Incomplete climate science has pushed us toward the wrong solutions

Author: Margy Stewart

Originally posted on the Kansas Reflector at

Kansas rural areas are filling up with industrial wind turbines, all in the name of saving us from climate change.

But climate science is in the process of self-correcting, raising the possibility that utility-scale wind is creating more problems than it solves.

Climate science has long been hampered by a lack of input from biodiversity experts.

“People who know the most about climate science are often atmospheric scientists who don’t study biodiversity science beyond grad school,” says Eric Dinerstein, former chief scientist for the World Wildlife Fund and current head of the research institute RESOLVE. “Climate scientists and biodiversity scientists need to come together to form one field of ‘earth science.’”

Now two international bodies are trying to do exactly that.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, in a first-ever collaboration, have created a working group and issued a joint report.

“Biodiversity loss and climate change are inseparable threats to humanity that must be addressed together,” the report states, “but in practice they are largely addressed in their own domains.”

The result can be bad policy: “Measures intended to facilitate adaptation to one aspect of climate change without considering other aspects of sustainability may in practice be maladaptive and result in unforeseen detrimental outcomes.”

In particular, the scientists warn against “any measures that focus too narrowly on climate change,” such as “renewable energies” that require environmentally destructive mining and that “consume large amounts of land.”

With this warning, the scientists are targeting an inherent feature of wind technology: Wind is a dilute fuel that cannot be concentrated in small areas.

“The power density of renewable power is one to two orders of magnitude lower than that for fossil fuel power, meaning that renewable power requires at least 10 times more land area per unit of power produced,” according to experts.

Indeed in many parts of Kansas, turbines stretch as far as the eye can see. The wind industry’s violations of Kansas’s wildlife-protective guidelines perhaps derive simply from this feature. Is it even possible, anywhere in Kansas, to avoid impinging on wildlife if you must cover tens of thousands of rural acres with moving machines, pulsing infrasound, and flashing lights?

This land-expensive technology is especially damaging given the solutions the report sets forward. To solve the two crises together, the report recommends preserving and restoring our native ecosystems.

In Kansas this means prairies.

Outside of the Flint Hills “box,” the wind industry has already dug up and fragmented large parts of our native prairies. These are the very prairies we need to be intact and vibrant if we are to solve both crises.

A second inherent feature of wind energy, its intermittency, also turns the technology from a solution to a liability. A “wind drought” — long periods of calm during which turbines produce little electricity — is one of several factors creating the current global energy crisis.

With renewables missing in action, countries around the world are scrambling to secure supplies of fossil fuels. Meanwhile, the world works to transition away from fossil fuels.

Divestment campaigns, state mandates, federal policy all have discouraged investment in oil, coal, and gas.

“If you try and raise money to drill holes, it’s almost impossible to get that money,” says Stephen Schwarzman, the CEO of investment firm Blackstone.

Thus, increased demand is now chasing dwindling supply, leading to power cuts, panic-buying, and a spike in prices.

“This has created huge problems for industries that use large amounts of electricity. With winter approaching, simply heating offices, factories or even nurseries may become too expensive for many businesses,” according to a report from the UK.

Leading turbine manufacturers Vestas and Orsted are both in financial trouble, partly due to the wind drought.

Given shortages and high prices, grid-operators are turning once again to coal.

“Coal returns from the dead to power the world as renewables fall short,” states a report in MarketWatch.

U.S. coal is almost sold out through 2022, coal production is up around the world, and shuttered mines are reopening.

Therefore, carbon emissions are rising.

“What we are seeing is that we’ve got no wind and we are forced to fire up polluting coal-fired generation,” says Stefan Konstantinov, an energy analyst in the UK. “This is very much driven by the intermittent nature of renewables.”

What a trifecta! The wind industry is exacerbating climate, biodiversity and energy crises all at the same time.

Why are we subsidizing policies that make things worse?