Offshore wind opponents fuel lies about beached whales

A North Sea wind farm off the shore of Germany.A North Sea wind farm off the shore of Germany. (Photo: Dionysos1970, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Lacking evidence, conservative think tanks stoke fears offshore wind farms lead to beached whales.

Just as the fossil fuel industry exploited gaps in scientific research to undermine peer-reviewed research linking rising greenhouse gas emissions to human activity, so, too, are opponents of offshore wind farms, making unsubstantiated claims they threaten whales, The Guardian has reported.

Offshore wind farms are more efficient and generate more power than onshore wind farms, and can provide clean energy in the critical transition away from greenhouse gas emissions.

Common causes of marine mammal strandings, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, include:

  • Disease;
  • Harmful algal blooms and associated biotoxins;
  • Injuries due to vessel collisions, entanglements, or other human interactions such as gunshots;
  • Malnutrition;
  • Marine debris (entanglement or ingestion); and
  • Pollution exposure.
A beached sperm whale in Ocean City, Maryland, September 15, 2019. (Photo: George Thomas Jr.)

A beached sperm whale in Ocean City, Maryland, September 15, 2019. (Photo: George Thomas Jr.)

No whale deaths have been attributed to wind farms

In 2019, a sperm whale washed up on the shore of Ocean City, Maryland, nowhere near any offshore wind farms. And along the U.S. west coast, gray whale strandings are increasingly common since 2019 in what NOAA Fisheries has classified as “unusual mortality events.” At this time there are no wind farms along the U.S. west coast.

While the causes and numbers of whale deaths vary each year, to date none have been blamed on activities related to offshore wind farm construction or operation, according to NOAA.

Opponents seen as pawns of fossil fuel industry

One group, The Save Right Whales Coalition, is linked to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a right-wing think tank taking action nationwide to undermine a clean energy transition, The Guardian noted in its investigation. Green Oceans, another group associated with SRWC, self-published a white paper on wind energy that cherry picks data points, according to J. Timmons Roberts, a professor of environmental studies at Brown University. And the Cape Cod Times has linked Nantucket Residents Against Turbines with a right-wing think tank.

Opponents of clean energy such as offshore wind farms who align themselves with industry interests risk blocking meaningful climate action, Roberts told The Guardian.

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