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Nuclear energy advocacy

from the perspective of effective altruism

Lecture by Simon Friederich, organized by The Centre for Philosophy, Politics and Economics and Effective Altruism Groningen

Human welfare depends on access to affordable energy, which many humans currently lack. Today, fossil fuels provide the vast majority of humanity's energy sources, but their use emits carbon, and there is a robust consensus that we must transition away from them if we are to avoid welfare-reducing climate change that may even become an existential risk.

Nuclear energy is a carbon-free alternative to fossil fuels, which has several independent environmental advantages. It is, however, almost universally unpopular among people, often due to misconceptions about its alleged risks. I discuss those risks and argue that they are overall very small compared with the possible benefits, highlighting one caveat due to uncertainty in our knowledge of how the expansion of nuclear energy would develop.

To become a globally cost-competitive alternative to fossil fuels and help end the tragedy of the commons in energy production that makes climate change such a hard problem, nuclear energy needs to experience cost reductions by profiting from learning effects through massive build-outs. These, in turn, require robust social support. Currently, only few climate activists champion nuclear power. Those, however, obtain a sizeable amount of media coverage, perhaps because their message raises curiosity. From the point of view of effective altruism, engaging in activism for nuclear energy therefore provides an interesting opportunity to have some (probably rather small) chance at extraordinarily high individual beneficial impact on climate-relevant Policy.

When & where?

Wednesday 16 January 2019, 20.00 - 21.30
Faculty of Philosophy, room Omega

Last modified:17 September 2020 5.27 p.m.