When Patrick Moore says it, people listen. Or at least they ought to. He’s the guy in the most famous seal-hugging photo ever. And now he’s in high dudgeon because “1975-1979 Greenpeace crews went into the Pacific and got in front of the harpoons that were killing 30,000 whales/year. I was on all 5 voyages. We stopped whale hunt. Now Greenpeace supports massive wind farms in whales habitat. Traitors all!” Strong words from a guy not known to mince them. But as Leighton Woodhouse and Michael Shellenberger explain, justified in every dimension.
It's not just that offshore wind farms really do appear to be deadly to whales, including the acutely endangered North Atlantic right whale, of which just 340 remain on our planet. It’s that to create these lethal facilities the environmental and political establishments have swept aside the institutional and intellectual obstacles to despoiling the natural world that, for decades, they piously insisted were core and non-negotiable matters of principle for them.
As Woodhouse and Shellenberger declare with appropriate outrage:
“Since the passage of the 1973 Endangered Species Act, environmentalists have fought for strict protections for endangered species. They have demanded that the government apply what is known as the ‘precautionary principle,’ which states that if there is any risk that a human activity will make a species extinct, it should be illegal. And yet here we are, on the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, watching the whole of the environmental movement — from the Audubon Society and the National Wildlife Federation to scientific groups like the Woods Hole Institute, New England Aquarium, and Mystic Aquarium – betray the precautionary principle by risking the extinction of the North Atlantic right whale.”
If you’re wondering how a wind farm could be so deadly to creatures that are under the waves rather than up in the air, like the birds and bats being slaughtered by the millions by, uh, wind farms, there are several related factors at work here. One is that, as anyone with an ounce of environmental sensitivity knows (or anyone who has heard Pink Floyd’s iconic “Echoes”), whales depend on sound for navigation and social communication. And wind farms create a lot of undersea noise while being built and while operating.
Another less obvious issue, Woodhouse and Shellenberger warn, is that “air turbulence generated by the turbines” could “harm or destroy zooplankton feeding grounds.”
The wind firms are acting like greedy oil company planet-trashing bullies in one more green nightmare:
“wind developers are demanding higher speed limits for their boats. If they don’t get them, the industry claims, it will need to build hotels for the workers at the sites, right in the middle of right whale habitat.”
Which brings us to the other major problem. Like their onshore siblings, offshore wind mills have huge footprints that stomp all over habitats and their inhabitants. We don’t like to play “Gotcha” over a single memo, but a top NOAA official did warn that, Bloomberg paraphrases, “Wind turbines may disrupt the dense concentration of zooplankton that the whales depend on for sustenance, potentially forcing them to spend more energy and take more risks searching elsewhere for food”. And one of the additional perils, Moore clarifies, involves the construction and vibration of the vast platforms the turbines sit on:
“It is not only the sonar surveys that may pose a real problem for the whales. Depending on their size, each of the 1,500 turbines will require a concrete base excavated into the ocean sediment up to 150 feet deep and 30 to 40 feet wide. This will clearly cause a huge amount of mud to be dispersed into the water column. Both these species of whales are of the baleen type. They are filter-feeders using their baleen to strain their food into their stomachs. The mud from these many excavations may interfere with their feeding and may also affect the species they depend on for food.”
So what’s the party line? Why, CNN leaps in with “What’s killing whales off the Northeast coast? It’s not wind farm projects, experts say”. (Oh, and the trolls now say Moore is a know-nothing planet-hating dolt.) Meanwhile, incredibly, environmentalists are simultaneously trying to clobber the Maine lobster industry as… wait for it… a threat to the endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Traitors all, indeed. To logic as well as their environmental cause.