Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Wind power in the sights of climate change deniers the Australian Environment Foundation
28 May 2013

DUANE Gish was an American biochemist, best known for his unshakeable belief in creationism over evolution.

When debating his detractors, he would seek to overwhelm them by spewing forth a torrent of pseudo-science, half truths and utter fancy rapidly shifting over a multitude of angles, leaving his opponents little hope of refuting the barrage of BS in any reasoned or logical fashion, and certainly not within the confines of a formal debate.

The technique has come to be known as the "Gish Gallop", which Project Reason founder Sam Harris once described as "starting 10 fires in 10 minutes" and leaving your opponent no opportunity to douse every falsehood, no matter how brazen the untruth.

Another Made in America phenomenon in recent years has been astroturfing, where vested interests establish a (arm's length) movement that is ostensibly independent or grassroots yet largely serves to further their own ends. This is particularly prevalent in areas of environmental debate such as climate science, and gun law reform.

As with most things American, both practices have made their way here in recent years, with the likes of right-wing lobby group the Institute of Public Affairs being an enthusiastic adopter of the astroturf strategy. A case in point here is the Australian Environment Foundation, which was spun out of the IPA back in 2005.

The AEF (donations over $2 are tax-deductible) casts itself as being for "practical" environmentalists, while its past five press statements are headlined as follows: "Rally to support wind farm noise bill"; "Council rejects wind farm application"; "Climate Commission not fair dinkum"; "Climate Commission report relies on faulty data"; and "Carbon Tax hoax begins". Get the picture?

One of the AEF's favourite targets, aside from its love of links to sites promoting climate-change denial (such as junk science queen and conspiracy theorist Jo Nova), is wind farms-an aesthetic act of vandalism, an acoustic affront and a potentially deadly health hazard, apparently.

The AEF is not alone in its wind power crusade, with various other self-appointed Don Quixotes charging around the countryside whipping up fear and loathing. The latest is a strange mob called Stop These Things. (Which "things", one wonders?)

The anonymous urgers at Stop These Things are organising a rally at Parliament House in Canberra next month to protest the folly of renewable energy, and claim to have already enlisted the support of Liberal climate change deniers such as Alby Schultz and Craig Kelly, along with Senator John Madigan-Australia's first Democratic Labor Party senator in 40 years, and who invited climate change denial pin-up boy "Lord" Christopher Monckton to speak in his hometown of Ballarat this year.

The director of the Institute of Public Affairs' deregulation unit, Alan Moran, will also address the rally on "the failed economics of wind power". Serial ratbag, radio demagogue and leader of the rent-a-rage crowd, Alan Jones, will act as ring master at the circus.

The STT website, though, is worth spending a bit of time at, if for no other reason than to marvel at the intellectual garbage littering the pages. Take, for example, claims that "giant wind turbines are being deployed as weapons of mass destruction" by the US Defence Department. No, I'm not making this up-the whole site is a veritable swamp of such tosh.

While the identity of the things behind things that need stopping remains secret, it will be interesting to see just who else from the incestuous network of wind power opponents make it to Canberra. It might be worth a trip just to listen to the IPA's Moran, who will, according to STT, "put some knobs on common sense". Couldn't have put it better myself.