July 25, 2017

Honorable President Moon Jae-in

The Blue House

Seoul, South Korea

Dear President Moon,

On July 5 we sent you a letter urging you to consider the climate and environmental impacts of phasing out nuclear energy in South Korea.

We write to you now as climate scientists and environmental experts to warn of misinformation and fake news being promoted by Greenpeace, and widely disseminated by South Korean media outlets.

First, on July 12, 2017, Korea’s KBS News reported that Greenpeace’s Executive Director, Jennifer Morgan, made the following claim: “Nuclear power plants are not the solution to climate change. To make fuels for nuclear power plants, we have to go through the whole process of uranium mining, transporting, and disposing. Considering this fact, there will be a lot of carbon emissions.”

The above statement is false. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nuclear energy produces four times less carbon pollution per unit of energy than solar farms, 3.4 times less than solar roofs, three times less than geothermal, and half as much as hydroelectric dams.[1]

And the IPCC stresses the need for an expansion of nuclear to deal with climate change. In its 2014 report, the IPCC concluded, "No single mitigation option in the energy supply sector will be sufficient,” the report warns. “Achieving deep cuts [in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions] will require more intensive use of low-GHG technologies such as renewable energy, nuclear energy, and CCS.”

Since 2014, the consensus that nuclear must play a large role in climate mitigation has only grown stronger. A major study published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the main proposal for 100 percent renewables contained “errors, inappropriate methods, and implausible assumptions.”

Second, Ms. Morgan told the Korean Herald that Apple, Google and Facebook have committed to sourcing 100 percent of their electricity from renewables. In reality, Google has said it will consider obtaining some of its electricity from nuclear energy.

According to two top Google engineers, “In 2011, the company decided that [Google’s renewable energy program] RE<C was not on track to meet its target and shut down the initiative. The two of us, who worked as engineers on the internal RE<C projects, were then forced to reexamine our assumptions.”

The two Google engineers concluded, “Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today’s renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach.” They called instead for a climate program where the “bulk of resources” is dedicated “to proven technologies” including nuclear.

Third, Greenpeace’s Senior Climate & Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia in Seoul, Daul Jang, claimed, “Nuclear and coal are clearly two of the most unsafe and polluting energy resources.”

That statement is false. According to every major scientific study over the last 40 years, including a comprehensive study published in the British medical journal Lancet, nuclear is the safest way to make reliable electricity because it produces nearly zero air pollution. Moreover, according to a 2013 study, nuclear energy prevented 1.8 million deaths from air pollution because it acted as a substitute for coal.

This pattern of misinformation risks undermining your plan to involve the South Korean people in determining their energy future. In 2015, Greenpeace raised nearly $400 million to finance its efforts in 55 nations around the world, including South Korea.

To prevent misinformation promoted by Greenpeace and other organizations from misleading the South Korean people, we encourage you to engage climate and environmental experts, and take more than 90 days to fully consider the evidence.


Michael Shellenberger, Time Magazine "Hero of the Environment," President, Environmental Progress

James Hansen, Climate Scientist, Earth Institute, Columbia University  


[1] Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2014. Schlömer S., T. Bruckner, L. Fulton, E. Hertwich, A. McKinnon, D. Perczyk, J. Roy, R. Schaeffer, R. Sims, P. Smith, and R. Wiser, 2014. “Annex III: Technology-specific cost and performance parameters.” In: Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Edenhofer, O., R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, E. Farahani, S. Kadner, K. Seyboth, A. Adler, I. Baum, S. Brunner, P. Eickemeier, B. Kriemann, J. Savolainen, S. Schlömer, C. von Stechow, T. Zwickel and J.C. Minx (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.