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Heartland Institute Fiasco – another take

 by turbinetastic

If I ask you what colour the sky was, you’d say blue. If I asked what colour it was right now where you are, the only way for you to answer correctly would be to go and look. That’s science: the go and look bit. Science is where we try and get past the rote answer and use evidence to understand what’s going on.

There have always been people who don’t like the go-and-look philosophy. Most of the time they’re the same people who would prefer we all take on the listen-to-them philosophy. It rankles with a certain type of person that they can’t just say anything they like without being fact-checked. It used to be religious authority who were most guilty of this; now it seems to be marketers & PR people working for rich corporations, billionaires and politicians. Or at least so the documents about the Heartland Institute released this week would lead us to conclude. (I’ll not go through this, you can read more about it here if you’re interested.

I don’t like this war. To me, if you want to know what colour the sky is, you go and look. If you can’t do that, you use the scientific method to find the most probable answer. You don’t ask yourself, what is the most beneficial answer? And then shout out to everyone who’ll listen that the sky is in fact black-and-white-stripes, punching anyone who disagrees with you in the mouth. The trouble is that in human affairs, what matters most isn’t what you can prove, it’s what you can get people to believe. And the anti-climate-change lobby have been very, very effective at getting the public to accept the idea that there’s any scientific controversy. There isn’t. Human action is causing the climate to change. (The graph in that last link is particularly compelling.)

Over and over again, I encounter the idea that renewables are only being developed for the subsidies; like there are fat cats putting up useless wind farms and then laughing at us all the way to the bank. I’ve seen no evidence for this. Firstly the subsidies are generally paid out alongside the electricity being generated, so that if you build a wind farm in a bad location or if you don’t maintain it you get far less in terms of subsidies. Secondly the expense of building the project and the risk of failure all fall on the developer, and many wind farms do fail at various points after significant time and money has been invested in them; not really something that encourages risky development and then running off with the cash. Thirdly, the renewables lobby, like the climate change lobby, are nowhere near as effective as their various counterparts. And fourthly, electricity prices are driven by gas prices. Renewables aren’t driving profits or costs to any large extent, and a lot of their profits goes back into the next development. Profits which are being invested in infrastructure aren’t lining fat cat pockets.

If there are powerful people with lots of spare money about, they’re not coming from the renewables industry. They’re more likely to be coming from the oil and gas sector. Those are the people who don’t want us to invest in renewable energy which doesn’t require a constant fuel source. Those are the people with both the motivation and the money to actually get their voice heard. And the evidence seems to suggest that they’re using that voice: they’re using it to lie to you.

The worst thing about it is that if we don’t know the facts we make poor decisions. We all want our grandchildren to live on a planet that’s at least as good as the one we have. No-one wants the luxury of a private jet if the direct cost is watching their grandchildren starve in a climate-change induced drought. If we change things now, we can do it slowly, keep the level of technology we have. If we don’t…

Well, the way I see it, if we don’t reduce our reliance on oil and gas we face much bigger problems than just climate change. We face the increasing instability of the Middle East, and hugely fluctuating prices. We face increasingly desperate technologies (like fracking) used in increasingly unsuitable environments. We face dwindling global supplies and perhaps even wars over what remains (the question of who owns North Sea oil if Scotland gains independence will seem tame in comparison). On a human level there could be a global crisis of a level not seen since the second world war. And on top of that we could have hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and monsoons, rising sea levels and dwindling water supplies.

Unless we work to avert it. Now. Little by little.

‘Turbinetastic’ is a wind industry professional who has kindly agreed to syndicate their posts to this blog. This post was originally published on turbinetastic’s  own blog on 22/02/2012.

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8 Responses to “Heartland Institute Fiasco – another take”

  • Iain G Richmond:

    You are correct the Heartland thing is a fiasco and it all centres round some innocuous documents and an allegedly fake document purported to be written by Dr Peter Gleick.
    I quote part of a report in today’s telegraph…..

    “Within hours, the story was unravelling. Gleick confessed that he had obtained genuine Heartland documents under false pretences, in an attempt, he said, to verify that the “anonymous” strategy paper had come from the institute – the document that he himself was already suspected of faking. Though his statement made no admission in that regard, it unleashed mayhem. Gleick was reprimanded by his own Pacific Institute, and then requested a leave of absence. Heartland is threatening legal action in all directions – not least against all those journalists who were so eager to believe his hoax that they hadn’t bothered to check their facts”

    An interesting situation

    Can I just point out that your link to Human action is causing……. Seems to be citing stuff that’s 5-8yrs out of date.

  • Iain G Richmond:

    Get your facts right Turb on where the big money really is.

    Here are the official annual figures. If the Heartland Istitute is being more successful at getting their message across it says more about the veracity of the message than the money behind it.

    Instead the hyped non-denier-gate shows just how incredibly successful the Heartland Institute is. Look at the numbers. The skeptics have managed to turn the propaganda around against a tide of money, and it is really some achievement.

     Entity USD
    Greenpeace  $300m  2010 Annual Report
    WWF  $700m  ”  ($524m Euro)
    Pew Charitable Trust  $360m 2010 Annual Report
    Sierra Club  $56m 2010 Annual Report
    NSW climate change fund (just one random govt example)  $750m  NSW Gov (A$700m)
    UK UNIVERSITY CLIMATE FUND(just another random govt example) UK Gov (£234 m)

    HEARTLAND INSTITUTE $7m  (actually $6.4m)

    US government funding for climate science and technology  $7,000m  “Climate Money” 2009
    US government funding for “climate related appropriations” $1,300m USAID 2010
    Annual turnover in global carbon markets $120,000m
    2010 Point Carbon
    Annual investment in renewable energy $243,000m
    2010  BNEF

    US GOVERNMENT FUNDING FOR SKEPTICS SCIENCE $0.00

    These are annual turnovers or annual budgets

    So what the expose shows is that the Heartland Institute punches far above its weight with an incredibly efficient budget. That is, of course, assuming that the so-called expose is real and not a fake, or altered, which it could be, watch the Heartland site for any confirmation or information.

    Truth will out.

  • itsyourself:

    Troll infestation I see.

  • Iain G Richmond:

    Hi ADMIN and ITSYOURSELF ,

    Thanks for your not unexpected one liner replies.

    One liners can be very effective of they are cogent, epigrammatic, witty or humorous. I’m afraid yours are decidedly boring and I suspect that is a more likely reason that any ‘commenters’ [sic] may be put off.

    May I respectfully suggest that you allow TURBINETASTIC to reply to comments on his blog? He is far more articulate than either of you and his responses can be interesting and informative and are always curteous.

    I rather fancy that what you consider to be a ‘genuine commenter’ Is in reality a sycophant. If you object to reasonable comments on your site then I suggest you disable the reply facility and reduce the blog to an unfettered polemic.

  • admin:

    I see you are posting the same trolling garbage under a different identity on Turbinetastic’s blog.

  • itsyourself:

    Can Iain explain infrared radiative transfer to me in his own words? Its at the heart of this “debate” so it should be easy for him. Lets see if he can do it without cut and paste ;)

  • Iain G Richmond:

    Yes yourself, a hotly contested subject ever since Arrhenius and Angstrom. No point in me reinventing the wheel. The question would be better put to our Great Leader Eck Salmond who has the responsibility of making all the important decisions regards AGW. As the House of Commons committee on science and technology said “the science better be right”. It would appear at this stage that the skeptics are winning the argument.

    I realise this is a difficult concept for you to follow as it seems the very notion of scientific debate is an anathema for you.

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