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8 things that need to happen this decade to reach net zero emissions by 2050

Fast Company

We’re running out of time to hit 2050 goals, but there is a path to get there. The U.S., like the rest of the world, has to reach net-zero emissions by the middle of the century for the planet to avoid the worst impacts of climate change—a goal that Biden has pledged to support. A new report says th...


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Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Feb 22, 2021

These are all doable. This discussion moots any discussion of nuclear. By 2030 at best any new nuclear will be too little, too late for most purposes, even if new technology turns out to be safe and cost effective.

Good point about gas infrastructure:

"(Natural gas infrastructure could also later run on hydrogen made with electricity or other net-zero fuels.)"

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 23, 2021

Mark, thank you for your unsupported opinion that discussion of nuclear has been "mooted". It's typical of the strategy adopted by fossil fuel interests since the 1960s - ignore nuclear energy; when it can't be ignored, attack it. Whether 'Fast Company' is an attack dog hired by oil companies is irrelevant - they, too, have no numbers to support their fossil-fuel based vision.

Nuclear, they are realizing, is unstoppable. As top climatologists have noted, it "paves the only viable path forward on climate change" - and fotunately there is not enough hype, nor money, nor rhetoric, that can change that fact.

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Feb 24, 2021

You´re welcome! The article you quote is over 5 years old!  One or two things have happened since then.  And the authors note (You should read the stuff you post.):

"Alongside renewables, Nuclear will make the difference between the world missing crucial climate targets or achieving them."

The authors also note:

"... a build rate of 61 new reactors per year could entirely replace current fossil fuel electricity generation by 2050."

How´s that going?

I suggest (at no charge) that there is a place for both (maybe), as opposed to your "nothing but nuclear". 

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Feb 25, 2021

"'... a build rate of 61 new reactors per year could entirely replace current fossil fuel electricity generation by 2050.'

How´s that going?"

Not well, I admit. We've wasted another 5 years, not including ~50 prior ones, pursuing the fantasy of reliably powering an electrical grid with solar panels and wind turbines. Texans got a taste of "how that's going" last week:

The Texas Blackout Is the Story of a Disaster Foretold

"This discussion moots any discussion of nuclear."


"...there is a place for both (maybe)...

Did anything happen in the last few days to change your mind?

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Feb 27, 2021

I am so glad you asked that! 

The article included in this post "8 things that need to happen this decade to reach net zero emissions by 2050" doesn´t mention nuclear.  That is why I said it mooted nuclear.  More nuclear, if any, is just not necessary to reach near net zero by 2050.  This is the conclusion from the study on which this article is based. 

Here are some excerpts (with some added bold), if you are willing to read a bit further:

"Until recently, it was unclear whether VRE, ("Variable Renewable Electricity source") nuclear, or fossil fuel with CCS would become the main form of generation in a decarbonized electricity system. Analyses of U.S. economy‐wide deep decarbonization (~80% GHG reductions) have generally shown roughly equal shares of generation from each of these sources, with the proportions changing depending on policy and cost assumptions (Bistline et al., 2018; Clarke et al., 2014; White House, 2016; Williams et al., 2012, 2015). The cost decline of VRE over the last few years, however, has definitively changed the situation."

"Our analysis shows that electricity from VRE is the least‐cost form, not only of power generation but of primary energy economy wide,...All cost‐minimizing pathways to deep decarbonization are organized around using VRE to the maximum feasible extent, to supply both traditional loads and new loads such as EVs, heat pumps, and hydrogen production. As a result, electricity demand increases dramatically, to roughly three times the current level by 2050 (230% to 360% across cases; Figure 6b and Table 2). This demand is met primarily by VRE in all cases. In the central case, the generation mix was 90% wind and solar (Figure 6a); the minimum level was 81% in the limited‐land case (Figures S23–S25 and S27). It is possible that dramatic cost breakthroughs in new generating technologies such as Allam Cycle CCS and Gen IV nuclear could result in a reduced VRE share, but the breakthroughs would need to happen soon in order to deploy them at the pace and scale required in these scenarios."

Thus, there is a possibility that "new" (Gen IV or molten salt) nuclear could play a role, or that some "old nuclear" is still in service in 2050. Even "new" (Allan Cycle) CCS could play a role.  And fusion may arrive. 

But, for the next 8-9 years (when the first SMR will be operational, at the earliest), nuclear is pretty much irrelevant.  After that, we will see.



Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 1, 2021

Mark, I'm so sorry you would trust 

"...a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

to offer more than tired, holistic talking points about energy.

Energy is a complicated subject, and we've been listening to these feelgood frauds for too long. Time's up. Time to get real.

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Mar 2, 2021

Good idea. If you cannot argue with the content, attack the source!

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 4, 2021

I wasn't attacking the source, I was challenging the source's qualifications. The second is fair game.

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Mar 6, 2021

The staff writer at Fast Company summarized and duly attributed the findings from this paper: (I read the study referenced in the article and quoted further from it.)

Carbon‐Neutral Pathways for the United States

James H. Williams, Ryan A. Jones, Ben Haley, Gabe Kwok, Jeremy Hargreaves, Jamil Farbes, Margaret S. Torn. First published: 14 January 2021

Peer Review The peer review history for this article is available as a PDF in the Supporting Information.

1. Energy Systems Management, University of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA,
2. Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, Sustainable Development Solutions Network, New York, NY, USA, 3. Evolved Energy Research, San Francisco,CA, USA,
4. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, USA, 5. Energy and Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA.

Seriously, do you question their qualifications? I question yours!

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 9, 2021

Mark, exactly one of your illustrious authors:

"James H. Williams, Ryan A. Jones, Ben Haley, Gabe Kwok, Jeremy Hargreaves, Jamil Farbes, Margaret S. Torn."

has published another academic paper (Margaret S. Torn). The others are paid renewables shills "Evolved Energy Research" - who cite themselves as their source!

So transparent...but nice try!

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