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Leah Stokes, PNAS, and Conflicts of Interest

By Andy May

Leah Stokes is the senior author of a new paper in PNAS, Prevalence and predictors of wind energy opposition in North America, in which she blames White people for opposing wind projects. She goes on to say that “…wealthier, Whiter communities [opposition] leads to continued pollution in poorer communities, and communities of color.”

There is evidence that offshore wind projects, or at least the geophysical site surveys required for building them, harm whales. The fact that these geophysical surveys can harm whales is well known and regulations prohibit the surveys, but numerous authorizations for surveys [waiving the rules] for renewable wind projects have been granted anyway. There is also evidence that wind turbines can harm our health, due to the low frequency sounds they produce. Thus, there are good reasons to protest wind turbine development, whether the protestor is White or not.

Stokes claims in her paper that she has “no competing interest.” This was accepted by the editor of the paper, Michael Mann. Yet her podcast, “A Matter of Degrees,” has received the following donations from organizations that support wind power:

The McKnight Foundation supports wind power and moving away from fossil fuels, the same is true of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Schmidt Family Foundation. Stokes is also a policy advisor to Evergreen Action, and a senior policy counsel to Rewiring America, an organization promoting the electrification of the USA.

As I asked Google Bard recently:

“A connection to the renewable industry is OK and not biased, but to the fossil fuel industry it is. This seems to be bias.”

This forced Google Bard to admit that:

“Both the renewable energy industry and the fossil fuel industry have a vested interest in the climate change debate.”

Thus, Stokes appears to have a competing interest, that could lead to bias in her paper. Advocates of wind are financially supporting her podcast. According to the PNAS rules, a financial interest may include:

“…membership on a standing advisory council or committee, service on the board of directors, public association with the company or its products, … compensation as a spokesperson, … or financial support.”

Do I need to ask why she left out her competing interests, or why Michael Mann accepted the paper with the “no conflict of interest” statement?

h/t Willie Soon and Matthew Nisbet.

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