I have always been fond of nature and the outdoors, but was not always a climate activist. As an aspiring scientist, I decided to pursue a career in nuclear fusion energy because it sounded really sexy and highly impactful. At the time of my decision, I knew very little about nuclear energy, either fusion (the process that naturally occurs in the Sun, but has yet to be terrestrially tamed) or fission (our existing technology). By the time I completed my PhD at Columbia University, I understood the common inside joke; fusion is the energy of the future and always will be. Being already married and my wife pregnant at the time of graduation, fusion began to feel like more of a gamble, not just for humanity but for my personal income and family wellbeing. To be clear, I do strongly believe that fusion will one day usher humanity into a more sustainable energy future, but we clearly need an alternative if we are to survive in the meantime.
After my wife gave birth, climate change transformed in my mind from an academic concern to a visceral worry for the future of this beautiful beloved child of mine.
After my wife gave birth, climate change transformed in my mind from an academic concern to a visceral worry for the future of this beautiful beloved child of mine. This led me to a clear vision of why the climate “debate” is a moot point. It does not matter whether we are 90% or 50% certain, whether the models predict 10 years or 30. What matters is the level of admissible risk that we are willing to accept while playing Russian roulette with our children’s future.
To address the overwhelming challenge of global decarbonization, we need to attack it with all we’ve got!
Since graduating I have worked on a variety of emerging technologies, including data science and space exploration, to ensure a reliable economic future for my family. On the weekends, my favorite activity is hiking with my wife and almost 2 year old son, all sharing an appreciation for the beauty and wonder of our planet. When not busy with work or family life, however, I now spend much of my precious free time engaging with my friends, family and local environmental groups on climate change solutions. My main argument is generally this: To address the overwhelming challenge of global decarbonization, we need to attack it with all we’ve got! Yes, we need massive mobilization of renewables, carbon capture, improved efficiency, etc… Unfortunately, everything I’ve learned from energy experts suggests that the dream of 100% renewables is neither technically nor economically feasible with existing technology. If we are serious about securing our children’s future (which I sincerely hope is the case), we cannot afford to allow fear to blind us from the single most promising solution - the most powerful and reliable source of carbon free energy - which is nuclear fission.
Every technology has risks, but the way I see it, if I have to weigh the risk of a rare localized power plant accident versus that of a likely global climate catastrophe, it’s a no brainer. I go with nuclear energy.