These windmills go really slowly, they don’t eat up a lot of birds

In my previous post, I detailed at length how an apparently hapless college student’s “Misinformation Campaigns Spread by the Fossil Fuel Industry” research paper fell apart under hard scrutiny. Today, let’s spend a shorter time on the elemental idea of ‘misinformation’ in the global warming issue, and where it seems to be more readily found.

Ross Gelbspan, as a self-described reporter who was angered by the discovery of skeptic climate scientists being “paid sort of under the table by the coal industry” to spread “false information,” has had entire second career promoting the idea that we could be making better headway in stopping man-caused global warming it it weren’t for the industry funded coordinated misinformation campaign. Such work received praise from no less than former Vice President Al Gore in a 2010 New Republic article, where Gore repeated the exact “smoking gun” leaked memo phrase which he said – in the companion book for his 2006 “An inconvenient Truth” movie – that Gelbspan discovered (Gore strangely doesn’t name Gelbspan directly in his article, but that is another story).

In his talks on the topic, Gelbspan doesn’t restrict himself to just the ‘certainty’ about the science of man-caused global warming, or the ‘certainty’ that skeptic climate scientists are industry-paid shills. In the Q & A session after a 2012 presentation, a question was posed to him about fossil fuel industry leaders balking at alternative energy sources, and he offered the following at the 42:14 point about wind energy:

The department of energy has said if we were to put wind farms in the nation’s wind corridors … they could produce all the electricity the country uses. All of it, ok? These windmills go really slowly, they don’t eat up a lot of birds …

Wind energy experts dispute everything Gelbspan says there, and it is not implausible that what Gelbspan said was outright misinformation. Was it deliberate? Perhaps, as he may have misspoken while relying on pure guesswork. He might just say it was environmentalist hyperbole, in order to get a larger point across about reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.

But let’s re-examine what he said in that old 2004 interview about being a reporter angered over discovering skeptic climate scientists were paid industry money to lie. I’ve previously explored how …

  • he was not working as a reporter in any capacity at the time he supposedly discovered the ‘corrupt skeptic scientists’ situation
  • his narrative about becoming a temporary skeptic about man-caused global warming is suspect
  • he has no climate science expertise to say whether skeptic climate scientists’ material is false
  • the time he claims as the starting point of his investigation into skeptic climate scientists is contradicted by two other people, as being earlier than he claims
  • he’s never stated with any specificity how he ‘found out that the skeptic scientists were getting paid under the table’ – his narratives about that only beg for more questions
  • and his one-and-only bit of “smoking gun” leaked industry strategy memo evidence is not the top-down directive he portrayed it to be, and the memo evidence did not come from the place he said it came from.

The point here is not that Gelbspan appears to have put out misinformation about his collective work back in 2004, it is that his words have huge influence right up to the present time, such as the only months-old ‘fossil fuel industry misinformation’ research paper written by an impressionable young college student, or the days-old suggestion by one of his Facebook Friends that he should get a guest appearance on CNBC’s Rachel Maddow show.

Considering how much trouble Ms Maddow just got into with misinformation which backfired in spectacular fashion, having Ross Gelbspan on as a guest to prove there is an industry funded misinformation campaign going on could end up being an equally huge dud, if the rest of the public took a really hard look at what he has to say.