It’s often a difficult task to cut out the political noise surrounding climate change, let alone discuss the solutions necessary to make sure we adapt to the extreme shifts ahead. But when one survey gathered the opinions of nearly 100 climate experts online, a majority came to two conclusions: Getting rid of coal-fired power plants should be a priority, and stabilizing the climate wouldn’t be possible without nuclear power.
The Vision Prize, an ongoing poll conducted twice a year, asked climate scientists this past quarter to imagine they were in charge of a $200 billion venture capital fund to combat climate change. For providing their answers, the Vision Prize awards charity gift cards to organizations of the scientists’ choice. So far, the nonprofit has awarded $11,820 to outfits like Doctors Without Borders, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the Climate Action Network.
From the latest survey, 64% of the scientists argued shutting down coal-fired power plants, or sequestering their emissions, ranked as the top priority for capping global warming to a two-degree rise above preindustrial levels in the next 20 years. Building low-emissions products came in a distant second, and even fewer scientists argued shifting diets away from meat deserved the focus.
The survey also asked the scientists what they made of an open letter published by well-known climate experts last year. In the paper, Ken Caldeira, Kerry Emanuel, James Hansen, and Tom Wigley argued that nuclear power would play a key role in weaning the country off of fossil fuels. More than 70% of the scientists surveyed by the Vision Prize agreed.
Coal production still takes up a significant chunk of federal subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, though just earlier this month EPA administrator Gina McCarthy testified that coal-fired power plant pollution makes up the majority of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.
Nuclear power plants, on the other hand, are indeed a low-carbon alternative, but officials still can’t figure out what to do with the waste; the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository project, designated as the nation’s only high-level nuclear waste dumpsite, was abandoned in 2011. The only other underground geologic repository for radioactive waste, New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, was shuttered earlier this year when a drum of radioactive waste burst.