New research shows that nuclear power may play a vital role in our quest to lower emissions. To prevent catastrophic damage from climate change, we must keep global average temperatures below 1.5 C relative to pre-industrial levels.
Scientists have found that energy production must reach zero emissions globally by 2050 to achieve this goal. Solar and wind power can significantly reduce emissions, but they may not provide enough energy for a zero emissions future alone. “Renewable energy sources like wind and solar are great for reducing carbon emissions,” said Lei Duan, lead author of the study and researcher from the Carnegie Institution for Science. “However, the wind and sun have natural variation in their availability from day to day, as well as across geographic regions, and this creates complications for total emissions reduction.” ADVERTISEMENT ADVERTISEMENT Natural gas can make up for shortfalls in wind and solar energy production.
However, to generate zero-emission electricity, humanity needs another energy source to rely on for cloudy or windless days. Prior studies have found that expanding solar and wind power installations could curb 80% of carbon emissions. However, we would need drastic infrastructure changes to accommodate the variability in these natural resources. ADVERTISEMENT Producing clean energy with wind and solar alone would require enormous expansions in energy storage, transmission technology, and energy-generating infrastructure.
While the costs of wind and solar continue to decline, investing solely in these energy sources doesn’t seem wise. We need other zero emissions electricity supplies to fall back on, such as nuclear power plants. “To nail down that last 10 or 20 percent of
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