For anyone who has been following the anti-wind farm lobby and their attempts to discredit the wind power sector over the years, this most recent offering might seem like their most desperate yet.
Two weeks ago federal Senator for the Democratic Labor Party, John Madigan, alleged that AGL Energy had sought to “discredit and discount any patient visiting any doctor with any claims of ill health brought about by living near [its] Macarthur wind farm”.
Madigan based these claims on a letter that AGL distributed to 12 medical clinics in the area of the Macarthur wind farm in 2012, which he says “categorically denied any health impacts from living near wind turbines”.
The mail-out is a problem for the Senator because he does not hold the science surrounding wind turbines and their discredited health risks to be either accurate or complete. That is why, by his logic, AGL can be viewed as guilty of a deception on the scale of that perpetrated by the Tobacco and Asbestos Industries – a claim which has now been publicly reinforced by Federal Liberal MP (for Hughes), and noted anti-wind ideologue, Craig Kelly.
These claims – once dissected – however, easily show themselves up for what they really are: the best of an uninspired attempt to produce a viable retort to the growing consensus on the safety of wind farms affirmed here in February and March this year.
Craig Kelly and John Madigan’s argument (summarised in the image below) that the renewable energy sector has sought to directly manipulate the Australian medical establishment – an intrusion which apparently extends all the way to Australia’s peak medical bodies – relies on the deliberately faulty premise that the science surrounding wind turbines and their health risks are as uncertain as those of tobacco smoking in the early twentieth century.
We know this not to be the case, however, given the recent endorsement of the weakness of any link between proximity to wind turbines and ill-health put forward by the government-funded National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC), and Australia’s peak body for doctors, the Australian Medical Association (AMA), who claimed in March that
The available Australian and international evidence does not support the view that the infrasound or low frequency sound generated by wind farms, as they are currently regulated in Australia, causes adverse health effects on populations residing in their vicinity.
(More can be read on the case here)
It is not surprising, then, that two long-serving proponents of the crumbling anti-wind farm case might seek to reinforce their position by attempting to deflect from such evidence in any way possible. This can be easily observed in the anti-wind farm lobby’s recent shift in strategy:
- The old: when existing evidence and research is not in their favour it must therefore be deemed insufficient or incomplete.
- The new: when mounting evidence continues to undermine their position, the very bodies to whom they have appealed in order to satisfy their cries for increased evidence must now be portrayed as either corrupt or compromised.
In order to accomplish this, Craig Kelly and Senator Madigan have chosen to attack renewable energy support in the industry by claiming that AGL’s letter to the 12 clinics in 2012 was deliberately misleading. And that this is supposedly due to their utilisation of the Climate and Health Alliance’s (CAHA) 2012 position statement on ‘Health and Wind Turbines’ – an institution whose members ‘ignore their professional ethics and the known science’, according to Madigan.
For those unfamiliar with group the, the CAHA is an organisation headed by former Governor of Victoria, Professor David De Kretser, comprising 27 professional health care and medical organisations, as well as
…health care service providers, institutions, academics, researchers, and health consumers…[aiming] to contribute to the development and implementation of evidence based public policy…and promote recognition that policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment have the potential to bring important public health benefits.
Senator Madigan sought to discredit this organisation on the basis that their mission statement declares a concern for climate change and its ill-health effects, which somehow compromises the methodological accuracy of this cross-section of professionals of multi-disciplinary background.
But as can be seen by the fully referenced statement (readable here), the CAHA position relied on some of the key and prevailing research of the time, including the United Kingdom’s 2010 Health Protection Agency report that was confirming present findings even back then. And nor was this AGL’s sole reference. It also relied on the NHMRC’s then most current 2012 report – a fact that Senator Madigan ignored in his recent address to the Senate (view AGL’s letter here).
Given the paucity of support for the fringe position advocated by the likes of Craig Kelly and John Madigan, the continued backing of such measures appears curious.
This, it should be noted, however, is not Liberal MP Craig Kelly’s first foray into anti-wind politics. In June 2013, Kelly found an audience for his claims at the “National Wind Power Fraud Rally” amidst the likes of radio shock jock Alan Jones, Ron Boswell and, of course, Senator Madigan. More telling still is the link between the event’s organisers and those close to Liberal high-ups, such as Jeanette Newman – wife of trusted Abbott government advisor and climate sceptic, Maurice Newman – in the email leaked to Crikey last year.
As well, and not unsurprisingly, the anti-wind farm group the Waubra Foundation has given air to these poorly evidenced claims on their website – yet another of the groups represented at the aforementioned rally.
Sadly, the noisy complaints of the anti-wind farm lobby continue to find a sympathetic ear in the halls of the new Liberal government, wherein the likes of self-professed climate sceptic, Dick Warburton, can head a review of the endangered Renewable Energy Target. At the same time, we find that the Liberal Napthine government in Victoria, in a move strangely at odds with the Victorian Department of Health’s own research, has provided $100,000 for another independent study into the health effects of wind farm proximity.
With views such as these in the Abbott and state Liberal governments, is it any wonder that concern continues to grow over the potential for institutional bias against the implementation of renewable technologies. These moves begin to make more sense, however, when one considers the dwindling of profits of those with large stakes in the fossil fuel power generation sector now at risk of stranded assets thanks to the efficacy of the Renewable Energy Target.
The mounting scientific evidence against the claims of the anti-wind farm lobby, in conjunction with the losses of large fossil fuel stakeholders, then, appears to be driving these groups to the anti-scientific fringe – a clear sign of their growing desperation and frustration. The obvious hyperbole enlisted in the ridiculous comparison of the wind energy sector to the tobacco and asbestos industries is a clear sign of this, and therefore begs the question – to what bizarre lows will the anti-wind activists turn once they discover that such arguments can no longer be seriously defended in the community?