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Climate fear puts nuclear power back in picture

LONDON -- Nuclear power has surged back onto the agenda as a response to global warming as leaders of the world's richest nations try to draw up a blueprint for staving off climate disaster.

Nuclear power may be emission-free, but environmentalists say the push is poorly conceived, misguided, and at worst dangerous.

''Nuclear power is back on the agenda because the industry is lobbying powerfully," said Friends of the Earth energy specialist Roger Higman.

''But climate change is global so the solution needs to be global. If you want to persuade someone to give up coal generation, then you are going to have to share with them the benefits of your technology," he said.

A solution is needed urgently, scientists say.

They warn that average temperatures could rise by 2 degrees centigrade or more this century, melting ice caps and bringing droughts and floods.

The solution, they say, is in curbing emissions of so-called greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, much of which is produced by burning fossil fuels.

The Kyoto Protocol aims to do that. But it runs only to 2012, is derided as being too weak by some and too tough by others, and has been criticized by the United States -- the world's biggest polluter, which has refused to sign.

Two months before the heads of the Group of Eight, representing rich industrial nations, meet in Gleneagles, Scotland, to search for a solution to climate change, they are still worlds apart.

''So far, all the emphasis has been on mitigation of the causes of climate change," said Richard Tarasofsky at Royal Institute for International Affairs, think tank in Britain. ''Adaptation to the effects of it . . . as not yet been tackled."

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