Liapeng Raliengoane LESOTHO– Last Friday saw the Net Zero advocates from Lesotho and the United Kingdom call for nuclear for Net Zero at an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) event held at the #Atoms4Climate pavilion at the Conference of Parties (COP27) in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), despite increasing awareness of climate change and an agreement at last year’s UN climate summit (COP26) to phase down the use of coal, global consumption of the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel will increase this year as the energy crisis drives up prices of alternative sources such as natural gas.

A lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 4th, 5th and 6th Assessment Reports, Dr. Richard Betts, the Government of Lesotho’s Energy Planner and Statistician Marorisang Makututsa and Kirsty Gogan, Founder and Managing Partner of TerraPraxis were among the panellists.

These advocates agreed that the need to use data and science to creatively engage both policy makers and the public is becoming more urgent by the day.

According to Dr Betts, the IPCC provided another watershed moment where science has driven change in 2018 with the publication of its special report on Global Warming to 1.5 °C.

Among other things, the report provided illustrative model pathways for limiting warming to 1.5 °C which included increases in nuclear power of between 59 per cent to 501per cent by mid-century.

The report was aimed at policy makers and informed the UN climate process, Dr Betts said, adding that several governments responded to the study by increasing their ambitions to slash emissions.

But it also helped spark a global clamor for more climate action.To keep raising awareness about climate change, Dr Betts talks to business groups, schools and local communities and takes part in music and science festivals, where comedy, poetry and other acts use science to get their message across creatively.

“Bringing together the arts and sciences is really important. People often don’t respond to facts; they respond to emotions. So, if you can touch them in other ways, touch them emotionally, get their feelings engaged, that’s a really good way of getting to the heart of it and promoting more action on climate change, which is what is urgently needed,” Dr. Betts concluded.

To advance nuclear as a clean option to fossil, Kirsty Gogan called for focusing on its key attributes: clean electricity, thermal heat that can be used to decarbonize industry and produce hydrogen for a variety of uses including synthetic fuels that can eventually replace oil; a high capacity factor which means it runs almost 24/7 regardless of weather or sunlight; and a small environmental footprint due to its extreme energy density.

“As these are many of the same attributes of coal plants that make nuclear and small modular reactors a suitable replacement for the fossil fuel that provides almost 40 per cent of the world’s electricity. Building reactors on or near those sites “could be the largest carbon reduction opportunity on the planet,” Gogan said.

Also the Deputy President of the African Young Generation in Nuclear Organization, Makututsa said “In Lesotho, an economy run entirely on renewables is no longer able to meet electricity demand and has begun importing power, some from fossil fuels. Rural residents are paying more for electricity from renewables-based microgrids than are wealthier city dwellers who get their power from the main grid.”

Makututsa expressed the need to go out into the streets, into schools, so that they start from the grassroots and teach the children that there is this technology that is pegged with so many opportunities for the economy and the clean energy transition. And then the children will take it up as they grow.

“We should also knock on the doors of policy makers and peg the facts around nuclear, and of course use data. You should show facts, which is the only way you are going to convince policy makers that this can really work.”

Recent reports by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) have underscored the urgency for action. Last month, UNEP said there is currently no credible pathway in place to limit global warming to 1.5 °C, the threshold past which the world may tip into climate catastrophe, unless there is “an urgent system-wide transformation.”