Jean Chemnick, E&E Published: Friday, May 31, 2013
Congressional Democrats have pressed their Republican colleagues for three years to hold a hearing on climate change, and yesterday one did in the heart of West Virginia’s coal country.
Despite having introduced a bill last week that would bar U.S. EPA from promulgating rules that would require the use of carbon capture and storage technology until a panel of officials from outside the agency deemed it to be economically and technologically feasible, Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) hosted yesterday’s climate change forum in a technology park in Fairmont, W.Va.
McKinley’s office said “is fascinated by this issue” and read several books on climate change in preparation for the event, including Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) “The Greatest Hoax,” which denies that man-made warming exists.
“The congressman’s take-away is that the science is still unclear,” said his office. “There needs to be open debate about this in Washington, and both sides need to be represented and simply talk.”
The West Virginia venue was chosen because McKinley wanted his constituents to be able to take part in the debate, his staff said. An effort was made to balance the invited guests between those who believe in climate change and those who do not.
“Many environmental groups declined to come as they felt it was not worth the discussion to come to W.Va.,” his office said. “But this was about bringing the debate to the citizens of West Virginia to hear both sides.”
Participants estimated the crowd at 70 people or fewer and said it appeared to be equally divided between skeptics and climate science believers. The discussion lasted more than three hours.
The diverse group of experts McKinley invited to the West Virginia High Technology Consortium included many of the same people Republicans frequently call to Capitol Hill to discuss the issue: contrarian scientists who say human emissions aren’t driving climate change, like atmospheric sciences professor John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and skeptic activists like former Inhofe aide Marc Morano and Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
But the panel also included mainstream researchers who are among the (alleged - greatly exaggerated) 97 percent of scientists who agree that human emissions are driving climate change, according to a recent analysis of scientific papers.
These included Colorado State University atmospheric scientist Scott Denning and Jim Hurrell, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Earth System Laboratory.
Representatives of think tanks who were part of the event said they found McKinley’s approach to the issue encouraging.
“He made a few comments that did lift my spirits, and I thought, maybe he is really serious about trying to think about ways to deal with climate change,” said Joe Casola, senior scientist for the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.
He said McKinley, who is an engineer by training, asked several times what it might take for the United States to bring its emissions under control, something Casola called “a constructive beginning.”
But Casola said that if McKinley’s purpose in holding the hearing was to get a genuine read on the effect fossil fuel use is having on climate, he should have stocked his panel with mainstream scientists rather than skeptics whom he said frequently steered the discussion toward other topics, like preindustrial climate fluctuations.
Annie Petsonk of the Environmental Defense Fund, who also took part in the discussion, said she, too, was impressed with what she saw as McKinley’s genuine interest in climate change science and in how it might affect the Mountain State’s economy.
“He is clearly concerned about the issue of diversifying West Virginia’s economic base, which he should be,” Petsonk said. A major focus of the congressman’s remarks was how to keep technology research in West Virginia after Morgantown’s National Energy Technology Laboratory saw its budget hit by sequestration.
While McKinley’s office said West Virginia’s iconic coal mining industry would continue to grow, it pointed out that lower-emissions natural gas is also an important economic sector.
The state’s 1st District, which McKinley represents, has both wet and dry gas and the “possibility of several ‘crackers’ coming to the district bringing tens of thousands of jobs,” McKinley’s office said.
Climate skeptics, too, praised the event, saying it allowed them to make their case that human emissions are not having a significant effect on warming and that efforts to rein them in are unnecessary.
Morano called the event “refreshing.”
“When actual debate occurs like we saw at the hearing, we see just how much of man-made climate fears are based on ‘projections,’ ‘predictions’ and ‘maybes,’” Morano said. He pointed out that scientists on the panel did not agree on several key points.
“Team global warming had a scientific civil war going on during the debate about whether there was a current global warming signal in our global average [temperatures] or even weather,” he said. See Morano’s written testimony here.
The tragic deaths in Oklahoma will be used be Global Warming attacks as prima facie evidence that Global Warming is real and the government needs to do something about it. That will mean, of course, a loss of freedoms and more taxes to pay.
History and facts can be irritating to people who have an agenda to feed. These agenda pushers feed on ignorance. The less people know, the easier they are to control.
In 1975, an article was published that blamed Global Cooling for weird and destructive weather.
“There are ominous signs that the Earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now. The regions destined to feel its impact are the great wheat-producing lands of Canada and the U.S.S.R. in the North, along with a number of marginally self-sufficient tropical areas parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indochina and Indonesia where the growing season is dependent upon the rains brought by the monsoon.
“The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant overall loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually. During the same time, the average temperature around the equator has risen by a fraction of a degree a fraction that in some areas can mean drought and desolation. Last April , in the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars’ worth of damage in 13 U.S. states.
“To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world’s weather. The central fact is that after three quarters of a century
of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down. Meteorologists disagree about the cause and extent of the cooling trend, as well as over its specific impact on local weather conditions. But they are almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century. If the climatic change is as profound as some of the pessimists fear, the resulting famines could be catastrophic. “A major climatic change would force economic and social adjustments on a worldwide scale,” warns a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences, “because the global patterns of food production and population that have evolved are implicitly dependent on the climate of the present century.”
The last paragraph of the article is predictable. The government was called on to do something. One proposal was to melt the Arctic ice cap:
“Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects. They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies. The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality.”
From the April 28, 1975 issue of NEWSWEEK magazine.
By Woody Zimmerman
The great dream of progressive politicians is to find a problem whose prescribed solution appears to require unending increases in taxation or political control preferably both with production of no measurable improvement. Ideally, the situation would be one in which the perception is opposite to reality i.e., where the “solution” actually worsens the true situation.
Sounds crazy? Who would do anything this nutty? Answer: we would. And to “fix” what problem? Answer: Global Warming. Since the 1990s the Greenies have been pounding the government-control/taxation drum for lessening carbon-dioxide emissions, on the premise that CO2 is a “greenhouse gas” that increases the earth’s surface-temperature by trapping the heat of the sun.
For a time, in the 1990s, warming appeared to be happening. Former Vice-president Al Gore built an entire new career (and a considerable fortune) on the theory that CO2 causes warming. He preached a message of advancing doom, claiming it was “settled science."” He chose data selectively and omitted important facts like the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods, when temperatures went up several degrees. He also neglected to mention the Little Ice Age (AD 1450-1850), when glaciers advanced, canals froze, and global temperatures plunged. Dr. Gore’s famous “hockey stick” graph of global temperatures vs. time ignores these salient periods, which were caused by entirely natural events beyond man’s control.
Although one would scarcely realize it from current news reports, the fact is that the climate has not warmed over the past 15 years. Instead, global cooling appears to be the new climate-dynamic.
To illustrate this, I present as evidence a chronology of world-wide climate-events over the past year, compiled by Geoffrey Pohanka. (http://isthereglobalcooling.com/ ) Mr. Pohanka argues that we are now in a period of global cooling, but I’ll let the reader draw his own conclusions from the data presented.
Feb. 2012: Europe and the Far East in the deep freeze. Coldest temperatures in Germany in 26 years; over 300 die from hypothermia and storm-caused accidents. Biggest Rome snowstorm since 1986. Three weeks of record cold in Europe: temperatures 25 C below normal; coldest February in 26 years; one of ten coldest in last 150 years. China temperatures hit -50 C. Coldest winter in memory freezes 40% of Mongolian livestock. Temperatures down to -50 C.
March 2012: Warm first quarter in eastern USA, but Oregon and Washington have all-time record snowfalls. Second largest ice extent on record in Bering Sea. Record cold in Tasmania, Australia. Huge snowfall in China kills 90,000 livestock and impacts 25,000 people.
April 2012: Sydney, Australia has coldest April 10th in 80 years.
May 2012: UK has coldest May in 200 years.
June 2012: Sweden has one of its coldest Junes since records began in 1789. Rare cold in New Zealand. Argentina frosts lead to agriculture crisis. Seattle has third coldest June in history.
July 2012: Emergency in Argentina due to cold; a dozen people freeze to death in Chile. Tasmania has record low temperatures.
August 2012: South Africa has snow in all 9 provinces for first time in recorded history.
September 2012: Extent of Antarctic sea ice is the largest ever recorded on Sept 12.
October 2012: Record cold grips part of Australia; earliest snow in a century. Surprise snow hits central Germany. Heavy snow catches Muscovites unprepared. For only the second time in recorded history all Austrian provinces have snow in October.
November 2012: Early cold snap kills 14 in Poland. Hurricane Sandy causes record snowfall in Appalachians. Three tourists die from cold on Great Wall of China due to early snow. Winter hits early on three continents. Record snow around USA, including Northeast. Globe seized by record cold: UK faces coldest winter in 100 years; Arctic sees record refreeze; snow in New Zealand.
December 2012: UK had coldest autumn since 1993. European deep-freeze kills hundreds. Record snow in Norway. Severe cooling grips Eastern Europe: over 600 die from cold; dozens die in Poland cold-snap. State of emergency declared in Ukraine due to huge snows; 37 dead in 24 hours. Russia faces strongest winter in decades: -50 C temperatures; people freezing to death; over 125 dead so far; snow up to 16 feet deep. Motorists near Moscow trapped for days on highway during snowstorm, backup extends 125 miles. State of emergency declared in Siberia; -60 F temperatures. Massive cold front grips Asia; northern India cold wave kills 25. USA has the most snow cover in ten years. Record snow in Minneapolis. December 2012 had largest Northern Hemisphere snow cover ever recorded.
January 2013: Asia gripped with record cold: hundreds dead; Bangladesh has coldest temperatures since 1960s. Russia buried under snow. Over 300 die from brutal cold in Eastern Europe. 29 die from cold in Mexico. Bermuda has record daily low temperature.
February 2013: New England snow is record. German winter temperatures are dropping at rate of 6 C per century. Alps cooling since 2000, according to peer-reviewed literature. Heaviest snowfall in a century hits Moscow. All-time low Northern Hemisphere temperature of -96 F recorded in Oymyakon, Siberia. Japan has heaviest winter snow in recorded history. Germany has darkest winter in 43 years.
March 2013: Winter 2012 to 13, November-February, ranked 4th largest snow in history; #2 for Northern hemisphere. December ‘12 had most December snow ever. Arctic sea ice largest in a decade. UK in deep freeze: deaths from cold mounting; coldest spring since 1963; UK gas rationing as shortages mount with coldest weather in 50 years. Second coldest March in USA since 1969. Calcutta has coldest day in 100 years and record low March temperatures. Berlin has coldest March in 100 years. Germany’s coldest spring on record: late March temp of -33 C is coldest March temperature in over 100 years. Climate models fail to predict brutally cold European temperatures. Thousands of animals buried alive in Ireland by snow drifts.
Never heard of most of this? If you live in the Eastern USA, where most of our news originates, that’s not surprising. It’s unlikely that most of what’s summarized above will have reached the USA’s liberal controlled mainstream media. Record-setting cold and snow do not fit the global warming storyline being peddled by liberal politicians and their media lapdogs. Thus, the average man-on-the-street will disbelieve these extreme-weather reports if he sees them. He still thinks we’re all going to roast and drown in rising oceans unless we pay all we have to the government.
The “chattering classes” in the USA express dismay over the lack of climate-interest shown by China, India and Russia. Those reports for the past year give a good indication of why they’re not down with the warming struggle: they’re freezing to death and they’re up to their hips in snow. Why would they want to cool things down any more?
Yet our own political leaders from both major parties continue to push ruinously expensive “cures” for the humanity-threatening problem of “anthropogenic warming.” Our president has already implemented his war on coal that will make the price of electricity “skyrocket” (his own term). He wants to do the same for the gasoline we need for our cars. He refuses to allow exploitation of our newly realized reserves of oil and natural gas that would give us energy security for a century or more.
All this is in the name of protecting the climate by controlling carbon-dioxide emissions. On that premise, we are pouring billions into absurd industries which will have absolutely no effect on climate, but will waste fortunes that our people need to live indeed, to survive. Much of the world already knows that the earth is cooling, not warming, but our Leader is charging ahead with plans to sacrifice our economy on the Altar of Climate. What he cannot obtain by law he will execute by executive order and Cabinet regulations.
The inmates are running the asylum here. We must stop them before we’re all broke, pedaling rickshaws, and freezing to death in the dark. Global warming is the greatest hoax in history.
Walter Russell Mead, Via Meadia, 16 April 2013
The EU has been the global laboratory testing the green agenda to see how it works. Yesterday’s story means that the guinea pig died; the most important piece of green intervention in world history has become an expensive and embarrassing flop. It’s hard to exaggerate the importance of this for environmentalists everywhere; if the EU can’t make the green agenda work, it’s unlikely that anybody else will give it a try.
The European Parliament just voted down a measure that would have attempted to revive its carbon market, likely dooming it to a slow and undignified death. This was a last-ditch effort to drive the EU’s carbon price back to a level that would incentivize green reforms. And it failed.
The EU’s carbon market was the flagship program of its recent green efforts. Ideally, it would have given companies a reason to emit less carbon. Companies that emitted less than allowed could have sold off remaining carbon credits to firms that emitted more. But the authorities gave out too many credits, and as Europe’s economy faltered the price for those credits plummeted. The vote today was meant to save the program by addressing this over-allocation, creating an artificial shortage that would drive permit prices back up, but in a time of financial crisis, the European Parliament chose industry over green ideology. The WSJ reports:
“It was a vote of reason,” said Poland’s environment minister, Marcin Korolec. Poland, one of the EU’s less-affluent members, has been outspoken in its opposition to the measure, which it said could hamper development. [...]
After the vote, the price [of carbon credits] dropped to 2.55 Euros before recovering partially to 3.2 Euros...down from nearly 30 Euros in 2008.
Without the backloading plan to increase scarcity on the emissions permit market, “the ETS will almost certainly collapse,” said Kash Burchett, a London-based analyst at consulting company IHS Energy.
The EU has been the global laboratory testing the green agenda to see how it works. Today’s story means that the guinea pig died; the most important piece of green intervention in world history has become an expensive and embarrassing flop. It’s hard to exaggerate the importance of this for environmentalists everywhere; if the EU can’t make the green agenda work, it’s unlikely that anybody else will give it a try.
Listen Now: Full One Hour Audio of Climate Depot publisher Marc Morano available here:
Selected Excerpts: ‘If you just start scratching the surface of this issue, not only will you not believe, but you will be angry...Warmist climate claims are ‘insulting to our intelligence. They are insulting to science’
‘No matter the weather, they can point to what study they need, they have covered themselves on both sides of the aisle by all of the contradictory predictions they have made. This is where it morphs into horoscope or astrology. They can credibly cite some study to support their claim. Why? Because they pretty much predicted everything and anything as some point. This is what they are calling science....If you predict everything and anything, you will have a study to back it up. That’s where the bastardization of science continues unchecked.’ (See: Unfalsifiable: More Than 30 Contradictory Pairs Of Peer-Reviewed Papers)
But the warmists still claim ‘it’s worse than we thought.’ But how is worse than we thought? Sea level is not accelerating, polar bears are thriving, global avg temps stalled. They will reply ‘Haven’t you heard? By 2060 they (the warmists) are now predicting x,y,z,.’ But wait a minute, that not worse than we thought. That just another scary prediction. As the real world data fails, prediction of the future get scarier and scarier. It’s almost as if they want to distract us from reality.’
“Regardless of environmental scare - and we are talking global cooing [of 1970s], overpopulation, species extinction, sustainable development, deforestation - they always have the same solution. You can go back and plug and play, plug in different environmental scare, but guess what, it is always the same solution. More centralized planning, more international government control, perhaps a global tax of some kinds, management of countries, violation of sovereignty. We now have German climate advisor calling for CO2 budget for every man, woman, and child on the planet.
April 13, 2013)—A team of former and retired NASA scientists, engineers, and astronauts has released a detailed report claiming their former employer “is over-reacting to concerns about anthropogenic global warming” and “the threat of net harmful total global warming, if any, is not immediate and thus does not require swift corrective action.”
The group calls itself “The Right Climate Stuff.” Most are retired NASA Johnson Space Center employees who worked together on manned space projects since the early days of the Apollo Program. “Although climate science is not one of our technical specialties,” they write, “the required expertise in physics, chemistry, geology, meteorology, biology, data analysis and interpretation, and complex systems modeling, is similar to our collective academic training and experience gained through our typical 40 to 50 years of experience working in our nation’s space program.”
Read the report: “Anthropogenic Global Warming Science Assessment Report”
“At the crux of these differences in scientific opinion,” the NASA team writes, “is the extremely difficult task of separating atmospheric CO2 effects from poorly understood natural climate cycle effects, some with cycle periods that appear to last for hundreds or thousands of years.”
“This new report from The Climate Right Stuff merits close attention by everyone following the debate,” said Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute, which has published extensively on the issue of global warming. “NASA’s own top experts, people who have played key roles in putting men on the moon, have studied the issue closely and concluded that there is no global warming crisis.”
“I’m not sure what else has to happen before people realize the threat of man-made global warming has been exaggerated,” Bast continued. “Some of these former astronauts are real heroes and distinguished scientists. What will it take to shake the almost-religious belief some people have in global warming?”
“Global warming alarmists may control the federal bureaucracy, but The Right Climate Stuff team of NASA scientists reveals of groundswell of skepticism inside NASA itself,” said James M. Taylor, senior fellow for environmental policy at The Heartland Institute. “These American heroes present a strong scientific case for climate realism. Humans are not causing a global warming crisis, and government programs to address the phantom global warming crisis are wasting precious resources that could be devoted to much more important uses.”
For more information about The Right Climate Stuff, go to www.therightclimatestuff.com. The full report can be found here and at PolicyBot.
Below, watch The Right Climate Stuff Team present its findings at The Heartland Institute’s Seventh International Conference on Climate Change on May 22, 2012. Panelists include Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Apollo 7 astronaut Walter Cunningham, former NASA engineer Harold Doiron, and former NASA meteorologist Thomas Wysmuller.
Below, watch The Right Climate Stuff Team conduct a panel discussion at CPAC 2013 in Washington, DC on March 15, 2013. Panelists include Apollo 7 astronaut Walter Cunningham, former NASA engineer Harold Doiron, and former NASA meteorologist Thomas Wysmuller.
by Barry Brill
The planet is no longer warming. The brief warming episode of the late 20th century completed its course in the mid 1990s, and is now extinct. These are now uncontroversial statements.
They are based on hard data which has been available for many years on the websites of many official agencies. But somehow those agencies found ways to interpret the data differently, and to continually sidestep the elephant in the room.
The IPCC report of 2007 came and went, failing to detect or at least failing to acknowledge that global warming was no more. On the contrary, “it’s worse than we thought” was the rallying cry throughout the lead-up to the COP15 at Copenhagen.
But the prevarication couldn’t last forever. Three years ago, CRU’s Phil Jones admitted to the BBC that there had been no statistically significant warming since 1995.
The pace picked up when the UK Met Office models surreptitiously projected a 20-year standstill on Christmas Eve 2012; and then James Hansen oft described as the father of global warming confirmed “a pause” of a decade or more. Now the whole house of cards finally tumbled, with Rajendra Pachauri, official spokesman for the IPCC, confirming in Melbourne that global temperatures had plateaued for 17 years.
Will global warming ever start again? Nobody knows.
The long flat trend will of course be replaced by a new trend at some future point, but its eventual sign and slope are inscrutable. The as-yet-unidentified combination of forces driving the current standstill might break in any direction.
Some diehards contend that a 16-17 year plateau is too short a period to comprise a flat trend. But actions speak louder than words, and much shorter trends have been seen as decisive in the past.
The 1992 Rio Conference founded a major international treaty on a warming trend that was 12 years old. Hansen’s 1988 launch of the DAGW campaign was little more than a decade after scientists had feared the beginning of a new ice age.
It is widely acknowledged that 15+ years is ample to determine a trend:
* In 2008, the NOAA reported that 15 years of zero trends would invalidate the expected warming rate.
* On May 7, 2009, a leading climate modeler emailed colleagues: “the ‘no upward trend’ needs to continue for 15 years before we get worried”.
* In 2011, Dr Ben Santer averred that a ‘hiatus period’ of 17 years would be required to negate the ‘human fingerprint’ shown in climate models.
* Gavin Schmidt on RealClimate.com: “you can’t use short term (15 years or less) trends to prove that global warming has or has’’t stopped”.
Let us turn to the best practice manual for climatology, the “Guide to Climatologogical Practices” (3rd Edition) published by the World Meteorological Organisation in 2011. At 4.8.1 under the heading “Period of Calculation”:
“A number of studies have found that 30 years is not generally the optimal averaging period for normals used for prediction. The optimal period for temperatures is often substantially shorter than 30 years, but the optimal period for precipitation is often substantially greater than 30 years… In general the most recent 5 to 10 year period of record has as much predictive value as a 30-year record.”
Following Dr Pachauri’s admission, we can expect a spin barrage built on words like “hiatus”, “remission”, “lull”, “time-out”, “stalled” and “paused”.
The use of a term like “pause” is a blatant misuse of language. It relies upon an evidence-free prophesy that the deceased trend will some day be resurrected. It is no more than Freudian wish-fulfillment.
There have been three distinct warming episodes since the instrumental record began 1860 to 80,1912 to 40 and 1978 to 96 but nobody suggests that any of them were linked by a “pause”. Some historians argue that the two World Wars were a single event with a 21-year ‘intermission’, but few find this convincing.
The statistical fact is that the late 20th century warming trend is history. It is over. It is so yeterday. As Monty Python’s immortal “Dead Parrot” sketch illustrates so vividly, there is a vast gulf between “resting” and “dead”.
Hon Barry Brill OBE is a New Zealand barrister and solicitor. He is a former Minister of Science & Technology, and Minister of Energy, and is currently chairman of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition
Highlights of a new SPPI analysis, STORM TRENDS ACROSS THE NORTH ATLANTIC OCEAN:
One of the projected consequences of CO2-induced global warming is an increase in all types of extreme weather, including storms. A good test of the validity of this hypothesis comes from evaluating trends in storminess over the period of time when the Earth was recovering from the global chill of the Little Ice Age and transiting into the Current Warm Period, when the world’s climate alarmists contend the planet experienced a warming that was unprecedented over the prior one to two millennia. In the present section, these claims are evaluated as they pertain to storms over of the North Atlantic Ocean.
The global warming that occurred between 1951 and 2006 did not lead to an increasing trend in the extremeness of East Coast Winter Storms. There is little evidence that the mid- to late nineteenth century was less stormy than the present, and there is no sign of a sustained enhanced storminess signal associated with ‘global warming’.
Such a finding, in the words of the researchers, “lends a cautionary note to those who suggest that anthropogenic greenhouse warming probably results in enhanced extratropical storminess, as this is indicated neither by our own nor existing published observational results for the northeast Atlantic for the last ~150 years.”
It is clear that relative coolness, as opposed to relative warmth, typically leads to more extreme storms, which is just the opposite of what the world’s climate alarmists continue to contend. Given the findings noted by Trouet et al., as well as those reported by other researchers that are described in this summary and for this particular portion of the planet, it is clear that relative coolness, as opposed to relative warmth, typically leads to more extreme storms, which is just the opposite of what the world’s climate alarmists continue to contend.
By Paul Driessen
Big Wind hides evidence of turbine bird kills - and gets rewarded. Here’s how they do it.
In 1984 the California Energy Commission said “many institutional, engineering, environmental and economic issues must be resolved before the industry is secure and its growth can be assured.” Though it was not clearly stated, the primary environmental issue alluded to was the extreme hazard that wind turbines posed to raptors.
Since the early 1980s, the industry has known there is no way its propeller-style turbines could ever be safe for raptors. With exposed blade tips spinning in open space at speeds up to 200 mph, it was impossible. Wind developers also knew they would have a public relations nightmare if people ever learned how many eagles are actually being cut in half or left with a smashed wing, to stumble around for days before dying.
To hide this awful truth, strict wind farm operating guidelines were established including high security, gag orders in leases and other agreements, and the prevention of accurate, meaningful mortality studies.
For the industry this business plan has succeeded quite well in keeping a lid on the mortality problem. While the public has some understanding that birds are killed by wind turbines, it doesn’t have a clue about the real mortality numbers. And the industry gets rewarded with subsidies, and immunity from endangered species and other wildlife laws.
Early studies identified the extent of the problem
To fully grasp the wind turbine mortality problem, one needs to examine the 2004 report from the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA). The study lasted five years (1998 to 2003), and researchers did not have full access to all the Altamont turbines.
This careful, honest effort analyzed turbine characteristics in relation to mortality and estimated mortality from body counts compiled in careful searches. Researchers then adjusted mortality numbers by examining statistical data based on searcher efficiency and other factors, such as carcass removal by predators and scavengers. The report even suggested that the mortality estimates probably erred on the low side, due to missed carcasses and other human errors.
This study stands in marked contrast to studies being conducted today, especially the Wildlife Reporting Response System that is currently the only analysis happening or permitted at most wind farms. The WRRS is the power companies’ own fatality reporting system, and allows paid personnel to collect and count carcasses. It explains why mortality numbers are always on the low side and why many high-profile species are disappearing near turbine installations.
Incredibly, the APWRA report actually admitted: “We found one raptor carcass buried under rocks and another stuffed in a ground squirrel burrow. One operator neglected to inform us when a golden eagle was removed as part of the WRRS. Based on these experiences, it is possible that we missed other carcasses that were removed.” (Chap. 3, pg. 52) It’s easy to see how human “errors” keep bird mortality low.
The APWRA study also documented that raptor food sources, turbine sizes and turbine placement all directly affect raptor mortality. It was thus able to identify many of the most dangerous turbines or groups of turbines, those with a history of killing golden eagles, kestrels, burrowing owls and red-tailed hawks.
Studies worsen as turbines proliferate and increase in size
The study also discussed how higher raptor mortality occurred when smaller towers were “upgraded” with larger turbines and proportionally longer blades. These wind turbines offered what raptors perceived as intermediate to very big windows of opportunity to fly through what looked like open spaces between towers, but were actually within the space occupied by much longer, rapidly moving rotor blades.
The result was significantly more fatalities of golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, burrowing owls, mallards, horned larks and western meadowlarks. Turbines with slower rotations per minute actually made it appear that there was more space and “greater windows of time.” This fooled birds, by giving them the illusion that they had open flight space between the rotating blades.
In fact, the illusion fools people, too. The newest turbines move their blades at 10-20 rotations per minute, which appears to be slow but for their blade tips this translates into 100-200 mph!
All this was very important, because the industry was moving away from smaller turbines and installing much larger turbines, with much longer blades. However, the industry not only ignored the APWRA findings and rapidly installed thousands of these much larger turbines across America, despite their far greater dangers for birds and raptors. It also kept the APWRA out of the public’s awareness, and focused attention on new study results that reflected far less accurate (and honest) searches and surveys.
How the wind industry hides raptor mortality
The APWRA report also looked at the placement of carcasses in relation to turbine types. It documented that the distances carcasses were found from turbine towers increased significantly as turbine megawatt ratings and blade lengths increased. Based on sample of about 800 carcasses, the report revealed that birds were found an average of 94 feet (28.5) meters from 100Kw turbines on towers 81 feet (24.6 meters) high.
Obviously, taller turbines with longer blades and faster blade tip speeds will catapult stricken birds much further. Figure 1 shows how a turbine 2.5 times larger will result in an average carcass distance of 372 feet (113.5 meters) from the tower. The wind industry is acutely aware of this.
That is why it has restricted search areas to 165 feet (50 meters) around its bigger turbines. This ensures that far fewer bodies will be found and turbine operators will not need to explain away as many carcasses.
Recent mortality studies like those conducted at the Wolfe Island wind project (2.3 MW turbines) and Criterion project in Maryland (2.5 MW turbines) should have used searches 655 feet (200 meters) from turbines, just to find the bulk (75-85%) of the fatalities. Of course, they did not do so. Instead, they restricted their searches to 165 feet ensuring that they missed most raptor carcasses, and could issue statements claiming that their turbines were having minimal or “acceptable” effects on bird populations.
Other methods and biased formulas allow the industry to exclude or explain away carcasses. The latest Altamont Pass studies found far more bird carcasses, but Altamont operators still claim mortality declines by using new adjustment formulas and other exclusionary factors. (Figure 2) For example, industry analysts:
- Exclude certain carcasses. The 2005-2010 WRRS data show that 347 carcasses (primarily raptors) plus 21 golden eagle carcasses were excluded from mortality estimates, because industry personnel claimed they were found outside standard search procedures, said the “cause of death was unknown” (even when the birds’ heads had been sliced off), or removed carcasses ahead of a scheduled search.
- Exclude mortally wounded or crippled birds found during searches, even if they display turbine-related injuries. Even though many birds hit by turbine blades die within days, if they are still breathing when found, they are considered mobile and thus not fatalities.
- Simply avoid searching near some of the most dangerous and lethal turbines. The industry justifies this exclusion by claiming that “the number of turbines monitored was reduced and spatially balanced for a randomized rolling panel design.” That this “reduction and balancing” excluded the most deadly portion of the Altamont facility was presented as coincidental or part of a proper scientific methodology.
The cold reality is that honest, scientific, accurate mortality studies in the Altamont Pass area would result in death tolls that would shock Americans. They would also raise serious questions about wind turbines throughout the United States, especially in major bird habitats like Oregon’s Shepherds Flat wind facility and the whooping cranes’ migratory corridor from Alberta, Canada to Texas.
The techniques discussed here help ensure that “monitoring” studies match the facility operators’ desired conclusions, and mortality figures are kept at “acceptable” levels.
The bird mortality disaster must no longer be hidden
Not only has the wind industry never solved its environmental problem. It has been hiding at least 90% of this slaughter for decades. In fact, the universal problem of hiding bird (and bat) mortality goes from bad to intolerable beyond the Altamont Pass boundaries, because studies in other areas across North America are far less rigorous, or even nonexistent, and many new turbines are sited in prime bird and bat habitats.
The real death toll, as reported by Paul Driessen and others, is thousands of raptors a year and up to 39 million birds and bats of all species annually in the United States alone, year after year! This is intolerable, and unsustainable. It is leading to the inevitable extinction of many species, at least in many habitats, and perhaps in the entire Lower 48 States.
Meanwhile, assorted “experts” continue to insist that the greatest threats to golden eagles are other factors like hikers getting too close to their nests, even when most abandoned nests in Southern California are nowhere near any hiking trails and wind turbines continue to slaughter eagles.
It is essential that people realize that no energy source comes anywhere close to killing as many raptors as wind energy does. No other energy companies are allowed to pick up bodies of rare and protected species from around their production sites on a day-to-day basis, year-in and year-out. No other energy producer has a several thousand mile mortality foot print (the highly endangered whooping cranes’ migratory corridor), like what wind energy has.
Once people understand all of this, they will rightfully demand that the wind industry obey the same environmental rules that all other industries must follow. This will require that wind turbines be sited only where the risk of bird deaths is minimal to zero; that turbines be replaced with new designs that birds recognize as obstacles and thus avoid; that fines be levied for every bird death, as is done with other industries; and that industrial wind facilities not be permitted where these requirements cannot be met.
America’s wildlife, and proper application of our environmental laws, require nothing less.
Jim Wiegand is an independent wildlife expert with decades of field observations and analytical work. He is vice president of the US region of Save the Eagles International, an organization devoted to researching, protecting and preserving avian species threatened by human encroachment and development.