Business and Society

Financials, not environmentalists, can save the planet

February 9, 2012 | 1 min read

No energy technology is completely benign, says Mark Lynas. But for him, nuclear power is “actually one of the most environmentally friendly technologies, for a whole host of reasons. It’s really the only large-scale source of sustainable baseload power, which is always available.” Renewables like solar and wind power are intermittent, requiring a back-up — frequently the use of fossil fuels, he says. Hydro electric means damming up river systems, causing negative effects to the ecosystem. “Nuclear power doesn’t do that,” he says. “And even if you have a worst-case type accident — like Tchernobyl — or a lesser case like Fukushima, the consequences are serious but manageable.”

Lynas goes on to describe the concept and purpose of ‘planetary boundaries’. There are planetary boundaries – actual scientific measurements of the earth’s tolerances across such areas as ocean acidity, CO2, and species loss — that must be respected if life on earth is to go on. Adhering to these boundaries creates “a safe zone so we can try to run the planet sustainability, instead of going over any of these tipping points that we may not be able to recover from.” The area of CO2 — with a planetary tolerance of 350 parts per million — has already been overrun: the earth’s atmosphere now contains 391 parts per million CO2.

While Lynas feels that Sweden, of all countries, has the best and most environmentally-friendly energy infrastructure (a combination of hydro, nuclear, and renewables) he feels that Germany’s recent ban on nuclear energy is absolutely not environmentally responsible — quite the opposite. “Germany is closing down its largest source of zero carbon power and replacing it with a much smaller source, which will have the unintended consequence of increasing coal consumption,” he says. “That will cause more pollution, more cancers, it will spread radioactivity from the coal ash and smoke…and the fact that the greens are calling for this policy speaks volumes. I don’t consider these particular greens to be environmentalists,” he says.


This video interview was recorded in Amsterdam on 1 February 2012 during the official launch of FSinsight.

This article may be reproduced according to our terms of use with attribution (and link, if online) to To be cited as: “Financials - and not environmentalists - can save the planet”, Mark Lynas,, February 9, 2012.

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