This morning on Seven Network’s Weekend Sunrise my friend Ben Heard went opposite radiologist and treasurer of the Medical Association for Prevention of War’s Peter Karamoskos, ostensibly to debate the merits of starting to move ahead with nuclear power as part of Australia response to carbon emissions.
Ben was allowed to summarise some of situation first, but unlike the previous encounter, his opponent seemingly had no interest in the matter at hand, instead citing international estimates from the IPCC (which calls for an end to fossil fuel use by 2100) of global proportions of electricity use. He even argued with Andrew O’Keefe who tried valiantly to rerail the context: electrical power in Australia. The unstated implied doubt was obviously that addressing the carbon emissions from electrical generation may not be worth the effort, but when Ben was allowed the opportunity to disagree – and explain that this logic also undermined any reason to switch to renewable energy technologies as well – his opponent interrupted with flat-out umbrage, and continued to interrupt at every opportunity. It was becoming clear what his agenda was. Decarbonising Australia’s electricity, as is the aim of every proponent of every ultra-low carbon energy source, will cut a third of our nation’s carbon footprint. It is ridiculous for anybody to downplay that, especially with the potential future demand (and necessity!) for desalination and rechargeable electric vehicles.
This leads to the other point of contention, what we could call a classic, and it was raised purely to run down the clock: lifetime emissions. Ben’s opponent’s organisation flatly opposes nuclear power – unlike the previously cited IPCC:
But of all the excuses provided, lifecycle emissions were stressed the most, on the basis of debunked studies. The IPCC source does not cite them. They were widely criticised years ago, with far better studies now available, plus in-real-life experience – and nuclear opponents know that. It was when “Sovacool! Sovacool!” was being hollered across the studio link – which would mean nothing to almost everyone out in TV land – that it became crystal clear that only one guest was there to engage in mature debate.
The patient hosts were genuinely interested in the perennial issue of nuclear waste, which is of course fuel for future reactors, as South Australia’s peak business lobby group understands far better than the sort of NGOs who worry loudly, publicly and incessantly about it. But Ben was interrupted on that one, too.