By Michael Mariotte

James Hansen is a tireless climate campaigner, but he’s no energy expert…

November 13, 2015

Dear John,

Thanks for the e-mail yesterday from your PR firm, notifying me of the press conference you’re planning on December 3 in Paris, in conjunction with the COP 21 climate negotiations.

Though I have to admit I was a little surprised to receive it, seeing as how you never responded to my last letter to you. Remember? It was the one where I asked to debate you about nuclear power and whether it could be a solution to the climate crisis you have so ably articulated over the years? I even offered a very nice potential debate location here in Washington, where we could make sure there would be an audience and some media to chronicle the event.

I, along with my colleagues from the Civil Society Institute (oh, and more than 300 other groups as I recall) asked for that debate after you and three of your colleagues published an open letter to us–all of us critics of nuclear power–in November 2013 where you essentially told us to either support new nuclear power or shut up and go away.

But I guess the idea of an open letter wasn’t the same as wanting an open debate, because from you (and your three colleagues) I got bupkus. Nothing. Nada. Frankly, I–and all those 300+ organizations–took your silence as an admission that you were afraid to debate us, because, again frankly, when it comes to nuclear power you don’t know what you’re talking about. And your lack of knowledge on the subject is getting to be an embarrassment for those of us on the frontlines of the battle to build an effective response to the climate crisis. You see, it’s not only that nuclear power isn’t going to help with climate, for all the reasons we detailed in our letter to you, it’s that trying to go the nuclear route would be counterproductive–it would actually make things worse.

So, when I first noticed your PR firm’s e-mail sent to me, I thought perhaps you had reconsidered your blind support for nuclear power. After all, why send it to me at all otherwise? And I have to admit, the first couple of sentences were pretty promising. It says the same four of you are issuing a “stark challenge to world leaders and environmental campaigners” warning of “the increasing urgency of fully decarbonizing the world economy.” I couldn’t agree more.

But then you lost me, because the rest of the e-mail doesn’t talk much at all about the climate; rather, it sounds the same message as your November 2013 open letter: that environmentalists must accept nuclear power, that we need a lot of nuclear power, that renewables can’t do the job, and so on.

But John, let’s look at what’s changed in the energy world since November 2013. It’s pretty easy to do, just flip through the pages of GreenWorld and you’ll get a pretty good sense of it. On the …read more

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