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Climate Scientists Try to Rescue Renewable Energies from ‘Planet of the Humans’

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- May 14, 2020

“I gave up on Judith Curry a while ago. I don’t know what she thinks she’s doing, but it’s not helping the cause, or her professional credibility.”

—Dr. Michael Mann, Climategate email, May 30, 2008.

“The film [Planet of the Humans] presents a distorted and outdated depiction of the renewable energy industry in an effort to malign renewable energy, thus ironically promoting the agenda of the fossil fuel industry.”

– Dr. Michael Mann. Quoted in E&E News (May 5, 2020).

If Big Environmentalism loses wind, the supply-side ruse is over, and people will reconsider climate science given that the “cure” is not there. Hence Michael Mann versus Michael Moore.

“The cause” of climate alarmism and forced energy transformation has been pushed backward by a very long overdue hard look at renewable energy as a mass substitute for mineral energies. Being dilute and intermittent, renewables have more bad secrets than any closet could hold. Small wonder; renewable energies chew up the earth’s surface and creatures in a way that leads to the joke:

Q. “When is an environmentalist not an environmentalist?” A. “When it comes to industrial wind turbines and solar farms.”

Moore’s Planet of the Humans all but ensures that DC-based Big Environmentalism will frontally reject biomass/biofuels, their loss-leader to try to prop up wind and solar as viable. Remove biomass from “green” portfolios and it gets a little skinnier for the business cronies.

And if Big Environmentalism loses wind, the supply-side ruse is over, and people will reconsider climate science given that the ‘cure’ is gone. Hence Michael Mann versus Michael Moore’s Planet of the Humans, the gist of Maxime Joselow’s “Michael Moore’s documentary irks climate scientists” (May 5, 2020).

Energy Density/Reliability

Although Moore et al. do not understand this yet, the problem of each renewable gets back to the absence of stored energy density (think mineral energies; think Vaclav Smil and Bill Gates). Think of the energy stock created by the sun over the ages versus a very dilute, unreliable flow of energy from solar directly or indirectly (wind).

This harks back to W. S. Jevons, The Coal Question, published in 1865, who said this about windpower:

“The first great requisite of motive power is, that it shall be wholly at our command, to be exerted when, and where, and in what degree we desire. The wind, for instance, as a direct motive power, is wholly inapplicable to a system of machine labour, for during a calm season the whole business of the country would be thrown out of gear” (p. 122).

Civilization … is the economy of power, and consists in withdrawing and using our small fraction of force in a happy mode and moment” (p. 122).

“No possible concentration of windmills … would supply the force required in large factories or iron works. An ordinary windmill has the power of about thirty-four men, or at most seven horses. Many ordinary factories would therefore require ten windmills to drive them, and the great Dowlais Ironworks, employing a total engine power of 7,308 horses, would require no less than 1,000 large windmills!” (p. 123)

If one retorts that modern wind turbines make the above obsolete, note that modern conventional power generation facilities, dramatically and ingeniously, have improved also and easily beat wind-generated electricity in a variety of metrics–including reliability.

And to bring the stored density argument to date, consider Peter Huber’s insight in Hard Green: Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists (New York: Basic Books, 1999), pp. 105, 108:

The greenest fuels are the ones that contain the most energy per pound of material that must be mined, trucked, pumped, piped, and burnt. … [In contrast], extracting comparable amounts of energy from the surface would entail truly monstrous environmental disruption…. The greenest possible strategy is to mine and to bury, to fly and to tunnel, to search high and low, where the life mostly isn’t, and so to leave the edge, the space in the middle, living and green.

Planet of the Humans

Back to Planet of the Humans…. An article in E&E News, a mainstream enviro (subscription only) report, titled “Michael Moore’s documentary irks climate scientists” inspired the present post. Author Maxine Joselow begins:

When filmmakers Michael Moore and Jeff Gibbs set out to make a documentary about renewable energy, they said their goal was simple: to tell the truth.”If we don’t face the truth we’re doomed. My camera will expose whatever and whoever needs to be exposed,” Gibbs later wrote.

Then comes the criticism from the perturbed Big Green–including the above quotation from energy expert (not) Michael Mann. (It is very suspicious that Mann is the chosen one to weigh in on energy issues; is he the front for a PR firm wed to wind/solar cronyism?)

Mann is among a host of climate scientists and environmentalists who have blasted the documentary, saying it peddles inaccuracies about the costs and climate impact of various clean energy sources, including wind, solar and biomass.

But what about all those ‘climate scientists and environmentalists’ that would agree with the film? How about climate scientist James Hansen, the father of the climate alarm, who said:

Suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.

E&E author Joselow continues:

But some conservatives have cheered the film as a refreshing takedown of renewable energy and the environmental movement. Many of them reject the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is heating the planet. “My friends and I have been saying these things for years about renewable energy. And then Michael Moore comes along and just devastates this whole renewable energy myth,” said Steve Milloy, a skeptic of mainstream climate science who runs the blog JunkScience.com.

Wait, wait–a lot of us do not “reject the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is heating the planet.” Moderate warming, along with CO2 fertilization of plant life, has distinct positives that dilutes, if not refutes, the cause of climate alarmism. But this is another story.

Author Joselow then exposes the predicament of climate alarmists who fear that losing renewables leaves them naked on energy policy.

One thing is clear: Since “Planet of the Humans” hit the internet just before Earth Day, it has attracted a good deal of controversy — and sparked a broader discussion about climate misinformation.

And adding to the predicament:

Another frequent criticism of the documentary centers on journalistic ethics. In its code of ethics, the Society of Professional Journalists encourages reporters to “diligently seek subjects of news coverage to allow them to respond to criticism or allegations of wrongdoing.” But the filmmakers failed to contact two prominent targets of their criticism, according to the targets themselves.

Okay, so does this standard apply for in-the-tank environmentalist reporters who, for example, I have never heard from, despite authoring a 1997 piece (“Renewable Energy: Not Cheap, Not ‘Green’) that basically identified what Michael Moore et al. uncovered decades later?


Planet of the Humans stands on its own. The main point is sound and damaging to the “Green” case for renewable energies. But critics of the film have some points (such as the need to update the analysis).

So let’s have a Planet of the Humans 2 to look closely at wind and solar as mass substitutes for mineral energies. Let’s take a look at the politics of crony energies. Let’s look at the climate alarm itself that is driving the the environmental mess called renewable energy.


  1. kakatoa  

    Can’t wait till they take a look at the details of the Australian EPA approved hydrogen infrastructure program/projects. At least they are planning on doing something- other than curtailing- all the non dis-patchable PV and wind they are planning on. Li Ion batteries can only get you so far.


    I ‘am sure the Aussies have figured out how to convert their LNG export infrastructure to fill up lots and lots of balloons full of hydrogen to send to China to power their economy. The waste oxygen from splitting water can be used for lots of things. It’s not like it’s hard to contain- like say hydrogen!


  2. Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #409 | Watts Up With That?  

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  3. False Progress  

    If I read it right – and I’ve seen the angle before – this article is trying to claim that misguided solutions to climate change disprove the physics of climate change itself, as if the whole thing is about people and emotions, not the heat-trapping vibration properties of triatomic CO2 molecules and other GHGs.

    Surely you can do better than that?

    Some of us are willing to admit that Man has grown too big for the planet and there’s no feel-good ending or one-upping the other camp and “winning” the debate.


    • rbradley  

      False Progress: I think that realizing that the ‘cure’ to climate change is problematic opens the door to reconsidering the physical science of climate change. Here, moderate (and beneficial) warming is settled science; catastrophic warming is not. The physical laws are in debate, not settled as assumed in climate models. So we are back to the science as renewable energies fail against dense mineral energies….


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