A team of students in the Climate and Development Lab in the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society has undertaken a review of newspaper articles, handouts, white papers and presentations by a new anti-offshore wind group in Rhode Island, documenting a series of misinformation and delay tactics, and links to national groups. Their report is being released in collaboration with Climate Jobs Rhode Island, a coalition of labor, environmental, and community partners in the state.
Climate change is having severe impacts on our oceans and shorelines, and the main resource that is available at scale and economically viable to southern New England states is offshore wind. These states have set ambitious targets for emissions reductions, and all have agreed on the rapid deployment of wind farms off their coasts. After years of planning, biological studies, adjustments in plans, negotiations and delays, wind deployment is finally gearing up across the region. The switch off imported fossil fuels with renewables and storage is reducing local pollution, creating union jobs and driving significant economic development for ports and cities on the coast.
The piece, "Discourses of Climate Delay in the Campaign Against Offshore Wind: A Case Study from Rhode Island" finds the anti-wind organization's materials emphasize the downsides of offshore wind, redirect responsibility for acting on climate change away from us, here, and now, and push a number of non-transformative solutions. These discourses of delay combine with misinformation tactics like cherry picking data, slothful induction, logical fallacies, misrepresenting positions, conspiracy theories and advancing information from fake experts. The report examines how the group uses false claims about carbon emissions and other environmental impacts of wind turbines, about whale deaths, about job creation, about fishing, and how they present unrealistic technologies as viable alternatives. The paper's last section examines how the organization appears to fit in national networks opposing offshore wind, receiving a vast "information subsidy" from think tanks, websites, and other groups, whose arguments they repeat, despite a lack of scientific evidence to support them. This report aims to combat the spread of misinformation in the state and region which is springing up in response to renewable energy projects. Since the patterns and tactics can be found all over the country, these tools to recognize misinformation and delay tactics can be useful for policymakers, reporters, academics, activists and citizens.