understanding the renewable energy ‘deniers’

The last few days have been really interesting in terms of trying to understand the psyche of many of the ‘antis’ who post on this site. Given that almost all the ‘Landscape Guardians’ sites are defunct, and there is probably only one active LG site where debate is allowed/ going on, lots of them gravitate to ours, and then get obsessed with trying to convince us of the error of our thinking.

Its intriguing to watch how these antis engage in the debate. To take one example, a person has been making significant claims of late, like the suggestion that the 2 turbines at Leonards Hill has (already) ‘knocked down’ land prices in the area. Yet when repeatedly asked for some info to back this claim up, he wriggles away, simply unable to respond directly. This type of grand claim/ no substance approach is repeated over and over, and can be infuriating if you’re trying to have serious conversations about wind energy.

Ben recently reminded me of this great quote from Mark Diesendorf, Deputy Director of the Institute of Environmental Studies, University of NSW in the paper “The Base Load Fallacy and other Fallacies disseminated by Renewable Energy Deniers”. You can find the relevant section of his paper here.

It’s like he wrote this piece after watching ‘debate’ on this site. Sadly it is a common occurrence in the renewables conversation:

“Unlike genuine skeptics, deniers are not open to rational argument. They repeat claims that have previously been refuted, time and time again, by renewable energy scientists and engineers, as if repetition of a false statement somehow makes it true. They look for molehills in renewable energy systems and blow them up to mountains.

If they cannot refute a particular observation by rational argument, they try to cast doubt on the result by introducing irrelevant material that obfuscates the issue. They insinuate arguments rather than state them clearly and unambiguously. Then, when questioned incisively about their insinuations, they back off and shift ground.”

If you follow back some of the comments in the ‘soapbox‘ section, this is exactly the pattern that has been going on.

3 thoughts on “understanding the renewable energy ‘deniers’

  1. I fully agree and I’ve been personally the target of such “casting a doubt” issues in many presentations. A typical example was when I presented about community wind farms in Yass. Talking about how financing of community wind farms could be designed a member of the LG stood up and asked me whether I was aware of the substantial noise issues in a community wind farm in Canada forcing shut-down. When I answered no he went on and argued that the wind farm (3 turbines) was shut down because of noise problems and I should know this. I answered that noise problems have nothing to do with the style of financing and are rather technical problems but he went on insisting that the noise was because community issues. Only after I got really loud and said if a turbine emits noise it will do whether community financed or not he finally shut up. The tactics of LG and their followers are to disrupt meetings, attempting to intimidate presenters or supporters which is the tactic of choice if one has no arguments left. I feel sorry for them….

  2. “If they cannot refute a particular observation by rational argument, they try to cast doubt on the result by introducing irrelevant material that obfuscates the issue. They insinuate arguments rather than state them clearly and unambiguously. Then, when questioned incisively about their insinuations, they back off and shift ground.”

    I had a period of repeated arguments like this once with a person I was working with. If the conversation ever seemed to be swaying away from her she would suddenly introduce a wild, left-field accusation, as though she were more interested in keeping the argument going than reaching resolution. Of course, she was.

    If something is hard, and you don’t want to be made accountable for some future hard work, so long as you can keep an argument going you avoid having to actually do anything difficult. Unfortunately, this is what is probably behind much of the arguments against shifts to a cleaner energy paradigm

    I also came to understand that the quote (don’t know who) “Bullies are always cowards at heart.” is true. Offered mediation three times, this lady refused and ended up resigning in order to avoid it completely. She was unable to sit at a table with an external mediator because then all of her accusations, ‘facts’, and assumptions would be put to the test.

    It’s quite a sad state of affairs, frightening when it’s playing out in the community and in the media the way this argument is playing out here. When it’s stopping necessary work.

    The only answer to the question how to overcome it that I ever really found was to keep on calmly quietly persistently offering a positive way forward together – hard as that may be – and be completely utterly accountable to the facts yourself. ‘Cause in the end, it’s about what the facts are, and what the truth is, and where the most positive future lies.

  3. The “Guardian” moniker is really a misnomer, it’s a cover for people to claim to be concerned about the environment but are really driven by self-interest, envy, greed or any combination of the above.

    Gatecrashing meetings is one of their particular favourites because they rely on intimidation to silence opposition. They rarely confront people on a one-to-one basis because they don’t have the courage to do that as a general rule.

    Here in South Gippsland, when the Dollar windfarm was proposed, we experienced (courtesy of the guardians) all sorts of lies and exaggerations in the local media along with public stunts. Signatures were obtained at local produce markets etc (primarily co-opting tourists to the area) but presented to the local councillors and state parliamentarians as an indication of local opposition to the project.

    When Gippsland Friends of Future Generations held an invitation only meeting with a representative of environment Victoria, the meeting was gatecrashed by the local guardians rabble. After a number of interjections it was made clear to them that the police would be called if they didn’t observe some civility – the few moderates among them knew they were uninvited and on shaky ground and suggested to the hotheads that it might be best to behave.

    Most telling of all, several months later some members of GFFG conducted surveys from Wonthaggi through to Toora asking general questions about renewable energy and windfarms in particular. One interesting finding was that the closer respondents lived to existing windfarms, the more supportive they were of wind energy. Clearly, misinformation is easier to generate when people are uninformed or have no direct experience. Anyway the results were presented in the local media and to the local council.

    Surprise, surprise, the local guardians invoked all sorts of excuses to try and invalidate the findings (essentially 80% of the local population supported windfarms) which ran completely counter to public claims made by the guardians.

    The guardians are denialists, pure and simple, no amount of reason, evidence or argument will sway them. The best method of attack is to concentrate on those people who are on the fence, bus them to existing windfarms, provide information that is credible and objective wherever possible and suggest they make up their own mind and not let others make it up for them. I’d also suggest that windfarm developers need to seriously engage with local communities on a long-term and consistent basis because any vacuum will be quickly filled by guardians or self-interested individuals who wish to oppose projects for whatever reason.

    I recommend the following which provides a good insight into denialist tactics:
    Merchants of Doubt
    Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway

    Sorry for the long post.

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