For decades, the development of nuclear power has sparked staunch debate among scientists, politicians, and activists alike. For its proponents, the promise of nuclear energy is clear: It’s the most effective means of reducing greenhouse gases and combating climate change while still meeting the world’s growing demand for energy. And to date, nuclear energy produces approximately 10% of the world’s power and rakes in billions in revenue in the United States alone. But its critics argue that expanding nuclear energy is dangerous and ill-advised. They cite the high costs of building powerplants, the potential consequences of a meltdown, and the challenge of managing waste. Rather, they argue, we should look to wind and solar to meet our energy demands. Should nuclear energy fuel our future?
“Tech companies confront an inconvenient fact,” writes Mills. “The global cloud uses more energy than is produced by all the planet’s wind and solar farms combined.” In fact, digital traffic has become the fastest-growing source of energy use. While nearly every tech company has pledged to transition to renewable energy sources, most data centers are physically connected to the conventional power grid, fueled by hydrocarbons. The modern economy won’t be exclusively powered by renewables any time soon.
The Golden State is on a path to high-tech feudalism, but there’s still time to change course.
Last month, I launched a climate change series on The Ezra Klein Show. The series isn’t about whether “the science is real” on climate change. It’s about what the science says — and what it means for our lives, our politics, and our future.
So far, we’ve spent the series talking about the problem we’re facing and what the world will ultimately look like if we fail. (I would highly recommend listening to the first two episodes of the series: Kate Marvel on what the climate models actually tell us, and Ayana Elizabeth Johnson on what climate change is doing to the oceans.) Today’s conversation is different: It’s about what it will take to solve climate change and what kind of world we can build if we succeed.
Saul Griffith is an inventor, a MacArthur fellow (also called a “genius grant”), and the founder and CEO of Otherlab, a high-tech research and development company on the frontlines of trying to imagine our clean-energy future. Griffith and his team were contracted by the Department of Energy to track and visualize the entirety of America’s energy flows — and as a result, he knows the US energy system better than just about anyone on this planet. Griffith is also clearer than anyone else I’ve found on the paths to decarbonization, as well as how to navigate them.
Most conversations about climate change are pretty depressing. This conversation is not. We have the tools we need to decarbonize. What’s more, decarbonizing doesn’t mean accepting a future of less — it can mean a more awesome, humane, technologically rich, and socially inspiring future for us all.
John Tierney joins City Journal assistant editor Charles McElwee to discuss Pittsburgh’s recent resurgence. “If you want to see how to revive a city—and how not to,” John Tierney writes, “go to Pittsburgh.” Pittsburgh has transformed itself from the Steel City to western Pennsylvania’s hub of “eds” and “meds.” But before that could happen, the city nearly destroyed itself under various misguided urban plans dating back to the 1950s. Tierney’s essay, “A Renaissance Runs Through It,” appears in City Journal’s Summer 2019 issue; an adapted version was published in the Wall Street Journal.
Beth Osborne, director of Transportation for America, joins City Journal contributing editor Nicole Gelinas to discuss the state of U.S. infrastructure and how federal spending could be used more effectively to improve safety and reduce fiscal waste. The federal government spends between $40 billion and $60 billion on transportation infrastructure annually. In recent years, congressional leaders and the White House have pushed a $2 trillion plan to upgrade roads, bridges, and more. But such proposals, Osborne argues, “would throw more money into the same flawed system.”