Delingpole gets whaled on

(Massive hat-tip to @rbhinkley)

“Wind farms kill whales: blubber on the green movement’s hands

That’s the typically subtle and balanced headline of today’s piece by James Delingpole, which is based on an article in yesterday’s Telegraph, “Wind farms blamed for stranding of whales“, which is itself based on the research article “Beaked Whales Respond to Simulated and Actual Navy Sonar” published on Monday. “Simulated and Actual Navy Sonar”? That doesn’t sound like it’s about wind farms at all! Luckily, the paper was published in the open access journal PLoS ONE, so we can read the whole thing (PDF).

There is not one mention of the phrases “wind turbine” or “wind farm”, or indeed even the word “wind” at all. Nor is there any mention of beaching beyond hypothetical suggestions that sonar may cause it – although they found whales were tending to stay away from military sonar, they didn’t find direct evidence that this was causing whales to get stranded.

Two hours ago, Ian Boyd of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at the University of St. Andrews – the scientist quoted in the articles – left the following comment on The Telegraph‘s website (Edit: The article has now been deleted. I’ve preserved the comment below):

This article is an abomination. Its quotes me extensively. At no point in all the interactions I have had with The Press on this issue have I ever mentioned wind farms. I disagree with the way the article was written and especially with the implications of its headline. Several of the apparent quotations from me are not ones that I recognise. I never spoke to a journalist from the Daily Telegraph so I wonder how this article was compiled. At very least it was second-hand reporting.

There are no wind turbines in the report. The scientist quoted denies ever mentioning wind turbines. In fact, from the looks of it, the only people who did mention wind turbines are the journalists at The Telegraph.

Now might be a good time to bring out that classic Delingpole quote (Youtube link).

“It is not my job to sit down and read peer-reviewed papers, because I simply don’t have the time, I don’t have the scientific expertise. [...] I am an interpreter of interpretations.”

An interpreter of entirely false interpretations, in this case.

Update: The Telegraph has withdrawn the article, and printed a correction. Delingpole’s blog post remains up.

Double update: Delingpole has belatedly updated the blog post. It now ends:

It has been drawn to my attention that the man who led the St Andrews research team has violently, passionately and emphatically dissociated himself from the original Telegraph news item suggesting that his research showed wind farms to be deleterious to the health of whales. I am delighted to put this straight.

What this means is that, though at this stage we know for absolute certain that wind farms despoil countryside, frighten horses, [here follows a list of fifty-bazillion unsourced claims about wind turbines], the possibility that they also lure whales to their doom remains at this stage an unproven hypothesis. (Just like Anthropogenic Global Warming theory, then.)

The phrase “I am delighted to put this straight” has never sounded less sincere.

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  1. #1 by Rob Hinkley on Wednesday, 16th March 2011 - 15:06 UTC

    I e-mailed Ian Boyd at the University of St. Andrews and he’s written back to me confirming that he is the ‘ianboyd’ commenter on the Telegraph website who is so critical of the article.

  2. #2 by coeruleus on Thursday, 17th March 2011 - 20:31 UTC

    Wait…so you’re telling me that the mercury accumulating in whales’ bodies from coal fired emissions isn’t actually healthier for them than listening to the windmills turn?

  3. #3 by Tom Marinan on Friday, 18th March 2011 - 13:35 UTC

    One of the panel on last nights question time also mentioned beached whales due to wind farms. I believe it was Baroness Warsi

  4. #4 by RuariJM on Saturday, 19th March 2011 - 23:39 UTC

    Get used to it, guys. Delingpole is a tosser of the first order, an emotionally-stunted schoolboy who is still suffering the scars of not having been invited to join the Bullingdon Club (Bullers) at Oxford. He spends weekends dressing up as a US Marine and pretending to invade Normandy.

    He’s best ignored. OK, if he outrageously misquotes someone then that someone has every right to point that fact out. But like any snotty 5th-former (which he remains in his heart of hearts) with a club of sycophants, he will never, ever admit he was caught out in the wrong. Even if his continued denials make it dazzlingly apparent that he is a complete and utter w*nk*r. His sycophants – the deling mole rats – will go to their graves defending their object of adoration, as well, and will continuously comment over the rebuttal until it is lost in the depths of their lobotomised idiocy.

    Ignore him and move on.

  5. #5 by jon on Sunday, 20th March 2011 - 9:58 UTC

    Delingpooooooooooooole! *shakes fist*

  6. #6 by kevin king on Wednesday, 23rd March 2011 - 21:46 UTC

    I suspect our boffin is being just a wee bit disingenuous…..

    http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/news/archive/2011/Title,65795,en.html

    Quote from the above…
    “I can see some quite robust advice being provided based upon our results that can help naval activity avoid the problem of causing beaked whales to strand, but I am also worried that the general levels of sound that humans make in the ocean from all sorts of sources like ships, oil and gas exploration and renewable energy may be a much more serious problem for beaked whales and some other sensitive species.”
    This strongly suggests to any objective reader that the dear scatter-brained prof(who clearly cannot remember what he said from one day to the next), really does think wind farms are a problem for whales. Or has oil exploration been added to the list of renewable energy sources?

    • #7 by atomicspin on Wednesday, 23rd March 2011 - 22:22 UTC

      But that’s not what the study was about. The scientists studied the effects of sonar, and then one of them said “Maybe it’s a good idea to check if these other sound sources have an effect on whales too”. There’s a big difference between saying “Wind farms may kill whales. We should do experiments to test this hypothesis” and “WIND FARMS KILL WHALES!”

    • #8 by Rob Hinkley on Thursday, 24th March 2011 - 17:44 UTC

      Oh come on, Kevin. Are you honestly saying that “any objective reader” would read a press release titled “Whales scared by sonars”, describing research measuring how whales react to sonar & mentioning sonar a lot, and conclude that it shows wind farms KILL WHALES* because there is a mention of renewable energy (among other things) in the final paragraph about other possible concerns?

      * Block caps in Delingpole’s original.

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