New Scientist 'scoop': Wind power not renewable

Gosh, there is a lot of shoddy alleged reporting going around these days. This example comes from the United Kingdom's New Scientist magazine, which carried the following headline in its March 30 issue: “Wind and wave energies are not renewable after all.” Stop the presses. Please.

VERY briefly, the story concerns a scientific journal article which (erroneously) claims that the impact of installing a mere 68 million megawatts (MW) of wind power, or just 350(!) times as much as is installed around the world today, would have the same climatic effects as a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Joe Romm, on his Climate Progress blog, along with help from scientists at NASA, Stanford University, and California State University, carries a detailed critique of both the New Scientist article and the original paper. Perhaps the best short summary is provided by NASA climatologist Dr. Gavin A. Schmidt:

“However we extract energy from the ‘active’ system (i.e. not fossil energy), it will affect energy flows in the active system. The more we take, the larger the effect.

“Regardless of the size of the impact, it is always renewable. The NS headline is wrong.

“We are nowhere near the point at which energy extraction from the active system is a significant player in climate change … “

What could have caused a generally reputable magazine to publish such a travesty? It's a puzzle.


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