Monday, September 30, 2013

Gullible for Wind Power

Ketan Joshi writes: "Not all climate 'skeptics' are wind farm opponents, and not all wind farm opponents are climate 'skeptics', but the region in which those two groups overlap is a truly fascinating case study into how we filter evidence according to our respective worldviews."

This is an important acknowledgement that there are indeed wind energy opponents (or 'skeptics') who are not climate skeptics. In his continuing effort to tar wind energy skeptics with the same brush as climate skeptics, however, Joshi ignores the much more dissonant overlap of climate 'believers' and wind energy supporters.

He decries what he sees as gullibility (or worse) of those who 'believe' the evidence against wind, even as he counts on the gullibility of those who 'believe' in wind to support his defense and promotion of it.

Joshi finds it "fascinating" that one can reject the findings of climate science yet accept those of adverse health effects from wind turbines, insisting that there is "a complete lack of evidence" for the latter. The reference he provides is a film – produced by a wind advocacy group with many industry-connected members – showing unaffected hosting landowners. Joshi apparently takes this single piece of evidence completely on faith, despite its overt agenda, even as he completely rejects all testimony of harm (see, for but a few examples, these victim impact statements).

So one notes that Joshi himself exemplifies how evidence is filtered according to one's worldview. In this case, it is easily understandable in that he works for a wind developer. His general claims of scientific rigor are thus called into doubt when he so casually misrepresents the science of wind energy. His devotion to science seems to go only so far as it supports his and his company's interests.

That's obvious, really, to everyone except, apparently, himself. Just as he tars all views of climate skeptics because of their view on climate change, like many that promote the industry he asserts that faith in wind energy unquestionably follows from the acceptance of climate science. Rather than acknowledge any evidence against wind energy, he bolsters his faith in it by lashing on other examples of accepted science, such as the benefit of vaccines and the truth of evolution, shamelessly aligning industry self-interest with the indisputable achievements of Salk and Mendel. Another tactic is to detect not only scientific heresy anywhere in the views of wind power's critics, but also any hint of racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc. to further justify ignoring and even mocking the evidence. Even worse, corporate wind defenders often gloat over the money they make and spend and dismiss critics as merely envious, as cynically angling, like themselves, for a big payoff.

This does not, of course, cause the evidence to go away that wind energy is neither a viable energy source nor a meaningful contributor to lower emissions, and that it has a high level of adverse impacts relative to its benefits.

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Despite the acknowledgement that "[n]ot all climate 'skeptics' are wind farm opponents, and not all wind farm opponents are climate 'skeptics'", Joshi's main purpose remains the nonsensical defense of wind energy as a good simply because many climate skeptics bash it. By bashing the climate skeptics in return, he avoids addressing their critiques – which many climate non-skeptics share – of wind energy. In short: 'Because they are wrong about climate science, they are also wrong about wind energy.'

But are climate skeptics who support wind power also therefore wrong about the latter? Are climate non-skeptics who agree that wind energy has serious shortcomings also wrong about climate science? At least the latter possibility is blocked by denying that climate non-skeptics really are: 'Because they oppose wind power, they are dishonest about supporting climate science.' In other words, it is really only one's view of wind energy that is tested, because that is in fact the only true interest. For the former question, corporate representatives like Joshi are quite able to separate the issues of climate science and wind power when climate skeptics support the industry (a common situation in the U.S. among legislators at the subsidy trough). [Update, Jan. 29, 2014:  Joshi has decried Greenpeace as "anti-science" on the evidence of their destroying a GMO research crop. But Greenpeace also supports corporate wind power, which is "pro-science" according to Joshi, whose "science" is clearly an ad hoc fetish.]

Circularity is not a concern, because the premise is not what it might appear to be: not climate science, fossil or nuclear fuels, particulate pollution, nor the Koch Brothers. It is simply the desire to erect giant wind turbines wherever possible.

Those who support that goal repeatedly show that their interest is not science, but simply to sell their product. Thus they misrepresent both.

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