California Needs the Courage To Change for Climate Change

The following is a statement by Founder and President of Environmental Progress, Michael Shellenberger, Time Magazine, “Hero of the Environment” and Green Book Award winner:

Like many Californians, I was anti-nuclear for most of my life. In the late 1990s, I helped to save California’s last ancient redwoods still in private hands, kill a proposed radioactive waste repository at Ward Valley, and advocate for renewables.

I changed my mind about nuclear energy after experiencing the limitations of renewables and learning the facts, including from two of my idols, the climate scientist James Hansen and Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand, who over 10 years ago declared that we needed nuclear energy to prevent global warming.

Every time a nuclear plant closes, more fossil fuels are burned, and emissions rise. This is what happened when San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station closed in 2013, and it is what will happen if Governor Gavin Newsom and the legislature allow Diablo Canyon to close.

For that reason, I applaud the courage of Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham for introducing an Assembly Constitutional Amendment that would recognize nuclear as renewable.

Many people remain afraid of nuclear including Diablo Canyon but the facts are clear. Nuclear is the safest way to make reliable electricity. Diablo Canyon is 85 feet above sea level and could never be harmed by a tsunami. There is a large amount of back-up water above ground. Nuclear Regulatory Commission routinely ranks Diablo Canyon as in the top 25 percent of best-performing plants in the US.

Californians including Governor Gavin Newsom need to act on his campaign slogan, “Courage for a change,” and save Diablo Canyon by recognizing it as renewable. Nuclear plants produce 75% fewer carbon emissions than solar farms. Doing so will save ratepayers up to $3.6 billion that they would otherwise have to pay for the unpopular bailout of PG&E, and prevent air pollution and carbon emissions from rising.

I changed my mind about nuclear energy, as have many other environmentalists. I believe Gov. Newsom and the people of California can, too. California needs the courage to change for climate change.