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Wind power opposition and climate science denial

A page in the Wind Power Ethics group*

Why do so many who oppose wind power deny climate science and ignore the harm that the burning of coal is doing to people's health?

In 2017 the science behind anthropogenic climate change (ACC) was compelling and totally convincing to any well informed person with an open mind. The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to limit global warming and ocean acidification was equally obvious and was urgent.

Those who are vocally opposed to wind power often deny the reality of ACC and ignore the proven harm that the burning of coal is doing to people's health.

This page discusses the links that may exist and lists several prominent people and groups, mainly but not only in Australia, who both publicly oppose wind power and try to undermine the findings of climate scientists.

This page was written 2017/01/11, modified 2017/05/29
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com (David K. Clarke) – ©
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Hornsdale Wind Farm
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A wind farm under construction in Mid-North South Australia
 

Why accept anthropogenic climate change as reality?

First, and certainly foremost, there's the science. According to NASA
"Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities."
And for those who deny the science, there are many other reasons to accept the fact that Mankind is changing the Earth's climate for the worse.
There are a number of reasons why somebody might oppose a proposed wind farm; I have discussed these on another page on this site.

Most who are concerned about a wind farm that might be proposed to be built nearby are content to go to a local meeting or two, but a very few publicly campaign over an extended period. Others who are prominent in the campaign against wind power live nowhere near a wind farm or a proposed wind farm.

In my experience one thing that many of those who campaign against wind power have in common is that they deny the link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Decades ago scientists were warning that adding billions of tonnes of greenhouse gasses to the Earth's atmosphere each year would likely cause global warming; more recently the evidence that the world is warming and the climate is rapidly changing has become irrefutable.

To not accept the reality of ACC requires a lack of knowledge of how science works or some sort of mental block against the overwhelming evidence about ACC. If those who oppose wind power are willing to ignore something as thoroughly supported by copious evidence as ACC because it does not suit their dislike of wind turbines, can they be trusted to tell the truth at all?

Not only is the climate changing due to greenhouse gas emissions, but the oceans are warming and becoming more acidic because of the huge amounts of carbon dioxide they are dissolving. Wind power reduces fossil fuel consumption and therefore carbon dioxide emissions.

As mentioned above, air pollution from coal burning is killing many thousands, or millions, of people world-wide each year and making even more very ill. A World Health Organisation report (summarised in The Guardian) states that air pollution is the world's single biggest environmental health risk. The main sources of ambient air pollution are motor vehicles and coal burning. The main sources of air pollution in homes are coal smoke and wood smoke. I've written more on this on another page on this site. Wind power (and solar and other forms of renewable energy) can largely replace the burning of coal for the generation of electricity. Also, electricity generated by renewable means can replace coal for cooking and kerosine (paraffin) for lighting in third world countries; both of which cause major health problems.

Almost all of those who campaign against wind power ignore or deny ocean acidification and the harm to people's health due to the burning of coal.

Anyone who publicly advocates a particular point of view has an ethical responsibility to tell the truth; not only that, but they have a responsibility to make themselves well informed about everything relating to the matter that they are advocating. This is especially so when the point of view being advocated has potential to harm the planet and all future generations of humanity.

 
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Some examples of those involved in wind power opposition and climate science denial

 

Is climate change proven by science?

A common claim made by many who are in denial is that climate change is "only a theory", "it's not proven", "the science isn't settled".

Science does not prove things, it shows us the most likely explanations for the way the world works. Organic evolution is not proven, Newton's theory of universal gravitation is not proven, Einstein's theories of relativity are not proven; but all these things, and the science of climate change, show us a very reliable, and the best available, model of the world around us.

To reject the strong consensus on anthropic climate change science is to show a great depth of ignorance, wilful blindness or simple dishonesty.

Perhaps the most prominent of all is the one-time Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott who practically put a stop to wind farm construction in Australia and infamously said "climate change is crap".
The Murdoch media and Graham Lloyd, Environment Editor in The Australian newspaper in particular, disparage renewable energy and cast doubt on climate science.
Radio shock-jock Alan Jones is an outstanding critic of wind farms and denies climate science.
Family First Senator Bob Day has called climate change a scam and has claimed 'compelling' evidence linking wind turbines with health problems, against all the evidence.
Stop These Things: a very vocal anti-wind power group run by a person or people who hide their identity. A quote from one of their pages, published 2017/01/12:
"STT tends to leave the debate about global warming or 'climate change' to others. However, STT has always thought that if man-made CO2 emissions really were destroying the planet, then sensible governments would have moved to build nuclear power plants from the moment the Chicken Littles started wailing about the heavens collapsing."
This strongly suggests that if the person behind STT accepts the reality of ACC he or she doesn't care about it or whatever harm it may be doing to the planet.
Beyond Australia there is Lyndsey Ward who calls herself a "wind factory fighter" and is based in Scotland brought herself to my attention by several times commenting on my Facebook page. She doesn't outright deny ACC, but claims that the 'science is not settled'; which shows just as much failure to examine the evidence as does downright climate science denial. (See the box "Is climate change proven by science?")
A Mary Young, apparently also in Scotland, also calls herself an anti-wind campaigner. I put a question to her on Facebook: "Do you accept the reality of anthropogenic climate change, ocean acidification and the numbers of people who die each year due to air pollution (largely as a result of burning coal)?" I will quote her answer:
"No I cannot. I am not a scientist. But there again, neither are you. I am an anti-wind campaigner, purely and simply – nothing more, nothing less."
The implications of this answer are discused below.
The author of anti-wind power site Wind Energy's Absurd (also based in Scotland) is a climate science denier too. A quote from his blogspot:
"But you're just a bunch of climate change denying NIMBY's aren't you? Yes. Well, I can categorically say I am on both counts. My own thinking leads me to the conclusion that believing in man-made global warming is like pissing in a swimming pool and believing you're turning it yellow."

In January 2017 I noticed that there is a wind power opposition group on the Internet giving itself the important sounding name of The World Council for Nature. It seems that the WCFN opposes renewable energy, denies climate science, and ignores the damage done to nature by coal mining and coal burning.
Then, of course, there's Donald Trump who has called climate change a hoax and a scam organised by the Chinese. Wind Power Monthly fact-checked a number of Trump's comments on wind power.
 
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Discussion

The reply from Mary Young (above) when asked "Do you accept the reality of anthropogenic climate change, ocean acidification and the numbers of people who die each year due to air pollution (largely as a result of burning coal)?" is worth some examination:
"No I cannot. I am not a scientist. But there again, neither are you. I am an anti-wind campaigner, purely and simply – nothing more, nothing less."
She seems to be saying that she cannot accept those things because she is not a scientist and that I could not know anything about them because I am not a scientist and that she has no need to even think about them.

This seems a remarkably naïve, foolish and irresponsible point of view.

  1. We can have knowledge about science without being scientists. I am not an astronomer, yet I believe that I can say I know that stars are made up mostly of hydrogen, because I have read that in many places and it is accepted by the great majority of astronomers. I am not a mineralogist, but I accept that marcasite and pyrite are different crystalline forms of the same compound, because a number of mineralogy sources have told me so. Similarly, we do not have to be climate scientists to have some knowledge about climate change; we can look at what the consensus view is among climate scientists.
  2. She seems to be implying that any scientist is as good as any other in forming an opinion on these things. This is not so. An astronomer or a mineralogist would not necessarily know more about climate change, ocean acidification and the health impacts of air pollution than a well informed layman.
  3. She is implying that since she is purely and simply an anti-wind campaigner she is under no obligation to know about climate change, ocean acidification or the great many people who are killed by air pollution from the burning of coal. This is plainly not so. If she publicly campaigns against wind power she has a moral obligation to inform herself of the implications of the alternatives.
If, in reading between the lines, I have done Mary Young an injustice, I apologise, but I believe that this is a very important point and that it goes far beyond Mary Young's opinions; all three of the above errors are made by many of those who oppose wind power. Many campaigners against wind power apparently don't know or care about the wider implications of the effect they will have should they be successful in slowing the deployment of this important class of renewable energy.
 
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Links

George Monbiot, Backward Reasoning. People can see that if climate change is a big problem, then there is a strong need to replace fossil-fuel burning power stations with renewable energy such as wind power. Those who don't like wind farms see that denial of climate change helps them to justify their opposition to wind power. To paraphrase George Monbiot: "If you don't like the outcome, deny the premise".

The 'Alice in Wonderland' mechanics of the rejection of (climate) science: simulating coherence by conspiracism; published in Synthese.



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