Look out for that turbine! Climate sceptics are the real Chicken Littles

Published in The Conversation by Stephan Lewandowsky, a cognitive scientist and Chair of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Bristol. These views are his own. View original article.

The sky is falling! Oh wait, no: it’s just the clouds moving… Sarah Smith


Several Australian corporate figures have recently disparaged climate scientists.

First, former banker David Murray questioned the integrity of climate scientists on national TV. Casting such aspersions on scientists follows the precedent set by the tobacco industry, which referred to medical researchers as an “oligopolistic cartel” that “manufactures alleged evidence.”

Attacks on scientists proceed according to the same playbook and regardless of discipline. If there is any novelty in Murray’s slur, it is that until recently he led the Future Fund, a body that is legally tasked with delivering risk-adjusted returns on the Australian Government’s budget surpluses. The adjustment of a risk by denying or ignoring it is arguably not without precedent; see the 2007 financial crisis, for example.

More recently, mining figure Hugh Morgan confronted the issue of risk head-on and declared the world’s climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to be “Chicken Littles” whose dire predictions would soon be cast aside, in the same way that the apocalyptic warnings of the Club of Rome from 40 years ago turned out to be false. (Except that when a CSIRO scientist reviewed those 40-year old projections, he found them to be remarkably accurate.)

Much is known in cognitive science about how people judge risks. It is now commonly accepted that those judgements are inherently subjective and subject to cultural biases, such as one’s attitudes towards the free market.

Thus, whereas the medical community lives up to its reputation as Chicken Littles by claiming that tobacco has adverse health effects, other institutions that arise from a different cultural background, such as Morgan’s Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), take a more heroic approach by chastising such “corrupt science” as overly alarmist. The trade-off between free-market fundamentalism and lung cancer is a matter of cultural preferences. Continue reading “Look out for that turbine! Climate sceptics are the real Chicken Littles”

How wrong can a press release for an anti-wind rally be?

Originally posted on Renew Economy.
By , prolific wind energy blogger on 13/06/2013
anti wind rally canberraIt’s time for another installment of Count the Whoppers. You may remember that we started this occasional feature a year ago with Max Rheese of the mischievously-named Australian Environment Foundation and Australian Climate Science Coalition, funded by the IPA and Heartland Institute respectively, and his fourteen whoppers in less than 1,700 words. We continued it in November with Senator John Madigan’s party policy on wind energy (subsequently removed), where he managed only 10 whoppers, but did it in a quarter of the words, 364.

This time the target in our sights is the anonymously written blog stopthesethings.com (STT). This site is setting new lows in the anti-windpower astroturfing arena, featuring new posts daily attacking all aspects of wind energy and the people associated with it with imaginary data and unpleasant prose. The author has been anonymously vilifying members of the wind industry, researchers into wind energy and proponents of wind energy for nearly six months.

It’s become the go-to echo chamber for Australian anti-wind power activists, and attracts regular comments from the few but impressively vocal anti-wind activists in Canada, the USA and the UK. Unsurprisingly, the Internet quality rating service Web of Trust gives STT very poor marks indeed. Continue reading “How wrong can a press release for an anti-wind rally be?”

Yes 2 Renewables Bust Wind Energy Whoppers


When it comes to wind energy whoppers, the Australian Environment Foundation’s Max Rheese has an impeccable record. In last week’s Stock & Land, Rheese claimed wind energy has no economic benefit and alleged  wind turbines have adverse impacts on human health. Such claims are not supported by the evidence.

The Yes 2 Renewables campaign set the record straight in a letter to the editor published in this week’s edition of Stock & Land. It is reproduced below:

Max Rheese of the Australian Environment Foundation and climate change sceptic group, the Australian Climate Science Coalition, has a long track record of making claims about wind farms that are not supported by evidence. Mr Rheese’s comments recently featured in Stock & Land (‘Push to back wind power,’ Nov 1) are no exception.

Mr Rheese’s claim that wind energy has no economic benefit is simply incorrect. And the notion of ‘growing evidence’ of wind turbines adversely affecting human health is misleading.

Wind farms have proven economic benefits for communities. Continue reading “Yes 2 Renewables Bust Wind Energy Whoppers”

Let’s have a real discussion, not orchestrated rallies against wind farms

Last week’s anti-windfarm meeting at Penshurst made a minor stir in the news after renewable energy advocate Matt Wright, from Beyond Zero Emissions, was able to grab the floor of the meeting to briefly respond to the stacked anti-windfarm panel. … Continue reading Let’s have a real discussion, not orchestrated rallies against wind farms

On the trail of the Landscape Guardians (a detective story)

Journalist Sandi Keane at Independent Australia has already published the most thorough exposure of the modus operandi of the anti-windfarm “Landscape Guardians” and their associated groups like the Waubra Foundation and Australian Environment Foundation. Today, Independent Australia has published her account of how she researched the group, reading a bit like a detective story – as good investigative journalism should. Here’s a sample: Exploring the Guardians’ history, their MO was to spring up spontaneously wherever a wind farm was planned. This is not unusual in itself, but in all my years working with community environment groups, we never achieved that … Continue reading On the trail of the Landscape Guardians (a detective story)

what's the real climate conspiracy?

Federal MP blasts anti-windfarm groups

John Murphy, federal ALP MP for the seat of Reid (inner-western Sydney)  made some extensive comments regarding the Landscape Guardians and other anti-windfarm groups in Federal Parliament on Wednesday 15 February. Independent Australia has republished his comments in full, here … Continue reading Federal MP blasts anti-windfarm groups

Wind farm opponents ‘aided and abetted’ by climate sceptic groups

This article comes from the Sydney Morning Herald, journalists are Ben Cubby and Josephine Tovey. THE anti-wind farm movement that is gaining influence in the NSW Parliament is being ”aided and abetted” by climate sceptic groups and some mining figures. The cabinet debated new wind farm guidelines yesterday, with division over whether NSW should follow Victoria and order wind turbines to be set further back from houses. The Shooters and Fishers Party, which shares the balance of power in the upper house with the Christian Democrats, said yesterday it wanted a moratorium on new wind farms. Advertisement: Story continues below … Continue reading Wind farm opponents ‘aided and abetted’ by climate sceptic groups

Against the Wind – Four Corners report into wind farms.

This report is on tonight (25 July). Please check below for the promotional blurb from the ABC. some resources on the anti-wind movement: Please check here for details on anti-wind organisations and a note on how the rather grandly named ‘Landscape guardians’ are simply an anti-wind group which has no other activity in support of the environment. Sandi Keane has written a report on ‘the ugly landscape of the guardians’ for the Independent Australia website. A report on a recent meeting (July 2011) organised by a landscape guardians group gives a sense of the type of politics behind this movement. … Continue reading Against the Wind – Four Corners report into wind farms.

Call for wind farm moratorium

The following article comes from the Hamilton Spectator. The (misleadingly named) Australian Environment Foundation are calling for a complete stop to wind farm development until the Senate Inquiry’s recommended health study has taken place. We support such a study going ahead, but we have to note that there has so far been no peer-reviewed evidence anywhere to link wind farms with direct health effects. The $2.5 million set aside in the Victorian state budget to identify “no-go” regions for wind farms would have been much better directed to such a health study which might help to clear the air in … Continue reading Call for wind farm moratorium

supporting the voices for renewable energy

In the three weeks since we launched this website, we have been delighted by the response we have received from people around Victoria. Our premise was that while the forces opposed to wind farm developments are well organised and increasingly vocal, the majority of Victorians who support well planned renewables projects are not. In spite of lots of noise from some quarters, including a range of climate skeptics and ‘wise use’ organisations, we believe that there is a real desire in the community – including rural Victoria – to find ways to support well planned and appropriate renewable projects. This … Continue reading supporting the voices for renewable energy