Wind Power Opposition: It’s a Conspiracy!
By Sherri Lange — September 13, 2022
“Combating opposition to industrial wind using Conspiracy Theory is uninformed, immature, and even comical, were the authors not taking the subject so seriously. The opponents of industrial wind will not fall prey to assertions of being paranoid or socially ‘off.’ They are conscientious, studied, well-prepared, and ready to go the full mile. There are reasons to be fighting for your own landscape, health, community, and wildlife.
“Conspiracy theory” is a phrase tossed around mightily these days, often when people have no rebuttal to deep and real concerns about realities that are increasingly being exposed on many levels. Consider the origins of COVID, Vaccines, President Donald Trump, to name a few. (People on both sides of the argument call each other “conspiracy prey.”)
What one doesn’t expect is that opposition to industrial wind will be called out for Conspiracy. It’s an eccentric connection that authors/professors Kai Sassenberg, Matthew Hornsey, and Kevin Winter make in Anticipating and defusing the role of conspiracy beliefs in shaping opposition to wind farms published recently in Nature Energy.
The underlying assumption is that wind turbine opponents are anxious, possibly paranoid, and have “low coping skills” if they imagine harm to their communities. Additionally, the ingrates are distrustful of municipal and higher authorities.
One can agree with the distrust. But it is insulting to people, wildlife, and pristine land and water areas that do suffer harm—and all being as unnecessary as industrial wind turbines themselves. To mention that the industry worldwide is in disrepute seems moot. The very title and area of study by the professors from Australia and Germany are possibly libelous. “Tricky” and tone deaf, for sure.
Professor Hornsey‘s bio (see Appendix below) blends his interests in “mistrust and defensiveness with climate change, vaccination, evolution, and “so forth.” (The “so forth” appears to include opposition to industrial wind.)
Comments from the article:
QUOTATION ONE: Australian and German researchers have found a moderate-to-large link between people who believe in conspiracy theories and rejecting wind farms. They found providing these people with more information also increased their likelihood of supporting wind power, but only if it wasn’t presented as a debate. The team says, with the urgent need for wind energy production to reach net-zero targets, preventative measures are more likely to stop these people from their oppositional opinions than just intervening later on with an info-dump.
Comment: The fix is in starting from such a pro-wind, anti-mineral-energy assumption. Why should citizens-qua-taxpayer and citizens-qua-ratepayer subsidize wind? Why should they put up with the well-known nuisances of industrial wind turbines—noise, flicker, etc.—when the giant machines are not needed to begin with? Why should the extra transmission lines be excused? A free market, anyone?
QUOTATION TWO: Reaching net-zero targets requires massive increases in wind energy production, but efforts to build wind farms can meet stern local opposition. Here, inspired by related work on vaccinations, we examine whether opposition to wind farms is associated with a world view that conspiracies are common (‘conspiracy mentality’). In eight pre-registered studies (collective N = 4,170), we found moderate-to-large relationships between various indices of conspiracy beliefs and wind farm opposition. Indeed, the relationship between wind farm opposition and conspiracy beliefs was many times greater than its relationship with age, gender, education and political orientation. Information provision increased support, even among those high in conspiracy mentality. However, information provision was less effective when it was presented as a debate (that is, including negative arguments) and among participants who endorsed specific conspiracy theories about wind farms. Thus, the data suggest preventive measures are more realistic than informational interventions to curb the potentially negative impact of conspiracy beliefs.
Comment: How about focusing on those closest to wind turbines? Would any of the authors like to camp out under a turbine for a few days and report back? And it is fair for any citizen to not want government energy planning and subsidies for politically correct, economically incorrect wind. Is that a ‘conspiracy’.
QUOTATION THREE: For many countries, achieving net-zero targets will require an extraordinary ramping up of energy sourced from wind. For example, when Princeton University modelled a pathway to net-zero emissions in the United States that relied entirely on renewable energy, they calculated it would require over 1 million square kilometres of land, roughly the size of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois and Louisiana combined. In Germany, the current government agreed to designate 2% of the country’s landscape for the construction of wind farms. The scale of escalation suggests a fundamental transformation in people’s exposure to—and relationship with—wind farms in the future. (Our note: the scale of escalation is not reasonable and will never create a fundamental transformation in people’s opposition. The impact will be inverse to what is hoped for.)
Comment: Thank you for including these facts. And you have refuted your premise of wind as the necessary savior. Machining up the landscape for unreliable, expensive, unnecessary wind power is an environmental imperative.
Robert Bryce encourages us to examine this renewables expansion in more depth.
The scale problem is equally obvious when it comes to wind. In fact, wind-energy’s scale problems are even more thorny because wind energy requires so much land.
Let’s consider the extent of the energy sprawl if the wind-energy sector were to supply that 450 terawatt-hours per year of incremental electricity demand.
The power density of wind energy is roughly two watts per square meter or about five megawatts per square mile. That means that by the end of 2011, the U.S. had covered a land area of about 9,400 square miles with wind turbines, a land area just slightly smaller than the state of Maryland. Therefore, just to keep up with the growth in global electricity demand by using wind energy alone, the global wind industry will need to cover a land area of some 35,000 square miles — about the size of Indiana — with wind turbines. And it will have to do so every year.
That metric’s still hard to grasp, so let me put it another way: in order to merely keep up with the pace of growth of global electricity use, the wind industry would have to cover 96 square miles every day, with wind turbines. That’s an area about the size of four Manhattans.
Then, the Nature Energy article refers to Net Zero; a reality check of Net Zero shows an unobtainable pie in the sky concept, which has captured imaginations politically, and castrated or deformed energy policies world wide. The problem with SOME conspiracy “theories,” is that they profoundly challenge underlying misrepresentations, many Media promoted/Government endorsed mistakes. Galactic style misrepresentations. This is, indeed, anxiety producing.
QUOTATION FOUR: Existing research suggests that people are positive about wind energy in the abstract, but when it comes to actually establishing wind farms in local communities, there has been substantial resistance, to the point where many proposals have been killed off. In some cases, resistance has been amplified by organized campaigns of disinformation (for example, about negative health consequences of wind farms). These pockets of resistance might be early red flags for what other nations may soon experience once wind farms become a more visible and salient part of people’s lived experiences. Just as nations will need to massively ramp up investment in wind farms to meet renewable energy targets, so too does the scientific community need to ramp up its ability to anticipate (and defuse) factors that lead to wind farm resistance.
Comment: Abstract support of wind awaits a fair presentation and publicity about the problems of wind for rates, taxes, and the landscape. And particularly for local residents to the turbines.
Less and less do we hear of the NIMBY arguments. Opposition is well grounded in facts and is increasingly visible and fearless. And increasingly successful.
Combating opposition to industrial wind using Conspiracy Theory is uninformed, immature, and even comical, were the authors not taking the subject so seriously. The opponents of industrial wind will not fall prey to assertions of being paranoid or socially ‘off.’ They are conscientious, studied, well-prepared, and ready to go the full mile. There are reasons to be fighting for your own health, land, community, and wildlife.”
Professor Hornsey asks: “Why do people resist apparently reasonable messages?” Flip the script; Hornsey should understand basic energy issues before shortchanging and demeaning on-the-spot victims of wind power. He should question the wind industry to see who is fact-challenged and putting PR above real concerns and issues.
Professor Hornsey writes on his bio:
Since graduating in 1999 I have published over 130 papers, and in 2018 I was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Scientists in Australia. A problem that I have examined throughout my career is: “Why do people resist apparently reasonable messages?” I focus on the psychology of how feelings of mistrust and threat can lead people to reject messages. These insights are then translated into concrete and do-able strategies for overcoming defensiveness. Specific examples include ARC-funded research on (1) why people embrace or resist scientific messages about climate change, vaccination, evolution, and so forth, (2) how people respond to gestures of reconciliation from transgressor groups (particularly apologies), and (3) what drives defensiveness in the face of group criticism and recommendations for change.
This professional niche begs us to investigate Hornsey further to uncover such articles as Hornsey, M. J., Harris, E. A. & Fielding, K. S. Relationships among conspiratorial beliefs, conservatism and climate scepticism across nations. Nature Climate Change 8, 614–620 (2018). Consider this quotation:
“Another ideology that has been implicated in climate scepticism is conspiratorial ideation, defined as an underlying worldview or predisposition toward viewing events and circumstances as the product of conspiracies. There are a number of conspiracy beliefs about climate science, most prominent of which is that it is a hoax perpetrated by scientists who see it as an opportunity to wield influence, secure funding or act out a green/Marxist agenda.”
[Originally published at Master Resource.]