Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Environmental Fallout from the Japanese Earthquake

I've had a recurring thought today, among the many others jostling for my attention as I follow events in Japan: the earthquake there could have serious, substantial, unexpected long-term environmental consequences across the globe.

My thinking is this (and I'm not trying to claim that I'm the only or first one to think of this): regardless of the eventual outcome of the Fukishima nuclear plant crisis, what has already happened is surely enough to increase the resistance to (and cost of) adding more nuclear power generation capabilities to the grid in democratic countries. Just look at Germany, which just today shut down a number of its nuclear power plants.

If you accept that the disaster in Japan is certainly going to drive up the cost of nuclear power power generation in democratic countries -- whether through outright bans or simply through increased regulation and safety requirements -- then you must conclude that one result of the disaster will surely be an increase in the carbon emissions that democratic countries make into the atmosphere. Petrochemical-based power generators are simply going to seem more appealing than they already are, and more of them will be built than would have been the case in the absence of some plate tectonic movements in the ocean near the coast of Japan on March 11.

Whether that's a good or bad thing is, I believe, something that reasonable people can disagree about.

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