Big question Barry. Your piece implies that the developed world is paralysed by its internal conflicts of interest, and will not voluntarily act to reduce its own resource consumption (and hence standard of living). Initiative for crashing or saving our industrial society is thus passed to China, India, etc. Are you feeling dispirited by the irrational tendency in the blogosphere and recent perverse decisions by governments around the world?
We need to think of how a sustainable pattern of energy use could come about. Also, who will develop next-generation nuclear and why? Imagining that China and India will do it in the short term is fanciful. They are geared solely towards the quickest growth, which means cheapest energy, which currently means coal, gas and to a lesser extent oil. They may develop a mass market for some wind and solar, but it's hard to see them prioritising a speculative and very high technology option like nuclear.
Further, it's hard to see coal ever being more expensive than nuclear, unless carbon emissions are somehow priced at a realistic level. This looks most unlikely to happen by treaty, and I can't think how else it will come about. Once coal is sufficiently depleted to be expensive in its own right, the energy costs to establish a new nuclear capability will be prohibitively high.
So, I think that climate 'sceptics' and anti-nukes do matter, at least where they penetrate to the levels where decisions are made. We need governments to make far-sighted decisions to price carbon emissions and invest in nuclear power engineering. Nuclear has a long lead time with respect to human lifetimes, as does climate change. Both require foresight, planning and commitment. Governments are the only bodies who have the resources and position to do that.
With next-generation nuclear (of various types) there is a prospect of a relatively high energy future, where industrial society could potentially continue for some relatively long time and provide relatively high standards of living. Without next-gen nuclear, it's doubtful whether industrial civilisation can continue due to population overshoot, and therefore it will collapse to a level which requires much less energy to produce food and goods, probably on a much more local basis. Renewables should not be dismissed because they cannot be scaled to provide all of the base-load power for us to squander at today's rates, but it looks improbable that they will be able to prevent the convulsions of decline as we slide down the fossil energy slope.
I'll bet that most governments contain individuals who know these things, but not a sufficient number to turn a minority opinion into a majority opinion. Here climate and nuclear differ.
Countering the nonsense of climate sceptics is easy, because they are essentially a PR campaign with no underlying substance. I doubt whether even the US government is deluded enough to dismiss climate science. Despite the inevitability that sceptic PR will be exposed as insidious nonsense, it's important that governments are encouraged to actively promote policy on what they know privately is right. Essentially, to radically promote efficiency in energy and material use, price CO2 emissions and stimulate renewables.
Anti-nukes should be easier targets, because their arguments can be refuted by science less open to populist misinterpretation than climate. Problem is, governments are not yet ready to admit that nuclear solutions are going to be necessary. They need to be lobbied strongly and through the most effective channels. The blogosphere is not one of those, IMO. Perhaps a book like David MacKay's on renewables (www.withouthotair.com
), with an easily understood fact and number based approach, would be one way?