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Renewable Energy Versus Wildlife Conservation

Energy Trends Insider — October 9, 2014

The argument goes something like this:
Real environmentalist: “We should not allow the destruction of orangutan habitat for palm oil biodiesel!”
Apologist: “In fact by displacing fossil fuels, palm oil biodiesel is helping orangutans, as well as everything else that is alive on the planet! Orangutans are at serious risk due to climate change. Some primate species are forecast to to lose more than 95% of their current ranges!”
(1) From an article in Treehugger about wind farm impact on birds:
…. in fact by displacing fossil fuels they are helping birds, as well as everything else that is alive on the planet. … the bald eagle and eight state birds …are at serious risk due to climate change. …some species are forecast to lose more than 95% of their current ranges.

Another real world analogy to wind farms, the Elwa river dam, was recently removed in an attempt to restore an extinct salmon migration. Using the reasoning presented in the Treehugger article about wind farms, what’s the point in restoring a salmon run if climate change will eventually destroy it? Right? The dam should be rebuilt so it can once again produce renewable energy.

There are a few missing links in this argument’s logic chain. Scientists recognized the sixth extinction event long before they did climate change. Producing low carbon energy with that rebuilt dam would immediately and directly cause the extinction of that salmon run. Whereas, removing the dam (not producing low carbon energy at that location) will help assure there will be salmon left to save from the ravages of climate change, assuming humanity can avert climate change. In other words, find another place to generate low carbon energy.

Analogously, usurping raptor hunting grounds(2) and intersecting major migration routs with giant blenders to produce low carbon energy is not going to help eagles, hawks, owls, condors, vultures, herons, waterfowl, whooping cranes or bats survive climate change. They are going to need all the help we can give them (with or without climate change) in addition to attempting to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Conservation and development of renewable energy have to be done in parallel with priority given to conservation. The extinction event has been accelerating even in the absence of climate change, which of course will make it even worse.  Continue reading here…..


Photo of Swainson’s hawk in front of the turbine that eventually killed it

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