I just ran across a January episode of Skeptoid about wind turbines and birds. It claims they save (or will save) more birds than they harm — says so right in the conclusion:
Wind turbines and birds are a perfect example of how statistics can be misused. When we trumpet only the number of bird lives lost, and say nothing about the much greater number of bird lives saved, we are being deceptive and abusing the data.
I’m surprised I haven’t heard more about this from the renewable energy advocates or, perhaps, they’re a bit more discerning than I give them credit for.
The Skeptoid post includes the text without ads, although IMO listening to it with its self promotional blurbs and appeals is even funnier. He starts out with the tired explanation that cats kill more birds than wind farms, then buildings, … blah blah blah. He eventually does get to raptors, but not bats, dropping the scientific sounding term “passerines” to sound scientific or skeptical or something:
However, for all of these numbers, the vast majority of birds being killed are passerines — basically songbirds — which exist in numbers large enough that no single source threatens their population (besides global warming). Of greater concern are raptors, due to their smaller numbers, their longer lifespan, and their much lower reproductive rates. Any impact to raptor populations is a significant one from which it’s much harder to recover. And due to the difference in flight behavior between passerines and raptors, raptors are the ones most at risk from wind turbines. Raptors — particularly California Condors, Bald Eagles, and Golden Eagles — are where the US Fish & Wildlife Service and other conservation organizations focus their efforts.
He quotes a position statement from the National Audubon Society. It says they welcome donations from wind power proponents. No it doesn’t say that. I just made that up, but it is the impression I get. It actually starts out:
Audubon strongly supports properly sited wind power as a renewable energy source that helps reduce the threats posed to birds and people by climate change. However, we also advocate that wind power facilities should be planned, sited, and operated in ways that minimize harm to birds and other wildlife, and we advocate that wildlife agencies should ensure strong enforcement of the laws that protect birds and other wildlife.
They explain why they support “properly sited” wind power:
Top scientific experts from around the world, including Audubon’s own scientists, agree that the effects of climate change are happening now and will get worse. Scientists have found that climate change has already affected half of the world’s species’ breeding, distribution, abundance, and survival rates. A review of more than 130 scientific studies found that if climate change proceeds as expected, one in six species worldwide could face extinction.
Audubon’s research shows a particularly stark threat for North American birds: Our Birds and Climate Change Report confirmed that 314 species stand to lose more than 50 percent of their current ranges by 2080.
Audubon and other leaders in the science and conservation space agree that that in order to help prevent species extinctions and other catastrophic effects of climate change, we must significantly reduce pollution from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. This will require rapidly expanding energy efficiency, renewable energy, and alternative fuels and making changes in land use, agriculture, and transportation.
I guess that’s science.
Skeptoid is a podcast created by Brian Dunning who’s always had a somewhat tenuous relationship with left wingers in the skeptics movement. In 2014, he was convicted on a cookie stuffing scheme against Amazon. Here’s his side and the side of a shrill critic. He’s since, become friends with Michael Mann. It looks like he’s trying to appeal to climate alarmists and renewable energy advocates. He smears fossil fuel interests with no evidence:
So if you are hearing that wind farms are bad for birds, you’re not hearing it from the best-informed bird conservationists. You’re more likely hearing it from poorly-informed but well-intentioned amateur wildlife lovers, or even more likely, from fossil fuel interests intent on hampering the renewable energy sector. Wrapping opposition to renewable energy inside a superficially persuasive trojan horse of “wind turbines kill birds” is a devious and effective greenwashing ploy.
He speculates on technological fixes such as radar, thermal cameras and painting wind turbine blades purple to avoid attracting more insects. He’s dropping a knee to the wind industry and maybe an elbow, nose and forehead.