The anti-science right on wind farms

So, Tony Abbott is going to hold another inquiry into utterly spurious claims about adverse health effects from wind farms. Credulous belief in these effects, or silent acquiescence in claims about them, is now compulsory on the political right, particularly among those who, absurdly, describe themselves as “sceptics” on climate science and, more generally, on scientific evidence about actual health risks from genuine environmental hazards. The extreme example, chosen by the Oz to lay down the party line, is James Delingpole whose denial extends beyond climate change to include rejection of the health effects of passive smoking (based on the bogus and discredited research of tobacco-funded “researchers” Enstrom and Kabat). Despite claiming that there is no risk in inhaling a toxic mixture of dozens of carcinogens, Delingpole has no difficulty in believing that noise levels quieter than those of a public library will cause all manner of health risks, including “night sweats, headaches, palpitations, heart trouble”. [fn1]

It’s easy to multiply examples of this kind (Miranda Devine, Jennifer Marohasy, Christopher Booker). What’s more striking is the silence of those who know this stuff is nonsense, but don’t want to offend their allies and supporters

Andrew Bolt is particularly interesting here. He obviously knows that the claims about health risks are nonsensical, and is careful (AFAICT) to avoid mentioning them, while writing in a way that hints at support. So, we get a favorable link to the Delingpole piece, but the pull quote refers to economics not to health issues. Of course, if the politics were such as to demand support for wind, Bolt would make mincemeat of the nonsense Delingpole is putting forward.

A couple of takeaways from this

1. To the best of my knowledge, there is not a single climate denialist anywhere in the world who has the minimal consistency and honesty needed to reject nonsense arguments from their own side, even when they take a form (NIMBY claims about unproven health risks) that they routinely denounce when put forward by misguided environmentalists. That can be extended to the entire political right in Australia – I’m not aware of a single person on the right who has called Abbott out on this nonsense. Active liars like Delingpole, and enablers like Bolt are representative of the entire right, even those who would like to appear rational and reasonable.

2. It’s crucial for the left to reject this kind of argument whenever it appears, even when the proponent takes the correct stance on other issues.

[1] This article earned a rebuke from the Press Council, but that merely perpetuates the notion that Delingpole is a journalist and that the Oz is a newspaper. These 20th century categories have ceased to be applicable – the Oz is better understood as a lunar right blog that, for historical reasons, is printed out on broadsheet paper every day.

130 thoughts on “The anti-science right on wind farms

  1. Well, I’m a small-l. I get caught up in the scientific arguments as much as anyone.

    What I meant to highlight is the entirely different motivation and thinking between conservatives and progressives on this, and the basis of the Right’s overwrought, paranoid response to developments in a particular field of science and technology.

    I don’t think anyone who gets involved in these discussion is ignorant, let alone JQ, but I do think the pro-science arguments should include more reference to the denialists’ fears about the social hierarchy, because in many ways it’s more explanatory and also easier to explain than the finer points of science.

    All of us want to shake an inactivist by the shoulders and shout “how can you possibly believe that?”, but since we actually know how, maybe it would help to push the conversation in that direction.

  2. @Sancho

    I agree that you make a worthy point. The ‘debate’ almost inevitably takes on the appurtenances of an intellectual contest, when this is on one side a defence of existing social arrangements underpinning privilege, or at least, perceived privilege.

  3. @Ernestine Gross

    But isn’t Prince Charles just having his cake and eating it too?

    (As am I. I am over-privileged too, using more than my share of the earth’s productive capacity and more than is sustainable. Though my level of over-privilege does not compare to PC’s of course.)

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