Donald Trump and Russia's Vladimir Putin Have the Same Problem with Wind Power: 'How Many Birds Die?''

Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump have for years shared the same concern that birds were being killed en masse by wind turbines.

Putin said on Tuesday that "we in Russia are hit the hardest" by the effects of climate change, noting that the temperature in his country was growing "2.5 times faster" than the global average. Speaking at the second Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, the Russian leader asserted that this could not be an excuse to curb technological progress in favor of "absolutist, blind faith in simple, showy but not effective solutions" such "as the total rejection of nuclear or hydrocarbon energy" or "going all in on existing alternative energy sources alone."

"Will it be comfortable to live on a planet covered in fences of wind turbines and several layers of solar batteries? As they say, it's like sweeping the rubbish under the rug instead of just cleaning the house," Putin said.

"Everybody knows that wind power is good, but is anyone thinking about the birds? How many birds die? They shake the ground so much that the worms crawl out. This is not a joke, really, it is a serious side-effect of these modern modes of energy generation. I am not saying it should not be developed, of course it should, but let's not forget the related problems," he added.

While Putin and his officials have generally been more open to recognizing environmental issues than Trump, who once called climate change a "hoax," the Russian president has at least since 2010 warned that wind turbines "kill birds" and cause worms or even moles to emerge from the ground.

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Seabirds are seen flying in the offshore breezes as wind turbines are seen in the background at South Gare near Redcar, England, March 19. Trump tried to have an offshore wind farm near his Scotland golf course removed, but lost in court. Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Going back to at least February 2012, Trump too dismissed wind turbines, telling his personal vlog viewers they were "horrible-looking structures" that "make noise" and "kill birds by the thousands." Just two months later in April, Trump took his testimony to the Scottish Parliament as he fought to block wind turbines from being installed near his golf course in Aberdeenshire.

Trump said that "many countries have decided that they do not want wind, because it does not work without massive subsidies, it kills massive amounts of birds and wildlife and for lots of other reasons." Pressed for evidence on his claims, he merely said "I am the evidence" and, despite being met with laughter, the future president would go on to tweet semi-regularly about the phenomenon, continuing to use questionable sources.

Over the years, Trump made or shared claims that turbines killed either "thousands" or "up to 39 million birds a year," sometimes also including bats in this figure and often citing conservative online news outlets. The argument was repeated along the campaign trail and, though he defeated Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton in 2016, Trump continued to cite her in his anti-wind stance in recent months.

"Hillary wanted to put up wind. Wind," Trump told the National Republican Congressional Committee in April. "If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value." He then introduced the claim that "they say the noise causes cancer"—a position that research has proven baseless.

That particular claim was later the subject of widespread mockery, but Trump also pressed on with his claim at the time that windmills "are like a graveyard for birds." He added: "If you love birds, you'd never want to walk under a windmill because it's a very sad, sad sight. It's like a cemetery. We put a little—we put a little statue for the poor birds. It's true. You know in California, if you shoot a bald eagle, they put you in jail for five years. And yet the windmills wipe 'em all out. It's true. They wipe em out. It's terrible."

That same approach appeared in his May remarks in Hackberry, Louisiana, where Trump told the crowd that supporters of the ambitious Green New Deal "sort of like wind, even though it kills all the birds." This time he called it a "bird cemetery" and again he repeated his take on the California penal code regarding killing the U.S. national bird—a crime that in actuality carries a maximum penalty of a fine or two years in prison for a second offense.

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Projections for the generation of electricity from renewable sources in the U.S. from 2017 through 2020. STATISTA

Unlike Trump's cancer claims, his—and Putin's—bird-killing theory does hold some weight, but is a relatively minimal threat to the creatures when compared to some of the mass killers out there, at least in the U.S.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimated as of 2017 that 140,430 to 327,586 birds are killed in collisions with land-based wind turbines per year, while figures for offshore wind turbines were unavailable.

By comparison, deaths at the hands of building glass collisions could be anywhere from 365 million to 988 million annually and communication towers took some 6.6 million bird lives annually. Electrical lines were believed responsible for between 8 million and 57.3 million deaths and vehicles were blamed for between 89 million and 340 million fatalities.

By far the worst killer, however, was cats. Cats killed anywhere between 1.4 and 3.7 billion birds each year, according to the official figures.

It was unclear whether it was Putin or Trump who was first between them to begin touting bird deaths—the two men have previously expressed admiration for one another's views on some subjects and have greatly diverged on others—but such claims have long been parroted by questionable advocacy groups associated with advocates of fossil fuels like coal and gas.

Both industries have long been cornerstones in the U.S. and Russia, but only the latter will be moving ahead in ratifying the 2015 Paris Climate Accord since it was abandoned by the Trump administration.