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A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow

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The first book to offer a proven, fast, inexpensive, and practical way to cut greenhouse gas emissions and prevent catastrophic climate change.

As climate change quickly approaches a series of turning points that guarantee disastrous outcomes, a solution is hiding in plain sight. Several countries have already replaced fossil fuels with low-carbon energy sources, and done so rapidly, in one to two decades. By following their methods, we could decarbonize the global economy by midcentury, replacing fossil fuels even while world energy use continues to rise. But so far we have lacked the courage to really try.

In this clear-sighted and compelling book, Joshua Goldstein and Staffan Qvist explain how clean energy quickly replaced fossil fuels in such places as Sweden, France, South Korea, and Ontario. Their people enjoyed prosperity and growing energy use in harmony with the natural environment. They didn't do this through personal sacrifice, nor through 100 percent renewables, but by using them in combination with an energy source the Swedes call käkraft, hundreds of times safer and cleaner than coal.

Clearly written and beautifully illustrated, yet footnoted with extensive technical references, Goldstein and Qvist's book will provide a new touchstone in discussions of climate change. It could spark a shift in world energy policy that, in the words of Steven Pinker's foreword, literally saves the world.

288 pages, Hardcover

Published January 8, 2019

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About the author

Joshua S. Goldstein

19 books22 followers
Joshua S. Goldstein is an International Relations professor who writes about the big issues facing humanity. He is the author of six books about war, peace, diplomacy, and economic history, and a bestselling college textbook, International Relations. Among other awards, his book War and Gender (2001) won the International Studies Association's "Book of the Decade Award" in 2010. Goldstein has a B.A. from Stanford and a Ph.D. from M.I.T. He is professor emeritus at American University in Washington, DC, and research scholar at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he lives.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 81 reviews
Profile Image for Jacob.
44 reviews10 followers
April 16, 2019
I am suspicious of anything that Steven Pinker is a part of. He seems to be an academic who was grown in a vat by oligarchs specifically to make them feel better about feeding on the wreckage of the third world and owning more wealth than the bottom half of humanity. So I came into this book skeptical. I am between a 3 and a 4, but to be generous I am going to award it 4 because it sold me on the part that I was really interested in: nuclear power.

The arguments I have heard in opposition to nuclear power were never that strong and always relied on scare-stories that were never actually that scary when you dug into them. Maybe I'm being sold a bill of goods here, but many of the statistics here I have actually seen before, and seem to be cited. I can't claim to have read as extensively in opposition on the subject to be honest, but I have heard the arguments and worries (many of which I have shared at one point), and they are addressed here. The most important point that I thought was offered was that the frame was shifted to "fossil fuels vs. nuclear power" or "nuclear power vs. climate change" rather than the usual "nuclear power vs. 100% renewables" construct that is usually given by environmentalists. I should say, I am a leftist, and I am highly sympathetic to environmentalists (I have donated to Greenpeace and the like), but after reading on the subject, it seems there is not much plan right now for "100% renewables", at least one that is actually in anyway actionable. As the authors say, whenever a nuclear power plant is decommissioned, fossil fuels almost always fill the energy gap.

This book doesn't differ from most books I'd expect Pinker to preface: it argues that most things will be fine if we change very little about the structure of our society, in this case excepting where we get our energy from. Now, authors Goldstein and Qvist use Sweden and France as examples of countries that have done this under a capitalist framework. In the case of Sweden, it relied on luck of timing. They happened to be transitioning to new sources of power right when the oil embargo in the 70's was going on, so they went with nuclear. This worked out well, now they produce a large amount of their power from nuclear energy. Will this work with market mechanisms? Can this be accomplished with simply a carbon tax? Is this something we want to risk?

And here we come to my issue with the book... In the Pinker-esque framing of the book, Goldstein and Qvist have shot themselves in the foot with the people they probably most need to convert: leftists like me. As I said before: I am highly skeptical of Pinker. Amongst the left, he's widely regarded as a hack. And in the first chapter the authors do the exact type of bomb-throwing I'd expect out of Pinker, complaining about people's concern with inequality and social justice in these fights for particular climate/energy projects (p.12-13). Now, point taken (and even agreed) that these are of lower concern than climate change if you take a step back and think about the big picture. Charles Mann's "The Wizard and the Prophet" even talks about environmental groups trying to shut down solar power projects for chrissake. My concern is that the authors hand-wavy tone makes it sound as if they do not care about these issues (maybe they don't? I have no idea) rather than just are saying that climate change is a bigger fish to fry. Like I said, I think it is a fair critique, but given that Goldstein is in international relations, I think he should be more diplomatic. Further, they proceed on the next page to mischaracterize Naomi Klein in her book "This Changes Everything": "liberals too often fold the issue into a wider agenda of ending capitalism, globalization, inequality, and injustice. Author Naomi Klein calls climate change a 'historic opportunity' to achieve these long-standing leftist goals." (p. 14). Firstly, the tendency to use "liberal" and "leftist" interchangeably is quite annoying, but that's neither here nor there. Secondly, I have read that book, and Klein is making the argument (and you can agree or not, I imagine that the authors would not) that capitalism must be ended in order for climate change to be stopped, since capitalism is inherently prone to growth. Thus, it would make little sense for Klein not to call for ending capitalism, as she was writing a book about finding an end to climate change.

I am not happy to have to embrace nuclear power, and I don't think many leftists will be, but the fact is that climate change is much, much worse. Plus, it seems like it is inevitable, though, at least until we come up with more efficient renewables. But the authors make another important point: developing countries deserve energy. Hell, they will get energy whether we like it or not, and to tell them that they have to stop and continue to live in poverty while we live in climate controlled places and have a thing called "rolling coal" is complete bullshit. So if we aren't going to embrace nuclear energy, then we should be the ones who have to cut the cord.
Profile Image for Raghu.
385 reviews77 followers
April 6, 2019
Those who believe in the impending climate change apocalypse are likely to have a favorable view of only renewable energy as the solution. The authors of this book are very much in the apocalypse camp. The book’s opening lines give it away with “If you think climate change is a serious problem, we have bad news; it is worse than you think.” With such a view, one would think that they would offer renewables and more renewables as the only carbon-free solution. So, I was agreeably surprised to see them giving deep consideration to nuclear power as a much better alternative than renewables to replace coal and Natural gas. My interest in this book is chiefly educational and not as one who is convinced by the logic of climate change believers. The central thesis of the book is that we move forward in the battle against carbon emissions only by replacing coal with nuclear power. If we do this, we return one form of 24- hour power generation that produces a lot of CO2 with another 24-hour source with zero CO2 emissions. Using Methane instead of coal reduces CO2 but does not eliminate it. Using renewables like solar and wind does not result in 24-hour power supply unless we have Methane or coal or hydropower as back up. All three have severe environmental or CO2 consequences. The authors say that the nuclear option is a proven fact because countries like Sweden, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and regions like Ontario have done it with success. They also say that Germany opted for closing their coal power plants and replacing them with solar and wind while simultaneously shutting their nuclear power plants as well. The result was that their carbon emissions did not decrease but ended up increasing slightly.

The first half of the book is in support of its thesis. Over the past decade, the world has spent $2 trillion on wind and solar but seen no progress on decarbonization. Renewable rollout is slow and does not scale. In the period 2005-2015, Germany added about 120 kWh/year per person, California about 70 kWh/year/person each year. It pales against nuclear power in speed and scale. In the same period, Sweden added 600 kWh/year/person and France 450 each year with atomic energy.

On wind energy, the authors say that wind farms need lots of land area, unlike nuclear. The windiest places are often far from cities where the electricity is consumed. So, we need expensive upgrades to the grid, such as what Texas did recently. Offshore wind is closer to coastal towns, but prime locations are limited because we don’t often have shallow water close to shore in too many places. Denmark has many offshore wind farms. However, it produces electricity at 11cents/kWh which is three times as expensive as Natural Gas and 2-4 times as onshore wind. Wind is variable, blows more on some days and less at other times. This results in inconsistent production. For example, Germany produced 10% less in 2016 than in 2015.

On solar energy, the authors say that solar is variable like wind and totally unavailable for parts of the day. In northern countries, it drops off for months in winter when people need it the most. When the share of solar reaches as much as 20% of the total, it causes problems on the grid with its sudden surges. California is given as an example. On a sunny day, 50% of electricity in California comes from solar. When the sun goes down, natural gas, coal and nuclear power from Nevada and Arizona fill up the gap, which is about 33% of the total demand. In the morning a massive shift happens in reverse. The grid needs upgrades, back-up fossil fuel plants and transmission lines at the ready to cope with such variability. Germany is spending $20 billion on such backup and upgrades. All this makes power in California the most expensive in the US, at 60% above the national average when renewables expanded in CA from 2011 to 2017. According to the expert, Varun Shivram, the hidden costs of integrating solar to the grid add 50% to the stated price of solar power, in addition to subsidies from producer/consumer countries. None of these costs is included when solar energy is discussed. Solar cells last 25 years and then recycled. This is a large scale, dirty and toxic operation that is carried out by children in poor countries with few safeguards. Unlike nuclear power, decommissioning solar farms are not priced in the discussions.

On batteries as back up, the authors say that it is expensive on a scale and when used for long hours. For the cheapest solar installations in the south-west US, ten hours of battery storage doubles the cost of electricity. At such rates, ‘solar with battery storage’ is unsuitable for developing countries. It is also unsuitable for locations where the sun fails to shine for more than 10 hours at a time. The world uses 68 Twh / day of electricity. The investment in batteries to store one day’s worth of production would exceed $20 Trillion!

People in California may be familiar with these issues ever since Dr. Mark Jacobson, director of the Atmosphere and Energy Program at Stanford, released a report called ‘50 States 50 Plans’ in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It lays out individual plans for all fifty states to reach 100 percent renewable energy for all purposes: electricity, transportation, heating and cooling, and industry. The state of CA is considering a 100% shift to renewable energy by 2045. However, there are others who have questioned the viability of this proposal. In 2017, a rebuttal appeared from a team of prominent researchers in the same journal, saying that the ‘50 states 50 plans’ paper used invalid modeling tools, contained modeling errors, and made implausible and inadequately supported assumptions.

The second half of the book argues for nuclear energy as the solution to replace coal and methane. It bats for atomic energy as safe energy. Issues like nuclear waste, risks associated with the production and possible weapons proliferation are discussed. I wouldn’t go into the details as these issues have been discussed threadbare over the past sixty years without reaching any consensus. The authors seem to assume that nuclear energy’s time has come and that the world will accept it now. I wish they had devoted a chapter as to why repeatedly civil society organizations have stood on the opposite side of the scientific arguments and blocked useful technologies from being adopted more widely. I too agree with many of the positives of nuclear power as discussed in the book. But scientists have repeatedly failed in engaging the general public and civil society in assuaging the various safety and security concerns in these technologies. As a result, we have seen environmental groups stick to ideology instead of rational debate on such issues. For example, genetically-modified crops and shale gas are two instances where science and industry could have done a better job in reaching out to the public. Unless the advocates of nuclear power seriously reach out to the citizenry, its acceptance will always be trumped by fears raised by environmental groups. I can even see the same problems cropping in embracing CRISPR gene-editing technology and Artificial intelligence. Here, too scientists and engineers are going ahead leaving the ethical concerns for industry and the politicians to address. If nuclear power is anything to go by, we might see these useful technologies also running up against a brick wall.

Next, I would like to touch on the authors’ enthusiasm for pricing carbon pollution through a carbon tax. According to a NYTimes report, as of today, more than 40 countries worldwide have adopted some sort of price on carbon. It is either through direct taxes on fossil fuels or through a cap-and-trade program. These efforts have been in place since the early 1990s. However, in practice, most countries have found it difficult to implement them with prices that are high enough to induce deep reductions in carbon emissions. In Australia, efforts to increase carbon taxes were suspended after a backlash from voters. No one wanted rising energy prices. Similar backlash happened in France as well. As a result, carbon pricing has, so far, played only a subsidiary role in efforts to mitigate climate change.

I found the book a fast-paced read. A lot of the research in the book on solar and wind is familiar to me, having read about similar concerns in other books on the same subject. Climate change believers come in two flavors. The fundamentalists want ‘100% renewables and nothing else’. The authors belong in the second group and believe in a combination of nuclear and renewables which they call ‘nuables.’ Finally, there are the climate change skeptics. For them, all this is just ‘a storm in a teacup.’ In the chapter titled, ‘More energy, not less,’ the authors debunk the focus on ‘overpopulation’ and its impact on the rise in carbon emission ’. In support of their contention, they remind us of the predictions of Paul Ehrlich and others in the 1960s. It was predicted then that hundreds of millions would starve and humanity would break down by the 1980s due to overpopulation. The authors say that it didn’t come true and similarly ‘overpopulation’ is just a distraction on the question of carbon emissions. It is ironic that all the doomsday predictions of climate change believers also sound eerily similar to Paul Ehrlich if one is a skeptic.
Profile Image for John Valett.
53 reviews
May 16, 2021
The book is essentially a case for nuclear energy to decarbonize the world. And I guess it gets the job done because I’m convinced. It’s a valid case, but it primarily argues for nuclear not because it’s the best thing ever, but more because it’s the best realistic option we have. It is very rooted in rationalism.
2 reviews1 follower
December 18, 2019
Whoa, I’ve always been kind of meh about nuclear power. I was pretty uneducated about it, but it just seemed less inherently sustainable than solar and wind power. Boy was I wrong. The authors explained how Sweden has already had a lot of success with decarbonizing through nuclear power. They use one-third more energy per person than Germany (who has been phasing out nuclear power and replacing it with renewables) but Germany emits twice as much carbon per person. They also talked about how plans to use less energy in the future are not reasonable because more people in poorer parts of the world are going to need energy for a better standard of living and it is not environmentally just to ask them not to use that energy cuz rich countries have already screwed up the planet. Nuclear is an inherently concentrated energy source on the same orders of magnitude of coal whereas renewables are inherently diffuse and dont provide energy on the same order of magnitude (though they are still useful) so it can actually provide the kind of energy we need with apparently manageable waste. To visualize, the authors said that the average american uses about one gigawatt-hour of electricity in their lifetime, and the latest nuclear design could provide this using one quarter of one pound of fuel and generate the equivalent amount of waste. This compares to a coal plant at about 50,000 tons of fuel and waste per day. And apparently, nuclear is actually relatively safe compared to other energy sources. I may have been converted, but I would need to read more from an opposer of nuclear. It did give me a lot of hope that our world isn’t fucked tho which is nice.
Profile Image for Venky.
935 reviews337 followers
December 27, 2019
Climate change is undeniably the single most urgent, compelling and critical issue that has both captured the imagination and contorted the thinking perspective across continents today. However, the debate surrounding this seminal subject has assumed ideological hues and entrenched colours, thereby threatening to obfuscate the big picture. While the left hurls ridicule on an irresponsible and greed fueled consumerist right, the right in its defense holds the left totally culpable for what it alleges are contemptible anti-capitalist views. However, when it comes to the question of global warming, by engaging in this needless mudslinging, both parties miss the woods for the trees.

In a commendable attempt to clear the clutter and cut away the cobwebs clouding the climate change argument, Joshua S. Goldstein (Professor Emeritus of International Relations, American University and Research Scholar, Dept. of Political Science, University of Massachusetts) and Staffan A. Quist (University of California, Berkeley), in their new book “A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow” (“the book”) take the issue of climate change head-on. Forcefully arguing that the need of the hour is for the world to put into effect a policy of decarbonisation - the reduction or removal of carbon dioxide from energy sources – the authors highlight the fact that “at today’s rate, every year the world puts about 35 billion tons of new CO2 into an atmosphere…. That much CO2 weighs about as much as 15 billion Ford Explorer SUVs….” This alarming tendency as per the authors illustrates in stark detail the difference between the “inconveniences and expenses of today’s climate change” and the “catastrophe of climate tipping points in the upcoming decades of centuries”. Imagine Boston going under a mile-thick sheet of ice as was the case 12,000 years ago!

Where the book gets extremely interesting and equally controversial is in the solution proposed by the authors to ameliorate and reverse the thrust of CO2 into the atmosphere. Taking the examples of Sweden, France and Ontario as precedents, Mr. Goldstein and Mr. Quist propose nuclear energy as the most viable, feasible, durable and reliable source of energy substituting the currently prevalent coal based power generation. According to the authors by adopting the nuclear approach, Sweden, from 1970 to 1990, “cut its total carbon emissions by half and its emission per person by more than 60 percent……Sweden’s economy expanded by 50 percent and its electricity generation more than doubled”. To clarify the authors do not advocate the abdication of other alternative energy sources powered by renewables. What they instead propose is a judicious and prudent blend of nuclear energy and renewables: what they imaginatively term “Nuables”.

Citing the Swedish success story liberally, the authors explain how “Sweden built a series of power plants using a new energy source called karnkraft (Swedish for nuclear). One pound of karnkraft fuel produces the same energy as more than 2 million pounds of coal”. In the event one was to replace the nuclear plant at Ringhals in Sweden with its coal equivalent, the result would be “almost 11 million tons of coal each year – a train more than 1,300 miles long, producing 2 million tons of toxic solid waste, and spewing huge clouds of particulates into the air – enough to kill about 700 Swedes each year”.

While relying on renewables as a source of energy is a wonderful proposition, the authors engage in a comparability between a policy having renewables as its focus and an alternative one based on nuclear energy. For solar power to be effective, weather not surprisingly is a key determinant. Peak energy is produced only during the best season, the best weather, and the best time of the day. At night, during winter and even on cloudy days, the production outcome is closer to zero. Add to that the sprawling area required for the installation of a solar power facility (the largest solar power facility in Europe, the Solarpark Meuro in Germany covers about 500 acres on a former lignite coal strip-mining site), the scale and timing issues of solar power generation is complete.

Similar are the drawbacks with employing wind power. Wind is rarely more reliable than sunshine and even with the installation of the most sophisticated wind turbines, production of wind power would not occur when needed, but variably and at times too much and at others too little. Further, the windiest places are normally farthest from the cities where the wind power is consumed. Europe’s largest wind farm Fantanele-Cogealac in Romania covering a whopping 2,700 acres produced 25 percent below capacity in 2013.

As the authors, aided by their meticulous and painstaking research inform us, “over the past decade, the world has spent $2 trillion on wind and solar power but has seen almost no progress towards decarbonisation”. Equally disappointing has been the experience an experiment with hydropower. The debilitating impacts of the hydroelectric dams being developed on the iconic Mekong river in Southeast Asia and the catastrophic Banqiao dam disaster illustrate in chilling detail the failings of hydro power.

The authors also address concerns regarding the safe operations of a nuclear reactor. Commonly (in as per the authors) wrongly termed “regret solution”, a nuclear reactor invokes emotions of dread, catastrophe and apocalypse especially in the light of tragedies such as The Daiichi Fukushima tsunami, The Chernobyl disaster and The Three Mile Accident. In an exceptional piece of revelation, the authors disclose, “the health risks from the Fukushima reactor (even when employing the absolutely most conservative analysis methods possible), were in fact so low that in retrospect, the optimal responses would have been to not evacuate anyone”. Continuing with this stunning defense of the nuclear reactor, the authors go on: “the unnecessary evacuation…. caused about 50 deaths among patients moved from hospitals, and as many as 1,600 deaths in the longer term, owing to elevated mortality from causes such as diabetes, smoking and suicide among psychologically stressed evacuees”. While the earthquake and tsunami themselves took 18,000 lives, not a single one of them was attributed to the reactor or the radiation per se! Yet Japan in the wake of this disaster closed fifty-four reactors and Germany eight more. As the authors conclude their argument with a flourish, “radiation rarely kills anyone, but fear of radiation kills a lot of people”. Nuclear power which has until now completed more than 16,000 reactor years, has had one fatal accident in the form of Chernobyl that consumed 4,000 lives; a Japanese disaster that killed none and an accident in the USA that merely destroyed an expensive facility. Coal on the other hand is what the authors profess to be a silent killer. “Mortality effects have been estimated at 29 deaths/TWh in Europe and 77 in China, which suggests an order of magnitude of 600,000 deaths a year just from coal use in generating electricity.”

Thus in a stirring and spirited argument, the authors exhort us not to get swayed by the vindications of anti-nuclear protest groups and purveyors of doom and to instead, embark upon a portfolio approach, which consists of a mix of nuclear power and renewables. The authors also bring our attention to the most sophisticated third and fourth generation nuclear reactors that are being constructed according the highest possible degrees of protection against natural calamities and man made threats. A classic example of one such reactor being the EPR (originally the “European Pressurised Reactor”) created by the French nuclear company AREVA. With India and China bringing out thousands of people out of the pernicious clutch of poverty, there is a burgeoning demand for energy from these two countries that have hitherto been ravenous consumers of coal. The authors argue that it is time for these two economic behemoths to concentrate on nuclear energy and thereby prevent an irreversible destruction caused by an uncontrolled release of CO2 emissions.

There is yet hope as there exist some 449 reactors in 31 countries producing 11 percent of the world’s electricity. A continuing reliance on nuclear power coupled with emission containing measures such as a revenue neutral carbon fee (of the likes being administered in the Canadian province of British Columbia) will, in the opinion of the authors go a long way towards the path of attaining decarbonisation. We have a choice of either leaving a clean, fair and habitable planet to the future generation or to act in a selfish manner by damaging the ecosystem with reckless abandon. Either of these approaches would result in significant outcomes as to quote Robert Green Ingersoll “In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences.” Mr. Goldstein and Mr. Quist opine the same!
Profile Image for Aravindh C..
Author 1 book10 followers
September 21, 2022
Nuclear energy is a thing many have an aversion for, largely a result of accidents like Fukushima. This led to huge protests against nuclear power and a decision in Japan and Germany to practically phase out nuclear power. India was no exception: a few hours away from where I live, the Kudankulam plant had faced huge protests while it was being constructed.

But how bad is nuclear really? A simple glance at the deaths per unit of electricity graph in Our World in Data (a really excellent resource) shows that coal is hundreds of times more deadly than nuclear, and the latter actually is comparable with renewables in terms of safety. And nuclear waste can safely be stored in dry casks.

This books lays an eloquent case for nuclear energy to prevent climate change. Renewables alone just aren't enough for a clean energy grid, as solar can't produce electricity at night or wind when the air is still. Battery tech has to yet reach maturity; they cannot yet store enormous quantities of electricity to power a cities for a few minutes, let alone entire countries.

Indeed, the energy transition happened far more quickly in places that focused on nuclear than on renewables; Sweden, Ontario (Canada), and France being a case in point. A glance at a live emissions intensity map confirms this: nuclear (and hydropower) play the biggest roles in countries which have a low emissions per unit of electricity. In fact, since the book's publication, Finland seems to have joined the list as well, with their much delayed nuclear reactor finally in operation.

Germany, on the other hand, still relies on coal to supply a big chunk of its power, despite being a leader in renewables. This is because their new renewables simply replaced the shut down nuclear plants. Had Germany kept its nuclear plants open and replaced coal with renewables, it would have had a green shade in the emission intensity map, not a yellow-brown one. Indeed, the nuclear shutdowns in Germany and Japan may have lead to more deaths than all nuclear accidents combined, because nuclear shutdowns meant more dependence on more deadly fossil fuels.

So if nuclear is so amazing, why aren't we building more of it?

One reason is rising cost. The other is loss of building experience as the West had stopped exercising their nuclear-energy-building muscles, meaning they have to experience the body pains as they hit the gym again. But ultimately the problem is political and not technological.

The problem is fear. And fear is the mind-killer.
Profile Image for Cheryl Campbell.
102 reviews3 followers
May 20, 2019
An exceptionally insightful book on the science behind our climate crisis. But it truly shines in giving an overall history of nuclear power, including the good, bad and ugly. Turns out the ugly is quite maneagable and the engineering on this is very far along. The efficiency of nuclear power, relative to a coal powered plant, is so effective that the author believes we probably cannot "get there from here" unless we incorporate nuclear solutions with a full array of renewable technologies. He shows what damage has been done when we shut down nuclear power plants. Sure enough, CO2 begins to climb. And, so far, renewable energy has only been used and added on top of our existing fossil fuel infrastructure. The more energy we extract, the more we use. The book is not entirely a paean to nuclear power. It also covers all the issues associated with renewable energy forms, on on-going regulation towards a carbon neutral future.
Profile Image for Juan Farfán.
51 reviews7 followers
March 24, 2019
One of the best books I’ve read about solving climate change. It shows the facts about how Sweden and France hace decarbonized their economies without putting aside economic grow. The world needs more energy, carbon free energy that contributes to solve poverty and climate change. A must read if you want to have a realistic picture to tackle climate change and environmental issues
Profile Image for Sharon Chase.
311 reviews2 followers
May 16, 2019
I read this for my book group. It caused me to rethink my bias against nuclear power. It was not perfect, but should be read. Some risk needs to be acceptable if necessary to solve global warming.
Profile Image for Sagar Jethani.
Author 1 book16 followers
March 4, 2020
A pro-nuclear treatise written by a nuclear energy consultant.

I wish this book had taken its mission more seriously, because the topic is of immense importance: is nuclear energy the only realistic path toward a carbon-free energy paradigm? Unfortunately, the authors utterly fail to advance their case.

Rather than seriously address legitimate safety concerns about nuclear power, Goldstein and Qvist engage in partisan attacks against critics by mischaracterizing them as being categorically uninformed about the realities of nuclear power. Chernobyl? User error and bad design. Three Mile Island? A harmless accident unfairly hyped by the sensation-loving press and Hollywood. Fukushima? A natural disaster masquerading as a nuclear incident. Sad the Japanese overreacted by moving away from nuclear energy altogether.

And did we mention how many people die each year breathing pollutants caused by burning coal?

This kind of facile analysis utterly fails to grapple with the realities of nuclear energy. Dismissing critics as being either in thrall to the sensationalist press, or being hopelessly trapped by their own tin-foil hats does a disservice to those with legitimate concerns about the safety of nuclear power.

The fact that one of the authors is, himself, a consultant to the nuclear power industry suggests that this book is more a work of marketing than serious public discourse.
June 20, 2020
"Taka jest aktualna sytuacja ludzkości - zmiany klimatyczne są takim pociągiem gnającym w naszą stronę, który prawdopodobnie spowoduje ogólnoświatowy kataklizm. Popularne rozwiązania - zwiększenie odnawialnych źródeł energii, przejście z węgla na metan i tym podobne - pchają nas we właściwym kierunku, ale nie zabiorą nas z mostu na czas. Mamy rozwiązanie, które działa, co udowodniła Szwecja i inne kraje, które nie jest bardziej niebezpieczne niż skok z tego mostu, ale jest przerażające. Jedynym rozwiązaniem jest gwałtowny rozwój wykorzystania energii jądrowej. " - Energia dla klimatu, książka po którą trzeba sięgnąć.
June 22, 2019
This book is mainly a broad overview of the issues with not including nuclear power if we are serious about mitigating catastrophic climate change. It is written for lay audience and is a fairly general overview of why the authors think that nuclear fits in the solution, not a definitive book on the subject.

According to the authors what we need is ‘not less energy, but cleaner energy’. Their vision is for non greenhouse gas emitting energy cheap enough so that the poorer people of the world can rise out of poverty and those of us who have plenty of energy can use it in the same amount. They propose “nuables” (nuclear + renewables). Ultimately what they ask is this: If nuclear isn’t that bad compared to fossil fuels why don’t we push for a massive nuclear build now instead of continuing to build up fossil fuel infrastructure hoping for better battery technology to replace them one day and then when renewables and large scale battery technology are stable and reliable as nuclear is today then switch over?

Now, that may sound like a logical solution if one is sold on nuclear being safe, cheap and scalable but nuclear power is perceived as dangerous, uneconomic and renewables are considered by most as superior clean sources of energy anyways. The book contends that nuclear if done right (their model is Sweden, France and South Korea) does in fact tick all those boxes and offers a good alternative to fossil fuels. It does a pretty good job at arguing for that cause but it is overly shallow and simplistic at times with nuclear portrayed as almost perfect and almost everything else (especially fossil fuels) terrible in comparison. All in all I think the book is pretty good for what it’s intended to be and would hand this book to someone interested in learning more about the subject.
Profile Image for Steve Stanton.
Author 16 books30 followers
February 28, 2019
This vital new book exposes the shocking truth about climate change and the lies that have been perpetrated in America. Using data graphs and analysis, authors Goldstein and Qvist examine all the options available for a planet full of humans with rapidly emerging energy needs. They explain the fallacy of “renewable energy” and point to nuclear power as the only way to avoid a mass extinction event. Most of the climate damage has already been started, and merely curbing the growth of coal-fired power plants is not enough; only rapid decarbonization can prevent an apocalypse. The authors return time and again to the metaphor of an asteroid about to hit planet Earth. Would humans not band together and use all our resources to save ourselves? We have the technology! Three areas of the world are already producing clean electricity without fossil fuel: Sweden, France, and Ontario, using a mix of nuclear and hydro power. To quote the authors: “If the United States had built out the fleet of nuclear power plants it once planned, we would be much closer to solving climate change today.” Instead, America continues to burn coal, even though humans “get a higher dose of radiation living next to a coal plant than a nuclear power plant.” Meanwhile, China is leading the way in domestic nuclear reactor construction, and Russia is building nuclear export projects around the world, with 34 projects underway and 23 more in negotiation. America has fallen far behind once again, and it is sadly ironic that we can blame antinuclear “environmentalists” for our current climate change disaster.
Profile Image for Michael.
572 reviews1 follower
October 28, 2022
This book doesn't spend a lot of time on climate change or its impacts, although what's there is very good. It jumps into how Sweden, France, and Ontario have radically reduced their carbon emissions while maintaining strong to booming economies. In a word, the solution is nuclear. Goldstein and Qvist argue that renewables alone can't replace fossil fuels currently, and that they probably won't be able to for at least 3 decades. So although we may eventually build a battery, or a hydrogen economy, or something else that will let us take virtually all of our power from renewables, that won't happen soon enough to maintain a planet that's worth living on. They argue that a successful solution to climate change requires the planet to maintain existing and build more nuclear plants, which have a long track record of producing safe, inexpensive power 24/365. When they say safe, they acknowledge that nuclear power poses dangers, but nowhere near the dangers of coal. After the Yucca Mountain debacle and the Fukushima disaster, I assumed that nuclear power was done. Now I'm contemplating the fact that if it's done, so are we. This is the most influential book I've read this year, and maybe in several years.
10/27/22 Reread. This book holds up well. Even with the dramatic rise in solar and wind energy over the last five years, the conclusions of this book still hold true.
Profile Image for Angie Reisetter.
506 reviews6 followers
December 26, 2018
This is brief, pointed, and well-argued. I'm a bit dismayed to see that the publisher's blurb very carefully avoided mentioning nuclear power, when that's the main topic of the book. But they evidently thought that it's too loaded a word and chose to try to get readers hooked first. As I tell my students, if I thought it was possible to decarbonize our world without nuclear, I'd be all for it, but analysis after analysis shows that it's not possible. We really need clean, safe nuclear power to fight climate change, and our principle barrier is psychology and politics. Fear of nuclear power is pervasive. It is also based on fiction. The authors of this book address most of the arguments made against nuclear power, but of course they can't do so in depth in so brief a book. It's hard-hitting, but I don't know how convincing it will be, since others have tried to make similar arguments. Maybe they'll manage to break through some of the fear. They advocate aggressive decarbonization with what they call nuables: nuclear plus renewables. Here's hoping that their argument makes its way to the hearts of some folks, because opposition to nuclear is knee-jerk for lots of folks. I'd like to help beat the drums for this one.

I got a copy to review from Net Galley.
Profile Image for John Crippen.
419 reviews2 followers
March 22, 2021
Think Swedishly, Act Globally! The countries in the subtitle replaced their fossil fuel power plants with nuclear power plants. In this short book the authors describe decarbonization and why it's needed right now, explain why half measures (including reliance on renewable energy sources) won't work, dispel myths/fears about nuclear energy, and define the components of a path forward. Nice complement to Whole Earth Discipline: Why Dense Cities, Nuclear Power, Transgenic Crops, Restored Wildlands, and Geoengineering Are Necessary and fills in some of the gaps left in The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations.
Profile Image for Selim Tlili.
201 reviews
March 2, 2019
Qvist and Goldstein do an excellent job of framing the scale of the climate change problem and the sheer amount of carbon emitted in the world.
They make an extremely convincing case, backed by credible data, explaining why nuclear power is the only option that we have that will solve this problem.

End of the day the world will not accept a climate change solution that doesn’t provide reliable and inexpensive power. Nuclear power is the only option that can provide those requirements at scale.

The opposition to nuclear power is not based on the evidence of its risks. This isn’t to say there are no risks to nuclear power but whatever risks it entails are nothing compared to the real danger of continuing to rely on fossil fuels.

Everyone should read this but especially well intentioned environmentalists who strongly oppose nuclear energy as a solution to climate change. Any climate change activism that doesn’t promote nuclear power is jus feel good bullshit.
Profile Image for Taz Lake.
Author 3 books1 follower
February 17, 2019
If you care about a secure energy future, this is a well researched, broad reaching, relatively easy read on how the world is putting nuclear energy to work for the future and what could be done better.
Profile Image for Steve Peterson.
4 reviews1 follower
April 4, 2019
Interesting historical study of the landmark please decision. Traces the individual stories of the key players. Helps you understand the human factors behind Supreme Court decisions. Very relevant today’s issues re the court.
October 23, 2022
Interesting read if your are fascinated by environmentalism or want to get into it. Provided a lot of support for pro nuclear power and accurate support with the problems with coal, gas, oil, and renewable energy sources.
14 reviews
November 15, 2019
If you’re interested in a book that gives you a mostly realistic view of how to implement nuclear power in order to tackle climate change, then A Bright Future does a pretty good job. While I disagree with a few pages/lines that seem to be “apocalyptic” about the effects of climate change and how fast we need to act, it didn’t go as overboard as I expected it to. This book provides a very quick overview of climate change and its problems, which is really all you need in order for this book to be effective.

I don’t want to provide any spoilers, but how they introduce nuclear power is actually pretty funny/cool. I was like “what are they talking about??” for the whole chapter, until finally it clicked. Haha. The book basically gets broken down into a few countries/regions that are doing things right when it comes to climate change/nuclear power (Sweden, France, Ontario) and compares them to the rest of the world. While this isn’t the most fair comparison (due to geographic differences, population differences, and others between the countries), it does get the point across and makes the reader actually contemplate things. The book really opened my eyes to the failures when it comes to other countries, like Germany (phasing out nuclear power when it has tons of coal to get rid of), and how the only alternative to nuclear power is either hydropower or fossil fuels (mainly because nuclear power can provide on-demand power) and the only other fuels that can do that are hydro and fossil fuels; Solar/wind are highly dependent on the weather and are not reliable enough to be strictly coal replacements). This means that we need to essentially always compare nuclear power to fossil fuels (as hydropower is super geographic dependent). Therefore, when compared to coal/methane, for the most part, nuclear power always wins. Whether it be energy cost, efficiency, waste production, manpower, maintenance, safety, etc, nuclear power almost always wins (things like upfront costs are higher for nuclear power, but I’m ignoring those because this is clearly a long-term investment). There are some sections dedicated to how certain countries (like China and Russia) are doing a good job at building more power plants (or at least more efficient ones), but other sections that recommend other solutions to these countries in order to expedite their reliance on nuclear power.

In the last third of the book, the authors spend a good amount of time “debunking” some myths, with the biggest one being safety. I was always skeptical when it came to safety, but after reading this book I’m convinced the lives lost due to fossil fuels every year is much higher than that from nuclear power. It goes even further to “poke fun” at the antinuclear activists who want the plants to shut down, but who also want “zero emission energy”. The authors make a good pitch as to why these activist groups are highly mistaken and are being scientifically daft. For example, Germany started shutting down its nuclear power plants due to Fukushima, but the book makes it clear that this was solely an emotional response and not one based on sound science.

The book is a super easy read and could honestly be read within a few days if you dedicate a few evenings to it. While I don’t know how scientifically accurate it all is (as I didn’t go too deep into the references and I’n not a nuclear power expert), it does make some upfront points that I agree with as a fellow scientist. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good overview of nuclear power and how it can alter the path of climate change for the better in a relatively short amount of time. Of note, this book isn’t super helpful if you really want some in-depth knowledge on nuclear power and the different types and all of that. I would still read this book first though as it covers the general concepts.
Profile Image for Takuya Kitazawa.
23 reviews
October 27, 2022

Safety measurement, waste management, psychological effect in our perception, human rights in developing countries, the role of politics, and economic impact behind it—The all-in-one package for updating our understanding of nuclear power.

Came across the book through the author’s interview on a Freakonomics Radio episode: https://freakonomics.com/podcast/nucl... I’m so glad that I was able to get an opportunity to rationalize my view of nuclear power.

As a Japanese citizen who closely experienced the 2011 Fukushima “disaster”, it’s still hard to make a fair decision on the topic even though many climate books make optimistic statements, including Bill Gates’s one. I understand it is technically safe, but the following facts easily make me emotional and constantly hinder from thinking rationally: one of my best friends lost his home due to the mass evacuation, I then continuously heard stories about the deaths of those who were in the similar situation (not because of radioactive exposure; more of a social or psychological issue), and I did see economic damage caused by misinformation about the region/country. Here, the book lets my brain cool down by providing a comprehensive view of the topic, not only about the technical advances but surrounding non-technical discussion points.

It’s true any technology-driven solution is not zero-risk, even driving a car, but the known risks of nuclear power are much lower than the anticipated immediate risks of climate change. And the chances of these extremely-rare cases have been reduced further by new reactor designs and waste management facilities. Notice that subtle radioactivity exists everywhere in our daily life—The annual radiation of a person living their entire life with the latest long-lived nuclear waste repository can be estimated as high as “eating a bunch of bananas”, for example. I do see the authors’ strong frustration against the anti-nuclear movement through how they repeatedly state the urgency & safety in many different ways.

Overall, it’s a great, eye-opening reading experience. Since the situation changes so rapidly, I’d like to use this book just as a stepping stone so I can keep my understanding/behavior up-to-date (e.g., the book was published in 2019 with a strong hope on Russia’s role, but the war in 2022 might bring new perspectives; one of the authors is a Swedish energy engineer, which may or may not pose some biases to the content of the book).
February 15, 2020
Goldstein presents a really interesting take on a solution we can use to react to the climate crisis in a timely manner. That solution is karnkraft. He leads the reader into the book talking about the boons of karnkraft and pretty early on one realizes that karnkraft is nuclear power. Throughout the book, he points to proper historical uses of nuclear power, public hysteria against karnkraft, and that other countries like Sweden and France have developed well-integrated nuclear power systems that statistically are much safer than coal or methane-based production methods of electricity.

He argues that the single most important action we can take today is to help reduce China's burning of coal for electricity production.

This book is refreshingly solutions-oriented and it acknowledges the political issues, international-issues, public-opinion issues, and other barriers facing a change to carbon-free energy. He covers the topic from all angles. And while especially in the beginning there were many times where I disagreed with Goldstein, his arguments and logic are straight-forward, pointed and coherent; unlike much of the current environmental movement.

I would agree that we must use every tool in our arsenal to attack-climate change, but I appreciate the nuance that Goldstein and Qvist bring to the table. At some point, we must take action. The two then proceed to layout action plans for different nations including the U.S., Russia, China, India, and even South Korea.

Overall, I would recommend this book to people and especially policy-makers who might not consider nuclear power or karnkraft as a viable option. This book provides a rather unbiased view of the subject, primarily based on logic and the numbers. But for my sanity's sake, I wish that Goldstein would state his own background in the field and views early on in a preface. I think that would be helpful, but I understand most people might put the book down immediately if they realized it was about nuclear power and its role in helping us to transition to a carbon-free future.
Profile Image for Daniel.
136 reviews11 followers
June 12, 2022
This short book left me with a lot of impressions -and may have influenced me to think about Climate Change solutions in a new way. The book proposes to use a different type of technology, one already widely available which could actually resolve the climate change dilema by around 2040, provided that we apply the maximum amount of energy and $ to building these power plants: nuclear power. Stay with me. The book makes these claims which stopped me dead in my tracks:

"The Paris Agreement, if successful, would continue putting that much additional carbon into the atmosphere every year. We need instead to reduce that rate toward zero, but no plan current in play does that effectively."

"[The authors of this book] vigorously support today's popular solutions such as solar power, wind power, and energy efficiency. But, as we will see in later chapters, these solutions simply do not add up fast enough to do what's needed." In other words, we have some really awesome solutions in place that we're working on but they won't actually solve the problem.

The authors evaluate the success story of Sweden which vgorously developed nuclear power, beginning in the 1970s. They have one of the highest uses per capita of energy yet one of lowest emissions levels per capita in the world. Turns out that a lot of the popular beliefs about nuclear power are false, e.g., that it's unsafe, leads to proliferation of nuclear weapons (they're not really related), or that it leads to huge amounts of toxic, radioactive waste (actually does create a small amount but only fraction of the waste created by coal that is VERY unsafe and lasts much longer).

Very informative, thought-provoking. Not sure how to address the politics of this though when so many on the left are so opposed to this and, let's be honest, so many on the right are beholden to the fossil fuel industry. (Again, just being honest). The book doesn't begin to solve THAT political problem; it just says "here's what works. The model in Sweden works. Do that."
Profile Image for Morten Greve.
148 reviews5 followers
September 17, 2019
I had rather low expectations. I mean, a foreword by the insufferable Steven Pinker and a gloriously hyperbolic title... I expected unconvincing one-sided nuclear industry propaganda.

And it IS rather one-sided. But it also contains enough well-substantiated insights to make me reconsider my views on the role nuclear should play in the desperately urgent energy transition of the coming decades. In particular, they argue very convincingly that the decision to close existing reactors ahead of time in e.g. Germany and Japan was an unforgivable mistake. Also, they shed important light on the limitations of renewables as the answer to our energy needs. Sounds nice but the math doesn’t work within the relevant time horizon.

Goldstein and Qvist fail to convince me, however, that nuclear can be the win-win-win-... solution to all the problems faced by industrial capitalism that they imply.

Firstly, I’m not convinced that the path to a quick ten- or maybe twentifold increase in nuclear energy production is as straightforward as they suggest. Additionally, decarbonization has more to it than energy production. There’s the building sector, agriculture, transportation and so on. Their beloved Sweden still contributes significantly to emissions. Not least if you consider the outsourced emissions related to Swedish consumption.

Secondly, there are many other issues associated with the current global system, that the nuclear solution does not address - accelerating loss of biodiversity, top soil erosion, fresh water shortages, overfishing, chemical, nutrient and plastic pollution, debt accumulation, build-up of opaque systemic financial risks, deeply suspect tech monopolies, extreme concentrations of wealth (and thus political power) etc.

But ok, one book can’t solve all problems.

I enjoyed this one MUCH more than I expected.
10 reviews
October 25, 2022
Here's the thing about this book: it lies to you from the start.

1) It is not about solving climate change, but part of it, specifically the decarbonization of the energy sector.
2) It takes the book two (!) chapters to actually come out and say that it's a book about nuclear energy. Even the summary and the foreword use the word "karnkraft" to deliberately deceive the reader into buying the book and continue reading.

After such an introduction, I honestly cannot trust anything the writers say. I do have some knowledge about the topic so the essence of their argument was not unknown to me. In that sense, I can say that their arguments have some truth to them (decommissioning nuclear plants to replace them with fossil fuels IS madness) but I cannot trust that the details they provide are not manipulated in some way to fit their argument.

In any case, this book was published in 2017, which is ancient history in terms of the energy sector. This means a lot of their arguments (particularly their critique of renewables) are probably moot at this point. Don't waste your time reading it.
Profile Image for Jim Witkins.
336 reviews12 followers
May 24, 2020
3.5 - persuasive case for following Swedish model, to reduce fossil fuel consumption, yet boost electricity output for growing Worldwide demand. We need more 3rd and 4th gen nuclear power plants, and must keep the currently functioning plants running as we ramp up other green renewables (solar, wind, maybe hydro, etc) and continue research to improve batteries, energy efficiency, smart grid tech and next gen solutions. The next 1-2 decades are critical and we MUST reduce carbon emissions. The math says that’s not possible without drastically boosting clean, safe, reliable nuclear power. I think as environmentalists weigh the risks, realities, and compressed timeline for averting the worst climate change outcomes, nuclear power has a critical role to play. I hope more government policy makers and voters investigate for themselves and realize the stakes are too great to ignore harsh realities.
42 reviews
April 26, 2022
definitely expanded my mind to the benefits of nuclear power when i had previously thought it wasn’t a viable option to climate change (i have now been proven wrong). also does a very good job of dismantling arguments about the danger of nuclear power and comparing it to the much more harmful pollutants that coal produces but are less immediately visible
my favorite thing is that it wasnt too nihilistic - at no point did i feel as though there was no hope for the future and climate change was going to bring the world to an end no matter what. instead, the book offered clear, detailed, and easily understandable solutions that bring me a lot of optimism during a time where climate positivity can be scarce. i see this problem with a lot of other books, where they will go on for chapters about the negative effects of climate change and how we’re all dying while barely touching upon what we could do to fix this, but this book does the exact opposite
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