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13 April 2014

Why nuclear power may be the only way to avoid geoengineering

Dawn Stover

Dawn Stover

Stover is a science writer based in the Pacific Northwest and is a contributing editor at the Bulletin. Her work has appeared in...


Tom Wigley, a scientist at the University of Adelaide and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), is one of the world’s top climate researchers. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, which named him a fellow in 2003, cited “his major contributions to climate and carbon-cycle modeling and to climate data analysis.” Together with British climate researcher Sarah Raper, he introduced the widely used climate model MAGICC (Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Induced Climate Change) more than two decades ago, and continues to contribute to its development.

Wigley was one of the first scientists to break the taboo on public discussion of climate engineering as a possible response to climate change. In a 2006 paper in the journal Science, he proposed a combined geoengineering-mitigation strategy that would address the problem of increasing ocean acidity, as well as the problem of climate change.

Wigley talked with the Bulletin about his outspoken support for both nuclear energy and research into climate engineering. More recently, Wigley made headlines as the co-author—with three other prominent climate scientists—of an open letter addressed to “those influencing environmental policy but opposed to nuclear power,” urging them “to advocate the development and deployment of safer nuclear energy systems.” Wigley and his three colleagues argued that renewable energy alone will not be sufficient to address the climate challenge, because it cannot be scaled up quickly and cheaply enough, and that opposition to nuclear power “threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change.”