$1B/year climate denial network exposed

In Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations, a scholarly article published in the current Climatic Change , Drexel University's Robert J. Brulle documents a billion-dollar-per-year climate-change denial network, underwritten by conservative billionaires operating through obfuscating networks of companies aimed at obscuring the origin of the funds.

Among the recipients of the funds are several charitable groups that are supposedly neutral on climate change, including the American Enterprise Institute (the top recipient of the funds) and the Heritage Foundation. Brulle was unable to uncover the origin of 75 percent of the funds, much of which were routed through Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund.

The vast majority of the 91 groups on Brulle's list – 79% – were registered as charitable organisations and enjoyed considerable tax breaks. Those 91 groups included trade organisations, think tanks and campaign groups. The groups collectively received more than $7bn over the eight years of Brulle's study – or about $900m a year from 2003 to 2010. Conservative think tanks and advocacy groups occupied the core of that effort.

The funding was dispersed to top-tier conservative think tanks in Washington, such as the AEI and Heritage Foundation, which focus on a range of issues, as well as more obscure organisations such as the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and the John Locke Foundation.

Funding also went to groups that took on climate change denial as a core mission – such as the Heartland Institute, which held regular conclaves dedicated to undermining the United Nations climate panel's reports, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which tried and failed to prosecute a climate scientist, Michael Mann, for academic fraud.

Conservative groups spend up to $1bn a year to fight action on climate change [Suzanne Goldenberg/The Guardian]

(Image: Takin' it to the BANK$Y, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from guano's photostream)

Notable Replies

  1. Could someone please explain why climate change is or should be a political issue?

    I understand why it's an issue. I want to know why it's a political issue.

  2. That seems remarkably obtuse. It's because we're assholes.

  3. kmoser says:

    It's very simple: don't trust organizations with "Freedom", "Heritage", "Patriot" or "America" in their names.

  4. Your intentionally obtuse pedantry is not as clever as you think. “Nuclear war can’t destroy the planet — worst case scenario it destroys all life, but the planet will still be intact.”

    You won’t get a “your arguments are convincing” for a very good reason: They’re not. They barely even qualify as arguments.

  5. Rindan says:

    Climate change is a political issue because it is a massive vehicle to push or deflect an agenda.

    Right wing folks desperately want to deny climate change because a pile of their special interests are the cause of the problem. To make matters worse, right wing folks tend to have a very hard time dealing with tragedy of the commons style problems. If the answer is "no bro, the government really needs to step in", it causes them heartache. To make matters worse, any climate change solution is going to have to be global in nature, so it is not just government action, but mass world wide government action and multilateral hand holding. The American right might eventually come around, but it will be kicking and screaming. They also have a rational fear of the left ramming through an unrelated agenda...

    ...which brings us to the left. Climate change is a battering ram that can be used to bring about other agendas. It is a broad environmental concern, so it helps pump up environmental organizations. Most of the more dull solutions involve greener technology and the stripping of money and protection from traditional polluters like coal and oil. Anti-capitalist organizations like climate change because the standard set of solutions involve stripping money from traditional capitalist power houses and generally have an element of reduced consumption. Probably most of all, all of the solutions involve government action on a mass scale, which the left is naturally a lot more comfortable with than the right.

    Personally, I think you should trust the science and be very skeptical of the people offering solutions. The right gets a hard on for nukes because they like nukes, not because they want to stop climate change. Their denial is rooted in a world view that doesn't handle the need for collective government action to fix a massive problem caused by market economies. The left freaks the fuck out when someone proposes geoengineering as a solution because it single handedly voids every singe boon the left stands to get politically out of fighting to reduce climate change and means that the market can carry on its merry way unmolested. Scientist pushing solutions should be looked at with some hard skepticism too. It is one thing to say that you can change the climate for better or for worse by doing something or not doing something. That is well within the realm of a climate change scientist. If they start saying that you should do something, you get to smack them across the head and point out that last time you checked, they didn't have economics degree that can weigh economic and social the cost of action or inaction.

    Sadly, there is no solution to the politicization of climate change short of magical technology that voids the question cheaply. Too many people and organizations have something to gain or lose, and even if they didn't, the prediction science is fuzzy enough and complex enough that it will never convince someone who doesn't want to be convinced.

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