Science & Environment

Trump Rants About ‘Batty’ Whales And Offshore Wind

Former President Donald Trump has joined the right-wing struggle towards offshore wind with an evidence-free rant concerning the fledgling trade being chargeable for a spate of latest whale deaths alongside the East Coast.

“Their windmills are causing whales to die in numbers never seen before,” Trump mentioned Sunday throughout a marketing campaign speech in South Carolina. “The windmills are driving them crazy. They’re driving the whales, I think, a little batty.”

Trump, who as president spearheaded a fossil fuel-centric “energy dominance” agenda and repeatedly exaggerated the wind trade’s influence on birds, advised the group that he “saw this weekend, three of them came [ashore].”

“You wouldn’t see it once a year,” he claimed, referring to some unspecified time previously. “Now they’re coming up on a weekly basis.”

Trump gave the impression to be referencing reports from final month, when three lifeless humpback whales washed ashore within the Tri-State space over a four-day interval. At least one confirmed indicators of being hit by a ship, though federal officers have but to conclude full necropsies.

To be clear, wind growth — like another offshore exercise — does have the potential to disrupt and hurt whales and in any other case negatively influence the ocean setting. It just isn’t with out environmental dangers, and scientists have urged federal businesses to stay vigilant because the trade expands in U.S. waters.

But federal scientists have repeatedly thrown chilly water on sweeping claims coming from fossil fuel-allied local weather denial teams, anti-wind organizations and GOP lawmakers — specifically, that offshore wind growth is wreaking havoc on whales.

“At this point, there is no scientific evidence that noise resulting from offshore wind site characterization surveys could potentially cause mortality of whales,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states on its web site. “There are no known links between recent large whale mortalities and ongoing offshore wind surveys.”

To make their case, anti-wind advocates usually conflate the plight of the critically endangered North Atlantic proper whale with latest humpback whale strandings, which federal authorities have labeled as an “unusual mortality event” that dates again to 2016.

Along with dismissing any link between the whale deaths and offshore wind, officers have burdened that vessel strikes, entanglement in fishing gear and local weather change are among the many largest human threats to whales, together with humpback and proper whales. More than 200 humpback whales have died alongside the East Coast since 2016. Forty p.c of the animals that underwent necropsies confirmed indicators of being struck by a ship or an entanglement.

Ironically, Trump’s feedback had been a part of a broader assault on what he known as the Biden administration’s “extreme regulatory attacks,” particularly a brand new proposal to develop vessel velocity limits and seasonal velocity zones alongside the East Coast — adjustments that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says are “essential to stabilize the ongoing right whale population decline and prevent the species’ extinction.”

An endangered North Atlantic proper whale entangled in fishing rope swims alongside a new child calf on Dec. 2, 2021, in waters close to Cumberland Island, Georgia.

“The Biden administration, right now, is trying to bludgeon the boating and maritime industry,” Trump mentioned, including the proposed rule would restrict vessels to the velocity of “a slow golf cart.” He claimed that just one whale has been killed by a vessel strike off South Carolina within the final 50 years and, extra bizarrely, {that a} person has “a better chance of being struck by lightning than hitting a whale with your boat” — speaking factors that sound like one thing pulled straight from a transport trade publication.

The former president’s rant shines a transparent gentle on the pipeline of misinformation now flowing between conservative, fossil-fuel aligned teams, right-wing media and GOP lawmakers.

As HuffPost reported final 12 months, anti-offshore wind teams, together with a few of the nation’s most hard-line local weather change denial outfits, out of the blue branded themselves guardians of the endangered proper whale as they ramped up a authorized struggle towards newly permitted offshore wind initiatives. Fox News hosts have given anti-wind advocates hours of airtime to hawk unfounded claims about offshore wind devastating whale populations, whereas usually parroting these speaking factors themselves.

In March, Republicans launched a resolution that cited latest whale deaths and known as for a direct federal moratorium on offshore wind leasing and development exercise pending the result of an investigation to “determine the true impacts” of this growth. The decision got here three days after Peter Murphy, a senior fellow on the Washington-based Center for International Environmental Law, or CFACT, a right-wing group with a protracted historical past of peddling local weather change disinformation, penned a put up on the group’s web site calling for a moratorium.

More not too long ago, Michael Shellenberger, the two-time unsuccessful California gubernatorial candidate and centrist environmental nonprofit chief, co-produced a documentary, titled “Thrown to the Wind,” which argues in no unsure phrases that in relation to offshore wind and the latest whale deaths, correlation is pretty much as good as causation.

The documentary “proves that the US government officials have been lying” about the reason for the whale mortalities, Shellenberger wrote in an Aug. 26 piece revealed within the conservative New York Post. (The Post added citation marks to the headline, which reads: “New documentary ‘proves’ building offshore wind farms does kill whales.”)

Fox News has had Shellenberger on to advertise his movie no less than 4 occasions, according to Media Matters to Media Matters, a media watchdog group. In one interview with Fox’s Brian Kilmeade, Shellenberger mentioned he and his crew are “working with Congress to get hearings and an investigation on this, because we think there is widespread corruption, including in the U.S. government.”

They’ll virtually actually discover allies on Capitol Hill.

“These windmills, according to an earlier report on your network, are killing the whales,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) advised Fox in an interview earlier this month, apparently referencing the unfounded claims in Shellenberger documentary.

Even as whales have change into a key instrument within the right-wing combat towards offshore wind, Trump and different conservatives are actively condemning extra stringent vessel velocity limits — a concrete motion geared toward curbing one of many main threats to the animals.

Last 12 months, HuffPost asked CFACT’s Collister Johnson concerning the vessel velocity rule. He dismissed the concept that lowering vessel speeds may assist safeguard whales. And when pressed about what he sees as the answer, he shortly argued that’s for federal regulators to determine.

“That’s not our problem,” he mentioned.

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