Shock: Climate Change Denier cites Dodgy Evidence – ‘Eaglegate’

I figured it’s Sunday, ‘Undercover Princesses’ is on the telly and unpacking from yesterday’s big move to London has lost its appeal: it’s time to dust off the ol’ shovel and start clearing through the thick layers of shit that make up another James Delingpole climate change-bashing article.

In this masterpiece of ignorance and arseholeism, James tackles wind farms, taking his lead from a report in The Sunday Times and, oddly for a libertarian conservative, taking exception to rich people making money.

Normally, I don’t bother making a big deal out of the spurious garbage written by Mr. Delingpole – professional troll as he is. However, this time around Mr. Delingpole actually evokes strong evidence to back up his argument and provides source links…

Perhaps there was a time, in the early days of wind farms, when these men could have pleaded ignorance of just how evil and useless wind farms are. Not any more. So much strong evidence has now emerged of the damage wind farms do to bird life and to the natural beauty of the landscape, in return for no real benefit to anyone except heavily-subsidised wind-farm-owners, that the only way anyone could possibly ignore it is to stick their fingers in their ears, close their eyes and go: “Nyah nyah nyah. Don’t care. My estate manager tells me it’s going to make me pots and pots of lovely dosh, so bugger the peasants who have their views ruined and the little people who have to pay for my lovely holidays in Mustique with their increased eco-taxes and inflated electricity bills.”

Given his enthusiasm for declaring a new “gate” whenever any evidence for climate change turns out to be slightly more complicated than he can evidently comprehend, I thought it was only fair to investigate Mr. Delingpole’s own credibility.

He makes three claims, supported by three links that supposedly at least mention the “strong evidence” he is referring to:

1. They kill birds.

2. They ruin the natural beauty of the landscape.

3. They offer no real benefit.

I’ll start with point two. The linked article isn’t even about natural beauty, it’s about wind farms under performing compared to theoretical estimates. The point is fundamentally stupid at any rate, as anything manmade would obviously have a negative impact on whatever’s considered naturally beautiful – if Mr. Delingpole extended his scope beyond the limited confines of the British Isles, he would be arguing the environmentalist cause. Considering that any source of power would result in something occupying the landscape somewhere, the question becomes less about natural beauty and more about unnatural beauty. This is far more subjective, but equally as shallow an argument.

Point three depends, I guess, on your definition of a ‘real benefit’. He links to a typically terrifying opinion piece from the Daily Mail. Not wanting to fuck around, Christopher Booker sends you immediately racing to the emergency bunker:

Let us be clear: Britain is facing an unprecedented crisis. Before long, we will lose 40 per cent of our generating capacity.

And unless we come up quickly with an alternative, the lights WILL go out. Not before time, the Confederation of British Industry yesterday waded in, warning the Government it must abandon its crazy fixation with wind turbines as a way of plugging this forthcoming shortfall and instead urgently focus on far more efficient ways to meet the threat of a permanent, nationwide black-out.

The real benefit is clear: providing enough power to keep the kettles going. However, I believe Christopher Booker’s argument constructs a straw man and misrepresents the report the article’s founded on. Booker’s article was published on the 15th July 2009, on the 13th the CBI released their “blueprint for secure and sustainable energy future” . I think it’s reasonable to assume that this is what Booker was referring to. The CBI do criticise the government’s energy policy and recommend “reducing the percentage of wind power expected by 2020 under the Renewables Strategy… to encourage investment in other low-carbon energy sources”, however this conclusion isn’t quite as damning as Booker (and, by proxy, Delingpole) would have you believe.

According to the CBI, at the time of the report, this is what Britain’s energy scheme was heading towards:

By 2030 gas would provide more than a third of the UK’s energy (36%); coal would contribute 1%; wind 24%; nuclear 20%; other renewables 12%; and clean coal 8%. That would mean 64% of electricity would come from low-carbon technologies, behind the Climate Change Committee’s 78% target, and leaving the UK struggling to meet its long-term carbon reduction targets.

Following their recommendations for, what they call, a ‘balanced pathway’, they laid out their preferred distribution as this:

Under this pathway, by 2030 gas would make up 16% of the energy mix; coal 2%; nuclear 34%; wind 20%; other renewables 15%; and clean coal 14%. That would mean 83% of our electricity will come from low-carbon sources, compared with 64% under a business as usual model. Meanwhile, power sector emissions would halve by 2020 and halve again by 2030, getting the UK back on track with its longer-term carbon targets.

A shift of only 4% is wholly disproportionate to both Delingpole’s and Booker’s anti-wind farm rants.

Cutting back to the chase, the ‘real benefit’ is that, in the future, wind power will provide 20% of our energy – this will be sustainable, clean and secure. There’s nothing in either Delingpole’s or Booker’s article that says otherwise.

Finally, to point three: killing birds. I’m sure Mr. Delingpole’s totally ignorant to the irony of someone who devotes much of their time aggressively attempting to derail the most important environmental issue of our time by appealing to animal lovers (he’s such a big fan of the WWF, after all). He links to his man Christopher Booker again (this time writing for The Telegraph) who uses studies, conspiracy and YouTube to prove how wind farms are evil. Typically, the sources of these studies were not linked to, so I had to look myself to see whether this argument bears fruit. Whether Delingpole did or not, I don’t know. I’ll just say it took me only a few seconds to find this:

The number of bird deaths from wind farms is relatively low. Treehugger, in an article “Common Eco-Myths: Wind Turbines Kill Birds”, put the claim under the microscope and shed some light on the perpetuity of this argument:

Whether by intent or because older studies are more common, opponents of wind power will have cited bird mortality data from studies done before 2000 and, to make their point, are likely to focus on studies done on wind turbines erected in high exposure situations: e.g. in migratory pathways, at mountain passes, near nesting areas, and so on. Those are the numbers that get quoted at public hearings, published in the media, and that therefore underlie the collective consciousness about wind turbine hazard to birds. Not unlike what happens to people who constantly see fires crashes and shooting on the local news and come to think that what they are seeing is far more common than it really is, it all comes down to a risk communication problem.

That article was written 4 years ago. Maybe Delingpole’s love of animals starts and stops with birds as he loves flogging dead horses…

Given Delingpole’s propensity to rabidly pounce upon any controversy in sources, over-amplification of findings and suspected errors in the case of climate change scientists, you would think he would hold him and his fellow deniers to the same standards. He doesn’t.

Let’s recap. Wind power is bad because…

1. It kills birds. This argument was weak four years ago. Under this condition domestic pets, cars, ALL power lines and windows would be “evil”.

2. It ruins natural beauty. An argument that could be applied to anything man does. Would a nuclear power station add to the natural beauty?

3. It offers no real benefit. Other than clean, sustainable and secure energy, that is. Presumably he means it offers no real benefit over other types of energy sources. If so, he should explain why he thinks this. Regardless, nobody’s recommending only using wind farms. If somebody didn’t get a field full of wind farms on a hill near them someone else would be getting a whopping great nuclear power station outside their town. Either way, it’s late and trying to understand Delingpole logic is hurting my head.

Good night.

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