The debate over the relative hazards of global warming and nuclear disaster continues, at levels from objective philosophical observation to raging paranoia. There is simply no easy answer to the question.
The destructive power of a nuclear explosion is horrific and immediate, while the ultimate long-range effects are still unknown. Global warming is a gradual process, not the dramatic explosion and split-second destruction that makes instant headlines around the world.
Weighing the risks from nuclear power in all its forms and those from the effects of climate change is based on so many different factors that it is literally mind-boggling. Climate change is going on; sea levels are rising, the ice caps are melting, entire ecosystems are struggling for survival. A lot of expensive real estate, not to mention the livelihoods and lives of some of the world’s least affluent people, is at ever-increasing risk of flood and storm damage.
Arguably the most important question is whether the political consciousness of the world can look beyond short-term profit and loss and invest the necessary resources in developing sustainable energy sources. Wind, water and solar power are already viable alternatives but only for a small fraction of the world’s total energy needs.
Both nuclear and and petroleum power have the backing of industrial giants with virtually unlimited funds, partly because they have the political (read ‘financial’) clout to influence the allocation of government subsidies and other considerations. Sustainable power sources get a lot less support, for a variety of often questionable reasons.
One simple fact, impossible to refute, is that ‘natural’ petroleum is a finite source. When we use it all up, there won’t be any more. Another fact is that the human population is growing not declining; the need for power can only grow with it. Even disregarding pollution of the environment (which we cannot afford to do) sustainable energy sources that don’t pollute, blow up or melt down would seem be nothing more than self-preservation and common sense.