A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Wind and waves in The Observer

Today's The Observer newspaper is mixed in its environmental reporting, with a rather good 'Focus' article in the main paper on the threat from Britiain's wind farms to both wilderness and wildlife, especially birds, but, by contrast, a truly dire anecdotal piece about 'global warming' around the world in the rather more frothy 'Review' section.

The wind farm lobby in the UK is one of the most aggressive and arrogant. It is thus a credit to The Observer that it is standing up to this pressure group and raising serious questions about the loss of wilderness and the potential threat to birds and bats. Recent research has highlighted a number of worries about bird flight lines and wind turbines, especially among migrating species, and the article claims that sites in Spain have killed up to 7,000 birds in a year, including 409 rare vultures, 24 eagles, and 650 bats. The piece also quotes research from the Altamont Pass in California showing that a windfarm there is killing on average 40-60 golden eagles a year, as well as several hundred other birds of prey. Members of the Royal Society for the Protection Birds (RSPB) should be pressing the Society hard to oppose windfarms and encouraging the Society to support much more research into these genuine environmental issues.

But the most serious worries about wind energy have just been raised in a quite brilliant in-house paper issued by Dr. John Bower, the Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES). This is entitled 'UK offshore wind generating capacity: a return to picking winners?' (July, 2003), and it is available for private use from: ....dot.....@oxfordenergy.org [this should be obvious - it is given in this form to spare John the spam engines]. His analysis is a telling indictment of the economics of offshore wind generation. He concludes that (p.9), "... wind technology will become discredited in the eyes of consumers and taxpayers when it either fails to live up to the exaggerated claims being made about its contribution to reducing emissions or its true cost and inherent lack of reliability become revealed to consumers." Not, of course, to mention to the birds!

By contrast, I have little to say on the apocalyptic anecdotes on 'global warming' from around the word; this is the usual mantra about sea-level rise, sinking Tuvalu, etc. I just love the opening straps about travelling "the world in search of climate change."

But what about some real data, folks? You will find the actual sea-level curves for Tuvalu, and an excellent critique, on John L. Daly's web site under the section: 'Tuvalu - Pacific Islands Crying Wolf.' Moreover, in March last year, the National Tidal Facility (NTF), Adelaide, stated that: "... the historical record shows no visual evidence of any acceleration in sea level trends." Instead, they suggest that coastline degradation, and sinking islets in Funafuti, are the result of entirely local conditions, and not global sea-level rise. Pity The Observer doesn't report this too - good balanced science please, not ecohype!

Ah well, I suppose one can't expect balanced reporting on both wind and waves on one Sunday! But I feel the tide is turning.....

Nearly time for that Sunday New Zealand 'Sauvignon Blanc' - how about a little bit more 'global warming' folks? Cheers - have a lovely day. Philip.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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