Not only are well-known conservative foundations the largest and most consistent funders behind the climate denial campaign but the majority of donations are "dark money," or concealed funding. A new study by Drexel University 's environmental sociologist Robert J. Brulle, PhD unravels the systematic efforts to discredit climate science.
The first extensive study into the anatomy of the anti-climate effort found that
the conservative groups may have spent up to $1bn a year on the effort to deny science and oppose action on climate crisis.
The study findings said that the anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires, often working through secretive funding networks. They have displaced corporations as the prime supporters of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change. Such financial support has hardened conservative opposition to climate policy, ultimately dooming any chances of action from the US Congress to cut GHG emissions that are warming the planet.
The study report has been published on December 20, 2013 in Climatic Change .
Brulle, a professor of sociology and environmental science in Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences, conducted the study during a fellowship at Stanford University 's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.
Key findings of the study include:
- Conservative foundations have bank-rolled denial. The largest and most consistent funders of organizations orchestrating climate change denial are a number of well-known conservative foundations, such as the Searle Freedom Trust, the John William Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation. These foundations promote ultra-free-market ideas in many realms.
- Koch and ExxonMobil have recently pulled back from publicly visible funding. From 2003 to 2007, the Koch Affiliated Foundations and the ExxonMobil Foundation were heavily involved in funding climate-change denial organizations. But since 2008, they are no longer making publicly traceable contributions.
- Funding has shifted to pass through untraceable sources. Coinciding with the decline in traceable funding, the amount of funding given to denial organizations by the Donors Trust and Donors Capital has risen dramatically. Donors Trust is a donor-directed foundation whose funders cannot be traced. This one foundation now provides about 25% of all traceable foundation funding used by organizations engaged in promoting systematic denial of climate change.
- Most funding for denial efforts is untraceable. Despite extensive data compilation and analyses, only a fraction of the hundreds of millions in contributions to climate change denying organizations can be specifically accounted for from public records. Approximately 75% of the income of these organizations comes from unidentifiable sources.
"The real issue here is one of democracy. Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible," said Brulle. "Money amplifies certain voices above others and, in effect, gives them a megaphone in the public square. Powerful funders are supporting the campaign to deny scientific findings about global warming and raise public doubts about the roots and remedies of this massive global threat. At the very least, American voters deserve to know who is behind these efforts."
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