A Higher Education Embarrassment: Brown University Offshore Wind Report is a Disgrace

Last week I received an email from an editor of a national media outlet, asking for my comments on a Brown University Report regarding offshore wind energy. I found that this was put out by CDL self-described as: “The Climate and Development Lab is a student-faculty think tank informing a more just, equitable and effective climate change policy.”

Note: even though I was “prominently mentioned” in this report (16 times!), no one from CDL/Brown bothered to contact me to verify what they wrote about me was accurate. Not surprisingly, most of it was irrelevantmisleading, or false. Their likely defense is that they just copied what they found on the Internet. Clearly, double-checking would be an unreasonable burden. Worse it might reveal that some of their underlying, unscientific narrative might crumble.

Not surprisingly, this report is rife with errors of omission and commission — way too many to go into in a commentary of this length. To keep this digestible, let’s just briefly look at the assignment itself…

It appears that the Brown Pied Piper professor instructed the children to do something like this:

  1. Get the names of all the main US people opposed to offshore wind.
  2. Guess who they connect with regarding offshore wind.
  3. Speculate about any funding involved, and where it may come from.
  4. Cast aspersions willy-nilly, to try to undermine their credibility.

The first question is: let’s say the neophytes do a competent job fulfilling the oracle’s commands: What then? What meaningful bearing on the offshore wind energy issue would this have? None. Zip. Nada.

A second question is: did the high priest direct his acolytes to do a similar report about offshore wind proponents? Not surprisingly, there is no evidence of that. Does that sound “just and equitable”?

I’m only a physicist, but if these were my students, an assignment I’d give them on this topic would be:

  1. Get the names of all the main US people opposed to offshore wind.
  2. Carefully document each of their objections to offshore wind (e.g., mine are here).
  3. Equitably assess the merits of each of their objections.
  4. Comprehensively and objectively determine whether offshore wind is a net societal benefit.

Now the students would be: a) producing a report that has real value, b) getting educated about a national energy issue, and c) learning how to separate the wheat from the chaff. Such an assignment is designed to undermine cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias — rather than reinforce these (i.e., what this “report” does).

Put another way, in my recommendation the students would actually be doing Critical Thinking about the offshore wind issue — whereas there was zero Critical Thinking in the CDL/Brown assignment they were subjected to.

As readers know I’m extremely concerned that our education system is annually producing millions of non-critical thinking lemmings (e.g., see my Education Report). This sad story is just one of many solid pieces of evidence that this is continuing to happen.

P.S. — I sent the Big Cheese and his entourage a polite but pointed email about this travesty. So far no response.

©2023. John Droz, Jr.. All rights reserved.

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