EFH Summary of Achievements at COP21 Paris

“There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile”

At the COP 21 Climate Summit in Paris, Energy for Humanity organised and hosted a series of high profile, well-attended events, including a sold-out screening of Pandora’s Promise and a major press conference for four of the world’s most renowned climate scientists.

The scientists — Kenneth Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution, Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, James E. Hansen of Columbia University and Tom Wigley of the University of Adelaide — used the news conference to build on an argument they first made as a group in a 2013 open letter to environmentalists. The Guardian published a related op-ed from the four.

“It’s time to stop using the sky as a waste dump. The climate doesn’t care whether the electricity comes from a wind turbine or a nuclear reactor. The climate just cares about carbon.”  Dr. Caldeira

This event generated extensive global media coverage about the need for nuclear to be recognised alongside other low carbon technologies as a key part of the solution to climate change. More than 60 major news articles were published (see list below). The Guardian op-ed co-authored by the scientists was shared more than 16,000 times, attracting more than 500 comments. Coverage reached an estimated audience of more than 800 million. This includes the Daily Mail website, with an audience of 200 million unique visitors per month, which ran the Associated Press article and attracted 1400 comments.

So why did these eminent scientists decide to come to Paris?

“I’ve come to see now that the magnitude of the problem is so great that we can’t afford to leave technologies unused that can potentially help.” Dr. Ken Caldeira

For nearly two decades nuclear power has been officially excluded from the multilateral UN climate negotiations process. Environmental groups successfully lobbied to keep nuclear out of the ‘clean development mechanism’ and other Kyoto mechanisms to garner carbon credits. Ever since then, nuclear has been off the table and the green groups who have a strong voice at the annual negotiations – together with big name backers like Al Gore and Bill McKibben – have insisted that a 100% renewables pathway is the only acceptable carbon mitigation option. That has become the mantra repeated by everyone, even the current UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres.

“It is wrong to pit renewables against nuclear power. We need all hands on deck.” Dr James Hansen

But in light of the urgency of tackling climate change and nuclear power’s essential role in limiting temperature rises, the scientists argued that only a combined strategy employing all the major sustainable clean energy options — including renewables and nuclear — can prevent the worst effects of climate change by 2100, such as the loss of coral reefs, severe damages from extreme weather events, and the destruction of biodiversity and ecosystems worldwide.

In their words:

“Nothing should be off the table.”

Hansen, Caldeira, Emanuel, Wigley Photo Credit: Robert Stone
Hansen, Caldeira, Emanuel, Wigley
Photo Credit: Robert Stone

The end result was a Paris Agreement that made a significant shift: away from a prescriptive framework driven by technology specific targets, and towards deep decarbonisation using all tools at our disposal. With just one mention of ‘renewables’ in the entire text, the Agreement is broadly technology neutral. This represents a significant step forward for the kind of flexible, ‘throw everything we have at this problem’ approach that is needed to solve climate change within the short time we have left to turn the tanker.

The direction of travel is clearly towards all of the above ‘clean energy’ innovation (including nuclear) with substantial support from both governments and private sector entrepreneurs. These moves should result in a welcome increase in innovation and deployment in carbon free energy and industrial technology.

In response to the climate scientists’ plea for rational climate policy in Paris, an extraordinarily controversial article by Naomi Oreskes, History Professor at Harvard and co-author of Merchants of Doubt appeared to argue that a prescriptive, conditional response to climate change (e.g. 100% renewable) is a prerequisite for some kind of tribal loyalty, which the scientists had somehow betrayed and were therefore accused of a ‘new form of denialism’. Not only did this spark an outcry on social media, but also prompted this stinging rebuke from The New Yorker: How not to debate nuclear energy and climate change.

In Paris, Dr Hansen also addressed a distinguished audience at the Academies of Science and Technology, and joined a panel discussion, Climate policy & Science moderated by Jean-Marc Jancovici, President of The Shift Project, alongside speakers Sir David King, Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change ; Dr. Youba Sokona, IPCC Vice Chair ; Abel Julio Gonzalez, Academician at the Argentine Nuclear Regulatory Authority. You can watch the whole discussion here (scroll down to 4th item on the playlist):

Events continued into the night.

Nearly three years on since the film’s release, audiences filled a sold-out screening of Pandora’s Promise at the Majestic Bastille Cinema, followed by a debate between Robert Stone, Film Director and one of France’s leading antinuclear campaigners, Yves Marignac, Director of WISE-Paris. It was a good-natured debate, although the audience seemed frustrated by the antinuclear argument to avoid the need for nuclear by assuming a massive contraction in energy consumption – well below today’s levels – despite the clear need for billions more people to increase their access to electricity to achieve basic quality of life.

Film Maker Robert Stone with Dr. James Hansen
Film Maker Robert Stone with Dr. James Hansen

EFH Director Kirsty Gogan spoke at five events at COP 21, including chairing the press conference. She joined Ben Heard, Stephen Tindale, Rauli Partanen and Francois-Marie Bréon (IPCC member and Climatologist) on the Nuclear For Climate panel hosted by Valerie Faudon, who spearheaded the Nuclear for Climate campaign, in what we believe was the first ever COP discussion panel on nuclear and climate. The discussion was held inside the Generation Climate public arena, and attended by more than 200 people. It was a lively and constructive session with contributions from the Sierra Club and other environmentalists in the audience. You can watch the whole show here:

Kirsty also gave two keynote speeches inside the ‘Blue Zone’ at events hosted by the IAEA and the OECD-NEA.


Kirsty was interviewed by the totally charming and delightful Citizens Climate Lobby shortly after the scientists’ press conference.

EFH also supported several groups and activists to attend Paris and to participate in events and speeches, making the case for nuclear energy as a climate solution, including Tom Blees and Mark Lynas, without whom none of this would have been possible, inspirational advisor and champion of EFH, Ben Heard (you need to follow him on Twitter if you don’t already) Stephen Tindale (Weinberg Foundation) Urs Bolt (EFH Switzerland) and the talented authors of the remarkable book: Climate Gamble Rauli Partanen and Janne Korhonen who undertook the heroic task of distributing 3,000 copies of their crowdfunded book at COP21. Hot off the press, the newly published book was a huge hit and everyone is incredibly grateful to another of our heroes, Sir David MacKay, author of Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air, for writing the foreword. Rauli somehow even found time to document their 12 days in Paris here.

Eric Meyer with Climate Gamble authors Rauli Partanan and Janne M. Korhonen
Eric Meyer with Climate Gamble authors Rauli Partanen and Janne M. Korhonen

Eric Meyer campaigns for clean nuclear energy through the medium of opera. Rauli filmed him singing for passengers on the Paris Metro.


It was incredible to bring so many of the new environmentalist and ecomodernist tribe together in Paris, old friends and new, not least JMPVerdant CommunicationsNuclear for ClimateSauvons le Climat and The Shift Project. Thank you from the whole team. You’re amazing and we couldn’t have done it without you.

Thanks too to those whose generous support made this effort possible: Daniel Aegerter, Pritzker Innovation Fund, Ray Rothrock, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Summary of Press Coverage

New York Times (Dot Earth), December 4, 2015
In Paris, Negotiators Trim a Draft Climate Agreement, Climate Scientists Press for Nuclear Energy, Activists Prepare for Failure” By Andrew Revkin

The New York Times, December 2, 2015
Chasing a Climate Deal in Paris” by the New York Times

The Independent, December 3, 2015
COP21: World must embrace nuclear power to save planet from climate change, claim leading scientists” by Steve Connor

Associated Press, December 3, 2015
The Latest: UN chief says leaders’ support on climate a plus” by AP

Agence France-Presse, December 3, 2015
Nuclear power crucial for UN climate goal: top scientist” by Marlowe Hood

Huffington Post Green, December 3, 2015
Paris, From Terror to Nukes” by Nathan Currier

Scientific American, December 4, 2015
Nuclear Power Must Make a Comeback for Climate’s Sake, James Hansen and other climate scientists argue for more reactors to cut coal consumption

Wired Magazine December 4, 2015
Climate Scientists Used to Just Get Angry. Now They’re Taking Action

New Matilda, December 4, 2015
‘Father Of Climate Change’ James Hansen Urges Support For Nuclear Energy At #COP21 Climate Talks” by Thom Mitchell

Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 3, 2015
Editorial:To ease climate change, go nuclear” by Editorial Team

The Daily Caller, December 3, 2015
Godfather Of Global Warming Rebukes Obama, Praises Nuclear As Earth’s Savior” by Steve Birr

The Conversation, December 3, 2015
James Hansen arrives – at his first ever COP” by David Holmes

BNR Nieuwsradio, December 2, 2015
Nuclear power inevitable, say 4 top climate researchers” By Mark Brook House

The Guardian, December 3, 2015
Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change” by James Hansen, Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira and Tom Wigley

BBC World Service, December 3, 2015
World Update
(From minute 18:45 more or less)

Short video from the press conference (edited by World Nuclear Association) 10 minutes

Transcript from the press conference, with thanks to Rod Adams, Atomic Insights

The whole press conference (80 minutes) is on La Galerie 2015

Democracy Now, December 4, 2015
Climate Scientist James Hansen Warns World is on Wrong Track to Prevent Runaway Global Warming” by Amy Goodman

Carbon Brief, December 2, 2015
Dr James Hansen: UK is ‘screwing its children’ with fracking policy” by Leo Hickman

International Business Times, December 2, 2015
James Hansen & COP21: Emissions trading won’t work, but my global ‘carbon fee’ will” by Michael Hopkin

Atomic Insights, December 3, 2015 “James Hansen takes stage at COP21 to explain carbon fee and dividend” by Ron Adams

Citizens’ Climate Lobby, December 4, 2015
CCL at COP21, Day 3: An American (climate scientist) in Paris” by Peter Joseph

Paul Beckwith, Climate System Scientist, December 2, 2015
James Hansen Talks Climate Change at COP21” by Paul Beckwith

Citizen Action Monitor, December 4, 2015
“‘This is really a total fraud,’ says climate scientist James Hensen about COP21

Climate State, December 4, 2015
James Hansen Talks Climate (in)Justice and Governmental (Dis)Honesty #COP21″

The Wire, December 4, 2015
COP21 Diary: As Talks Go On Behind Closed Doors, Scientists and Activists Fret Outside” by Anjali Vaidya

The Conversation, December 2, 2015
James Hansen: emissions trading won’t work, but my global ‘carbon fee’ will

Wired (Italy), December 3, 2015
Hansen alla Cop21: “Per salvare il clima l’unica soluzione è una tassa sui combustibili fossili” by Caterina Visco

Geographical, December 3, 2015
COP21 Diaries: The case for a price” by Marco Magrini

EcoWatch, December 3, 2015
James Hansen: Fracking is ‘Screwing Your Children and Grandchildren‘ by Leo Hickman

Desmog UK, December 3, 2015
Cameron’s Climate Call KO’d by Expert James Hansen

Environmental Action, December 2, 2015
From Paris, COP21 Eve: Hold the Line

Huff Post Green, December 4, 2015
In the COP21 Battle of Ideas, One Common Thread” by Bradley Campbell

Associated Press, December 4, 2015
Matter of degree: Temperature goal an issue in climate talks” by Seth Bornstein, Angela Charlton and Karl Ritter

US News and World Report, December 3, 2015
The Latest: UN chief encouraged that 150 leaders are committed to delivering a climate accord” by Associated Press

American Nuclear Society, December 3, 2015
Climate Scientists Call for Even Playing Field for Nuclear at COP21

World Nuclear News, December 4, 2015
Academics at Paris talks make plea for nuclear power” by World Nuclear News

Citizens’ Climate Lobby, December 3, 2015
INTERVIEW – Kirsty Gogan – Energy for Humanity

Esquire Magazine
The Battle to Save the Planet May Come Down to Nuclear Advocates versus Environmentalists

Forbes magazine, December 15, 2015
Paris Cop21 and the Urgent Need for More Nuclear Energy” by Jim Conca

The Guardian Wednesday 16 December, 2015
There is a new form of climate denialism to look out for so don’t celebrate yet.” by Naomi Oreskes

The New Yorker Friday 18 December, 2015
How not to debate nuclear energy and climate change” by Michael Specter


Ben Heard, ThinkClimate and Tom Blees President of the Science Council for Global Initiatives
Ben Heard, ThinkClimate and Tom Blees President of the Science Council for Global Initiatives