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Environment

What You Fixate on Twitter is Revealing

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On Twitter, people tend to mention and link to things that correspond to their own pet issues. So Bill McKibben tweets a lot about the weather and news of droughts, wildfires, and other natural disasters. Since these tweets are coming from a leading climate change activist, the inference is clear. Similarly, Robert Bryce, an energy writer, often tweets about bad news related to wind power, such as localopposition to wind turbines arising from noise complaints and claims of adverse health effects. Like McKibben's obsessive attention to weather news (the tweets implicitly suggest a link to climate change), Bryce's singular focus on the downsides of wind energy is melodramatic and intentional. He highlights only news that reflects negatively on wind energy, linking to all manner of anecdotal claims of harms to public health that may actually have no scientific merit. In that sense, he mirrors anti-fracking greens who seize on every study or news item (regardless of accuracy) that highlights--and often overstates--the negative impacts of fracking. I've pointed this out to him, which he evidently doesn't see or want to acknowledge. Let's just say that when it comes alarmist rhetoric, greens aren't the only guilty party, which has become increasingly obvious with respect to the anti-wind crowd. It's also worth mentioning that Bryce never tweets (that I am aware of) any news reports of environmental or public health concerns related to coal, oil & gas, or fracking. (There is abundant material to choose from.) He also appears worried about the potential impacts to wildlife from wind turbines, which are legitimate. He does not appear to be similarly concerned about impacts to wildlife from oil and gas infrastructure, which are just as legitimate and well known. If you want to know about a documentary on the supposed harmful health effects of wind turbines, Bryce will alert you to it. If you want to know about a documentary that counters the supposed harmful effects of fracking, he will alert you to it. Such intellectual inconsistency is demonstrated by others who often rail against the the exaggerated claims of the anti-fracking movement but unreservedly accept the exaggerated claims of the anti-wind movement. None of this it to take away from Bryce's normally astute assessment of energy realities and trends, which are on display in his book Power Hungry. But he is a biased analyst. Which is fine. So is Avory Lovins. If you play up the positives or negatives of one form of energy, and do so in a way that exploits claims not supported by evidence, you are biased. I should also point out the obvious: Most people on Twitter (who are active participants) tweet not only what they find interesting, but also what is aligned with their politics, ideology, or stance on a given issue. What jumps out is the level of fixation and the one-sided nature of it that some exhibit. Now, back to the subject of wind energy. Bryce has recently alerted me to a study that suggests wind turbine syndrome--which I've previously discussed here--may have some legitimacy. I've read the study and communicated with the lead author. That will be the focus of the next post, coming up later today. In it, I will also also revisit the wind power syndrome issue.

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[Wind turbines at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base. Source/Wikimedia Commons]

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