One of the most interesting things to have come out of COP26 is the pledge between twenty countries to end overseas fossil fuels projects. What’s most interesting is that powerful countries that have polluted the most CO2 emissions still benefit from this proposal, for instance, the UK is still able to continue their overseas gasfield in Mozambique. Even though this construction is highly controversial, and most definitely defeats the purpose of lower carbon emissions and usage of fossil fuels, they can do so because they have a lot of power. Even though these countries have pledged to lower their fossil fuels by a significant amount, they still have positioned themselves into a spot that is profitable for them. It calls into question if COP is effective if powerful countries can do what fits them best.
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Perhaps the most notable event of COP26 was Russia and chinas absence. This absence is disheartening because china is the biggest polluter globally, and Russia is one of the biggest exporters of Oil in the world. China and Russia need to come to the table if there is any hope for a sustainable future. In addition, Australia and India did not commit to any reduction of emissions this decade which is also unfortunate. Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter, and India is a world leader in emissions. Without their help, the world cannot reach a sustainable future. Climate change is rapidly approaching, and world leaders are being too slow to act.
The article I read talked about the United Kingdom’s ambitious climate goals of absorbing as much carbon from the atmosphere as is produced by the year 2050, and I thought it would be interesting to see what the UK contributed to cop26. Since the conference has started, the UK has pledged £290 million to help poorer countries with the climate crisis; the bulk of this money is going to Asian and Pacific countries that are especially susceptible to the climate crisis. A pledge of $100 billion was made in 2009 to have by 2020, but this was not met, and it is now projected to be ready by 2023. It will be interesting to see when and if the United Kingdom follows through with their pledge to help poorer countries reverse some of the damage that has been done due to climate change.
For me, nuclear power is kind of controversial, but it is undeniably one of the most suitable options now – as 2050 is the deadline for us to become zero-carbon. For three destructive nuclear accidents in the past – Three Mile, Fukushima, and Chernobyl – nuclear energy bear a kind of unamiable look from many people. However, noncarbon and high productivity are the two biggest advantages that we should not ignore. It emits no emission in the energy-generating process, requires less input compared to any other energy sources, requires less land, and is even much more productive than any renewables (as it is not intermittent like wind or solar power). Electricity generated from nuclear is also much cheaper compared to renewables. Two examples we can look at are France and Germany. Frances produces approximately 70% of its electricity consumption from nuclear energy, the highest in the world. It is also one of the countries bearing the lowest electricity cost in the EU, 25% lower than the EU average. While electricity cost of Germany – moving from fossil fuels and atomic energy to renewables, is 79% higher than that of France and also the highest in the world. For nuclear negative sides, the two which most people are concerned about now are radioactive waste and reactor accidents (some are also afraid of the nuclear weapon, but I would say it nearly impossible to happen now as firstly uranium enrichment process for making weapon is not easy to reach – about 70-90% of uranium 235 – and secondly there are up to 9 countries possessing nukes so these countries should acknowledge that they are not the monopoly in nuclear weapons). At this moment, we still haven’t found a safe way to process the waste, so we have to put it underground temporarily, and definitely, it is also hard to say that risks from nuclear plants are completely avoidable. However, the fatalities caused by nuclear energy are far fewer than those from pollution caused by burning fossil fuels. The fact that we are afraid of nuclear power so continuing to consume non-renewables is like we are afraid of taking a flight (due to some reported accidents) and using cars instead (when on-ground transportations accidents in fact are commonplace and even cause much more fatalities than any other means of transports). It is estimated that uranium can give us a more than 200-year supply till it becomes undiscovered. That is enough amount of time for science and technology to make more innovations for nuclear power (like how to manage and recycle the waste more safely and effectively or how to minimize risks risen from the reaction process) or find any different clean sources of energy. Another concern is that uranium 235 accounts for only 0,7% of the uranium in nature and the more exploited it is, the more carbon-intensive its mining process is, which also should be taken into consideration. Therefore, finding other replaceable resources is also a mission we are moving forward to. But we should not have to concern too much as those are responsibilities of humans during the next two centuries. Our responsibility at this moment is to become zero-carbon in the next 30 years and I would say we have enough input resources and technological advancements to make it.
One major issue being discussed in COP26 is deforestation. Last week, a number of nations pledged to end deforestation by 2030. This included Brazil and Russia, which have the largest areas of forest. If nations stick to this pledge, then it would in theory be good for both the atmosphere and forest ecosystems. However, I’m skeptical that such a pledge will work. Past pledges that have had similar goals have been unsuccessful, and the world’s forest area has been decreasing steadily over the past couple of decades. After the Glasgow Conference, I think that most countries will likely go back to doing what’s best for their economy since there are essentially no consequences for countries that break that pledge. Indonesia has already spoken out against the pledge, saying that the country should have full access to the resources on its land.
For this week’s blog post, we were instructed to look at the recent events that occurred at COP26 in Glasgow and our thoughts on the conference. One of the most interesting things I saw while doing some research was that Russia and China didn’t attend the conference. Obama came out publicly and critisized them for not attending stating how there was “an absense of urgency”. If two of the world’s biggest countries aren’t willing to attend the conference, then that is a major red flag. How is the global body supposed to get smaller countries to get on board with making their economies green, when some of the largest polluters in the world aren’t willing to do so? Ultimately, I think the Glasgow conference needs to address the problem of capitalism. So long as certain corporations and countries around the world continue to profit off of the use of fossil fuels, they will continue to use these reseources to make as much material wealth as possible. As a result, we will continue to pour emissions into the atmosphere. We need to come up with a way to make our economies function without the use of fossil fuels.
I believe that nuclear energy, just like many other energies, can be vastly improved in efficiency and sustainability. Nuclear energy is already very efficient, but if we are to improve it even further, it will decrease the negatives of the source of energy. The uranium used in nuclear power plants are not renewable and will eventually run out in the future. The uranium also creates byproducts after its use which are not particularly good for the environment. The main concern regarding nuclear energy is the risk involved in maintaining the power plant as nuclear plants can become very unstable if something is to go wrong. Nuclear meltdowns have been and continue to be fears among the public as there has been multiple nuclear disasters throughout history, with the most famous being Chernobyl. There have also been many scares such as the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor when it partially melted down in the 1980s and caused concerns throughout the nation. These occurrences have led to wide-spread fear of these plants as the risk involved can be massive and felt throughout hundreds of miles.
I think that nuclear energy is something we still have yet to fully understand. The power that it holds and the level of danger involved is something that easily threatens the livelihoods of any and all people. Nuclear energy is currently in use around many areas of the world, but controlling this source of power is an incredibly large responsibility as any small form of slip-up could cause massive repercussions. In the past, the wrong use (or with harmful intent) of nuclear energy has caused absolute devastation to thousands, and the radiation that emits from nuclear power alone causes enough problems by itself. I think there are things we do not fully comprehend about the power and effects of nuclear energy, and therefore it should not be commonly used or even be forbidden altogether. The amount of destruction it can cause in a heartbeat is enormous and it wouldn’t be wise to use nuclear energy at all if there are other sources/options available.
I am very uneducated when it comes to Nuclear Energy. All I really know about it is the damages that were caused in Chernobyl. I am pretty neutral when it comes to the topic I don’t have real firm beliefs for either side. I just worry about taking nuclear to a large scale when the repercussions if something were to go wrong are so high.
I am not against nor a fan of nuclear energy. Theoretically, this form of energy sounds amazing. It can offer clean energy for cheap. However, I am unsure how safe this is. There have been many failures in nuclear energy facilities. On top of that, minding Uranium can be really dangerous. Although, I might be feeling uneasy about this topic because of its association with nuclear bombs and what happened during the experimental phase of nuclear energy. However, nuclear energy is relatively safe. The radiation from it isn’t as harmful as the pollution caused by pollution. It requires little space to supply a large amount of energy. At the same time, the waste from nuclear energy is highly regulated, and it is kept deep in the ground whereas coal or gasoline releases its waste in the air. Since the technology to make nuclear energy is advancing, it is becoming a lot safer so it will rarely cause any major issues. On the other hand, energy like gasoline can cause major damage to the environment like the one that recently happened in California. Either way, I don’t want us to switch from one form of non-renewable energy to another because this might not last forever but this is a good temporary solution to our climate emergency.