In the weeks leading up to the release of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change's (IPCC) fifth assessment report summarizing climate science on Monday, conservative media have spread a variety of myths about the process, credibility and findings of the group. Contrary to misinformation, the report reflects that scientists are more convinced than ever that manmade climate change is real and dangerous.
In anticipation of President Barack Obama's announcement of measures to reduce carbon emissions, conservative media outlets are once again attempting to cast doubt on the science behind climate change. But despite their claims, a substantial majority of scientists acknowledge the evidence that the earth is warming largely due to human activity.
In a Washington Times op-ed sensationally titled "Wind-energy tax credits fund bird murder," Paul Driessen argues that we should not invest in wind power because of its impact on wildlife. But wind power accounts for a "minute fraction" of human-caused bird deaths, and fossil fuel production poses a much larger risk to birds and the environment.
After reciting conservative talking points on the futility of wind power, Driessen accuses legislators who support extending wind tax credits of contributing to the "ultimate extinction" of bird species across the country:
Every vote to extend the production tax credit -- or to approve wind turbines in or near important bird habitats and flyways -- is a vote for the ultimate extinction of majestic and vital avian species in habitats all over the United States. No member of Congress should want that on his conscience.
But according to the National Research Council, wind turbines account for less than 0.003% of bird deaths caused by human activities. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service estimates that wind turbines kill 150,000 - 200,000 birds annually. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of birds are killed every year by collisions with buildings, cars, and power lines. And many more are killed by oilfield production pits and coal mining, which has destroyed numerous bird habitats.
A 2009 comparison of the impact of six electricity generation types on wildlife in New England found that wind power poses "no population-level risks to birds." Factoring in the effects of pollution and climate change, it concluded that "non-renewable electricity generation sources, such as coal and oil, pose higher risks to wildlife than renewable electricity generation sources, such as hydro and wind."
Natural gas can help the U.S. transition away from reliance on coal in the near-term if it is produced responsibly. But conservative media have dismissed the risks involved with the rapid spread of natural gas extraction to push for deregulation, attack the Obama administration, and ignore the need for a comprehensive energy policy to transition to renewable energy.
Following relentless attacks on the solar industry in the wake of Solyndra's bankruptcy, wind power has become the latest target of the right-wing campaign against renewable energy. But contrary to the myths propagated by the conservative media, wind power is safe, increasingly affordable, and has the potential to significantly reduce pollution and U.S. reliance on fossil fuels.
Using a series of misleading talking points, News Corporation's Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and Fox have accused the Obama administration of waging a "war on coal" because the EPA has moved to limit toxic air pollution from power plants. In reality, the EPA is issuing these rules because the Bush administration's regulations were rejected by courts, and the revised rules are expected to have significant public health benefits.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed attacking EPA's proposal to limit toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants, Willie Soon and Paul Driessen obscure the challenges posed by U.S. mercury emissions, which they say pose "minuscule risks."