is real."</p><p>Sanders came out most forcefully against the notion of sacrifice, challenging the framing of the question itself, according to HuffPost.</p><p>"It's not an issue of relocating people and towns," Sanders said, to thunderous applause. "The issue now is whether we save the planet for our children and grandchildren."</p>
The Question of Nuclear<p>Alberta then focused the climate conversation on <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/nuclear" target="_self">nuclear</a> energy with a question first directed at Warren.</p><p>"Many of our Western allies rely heavily on nuclear energy because it's efficient, affordable, and virtually carbon-free. And many climate experts believe that it's impossible to realize your goal of net zero emissions by the year 2050 without utilizing nuclear energy. So can you have it both ways on this issue?" Alberta asked, according to the transcript.</p><p>Warren reiterated her commitment to keeping existing nuclear plants running while transitioning away from fossil fuels, but said she would not build any more reactors.</p><p>"We've got to get the carbon out of the air and out of the water. And that means that we need to keep some of our nuclear in place," she said.</p><p>On this issue, she differs from Sanders, who has promised to shutter existing nuclear reactors, according to HuffPost.</p><p>Businessman Andrew Yang, meanwhile, came out strongly in support of reactors that use thorium, which produces less waste than uranium.</p><p>Steyer, however, argued that nuclear was not competitive price-wise in the U.S. and raised the problems of disasters and waste storage.</p><p>"We actually have the technology that we need. It's called wind and solar and batteries. So, in fact, what we need to do, we can do," Steyer argued.</p>
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After marathon talks in Brussels, the leaders of European Union member states – bar Poland – agreed early Friday to commit to going carbon neutral by 2050.
All seven of Germany's nuclear power plants are slated to close by 2022, but questions remain about where the European country can safely bury nearly 28,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste that will stay there for the next million years, as CNN reported.
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South Korea will close up to a quarter of its coal-fired plants for the winter months to tamp down on air pollution that the country declared a "social disaster" after several cities experienced record high levels of air pollution last winter, as CNN reported.