Climate Change Denial Groups Get Nearly $1 Billion A Year With Untraceable 'Dark Money' Used to Distort Public View Of Global Warming
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Dire predictions about the impacts of climate change have been deliberately distorted by groups that get almost $1 billion a year in funding mainly from conservative organizations, according to a new study, "Institutionalizing Delay: Foundation Funding and the Creation of U.S. Climate Change Counter-Movement Organizations," by Robert J. Brulle, a professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
The study analyzed the financial resources of what Brulle identifes as 91 "climate change counter-movement" organizations in the U.S. by using data from the Internal Revenue Service and reports of funding to the 91 groups from 140 different foundations. Brulle found that from 2003 to 2010, the 91 climate change counter-movement groups received more than $900 million, mostly from conservative foundations, but only $64 million of the funding came from identifiable sources. These concealed sources, informally called 'dark money,' make it difficult for the public to be aware of the actual finanical supporters of climate denial efforts.
"There is evidence of a trend toward concealing the sources of the climate change counter-movement funding through the use of donor directed philanthropies," Brulle said in the report, which was published in the December 2013 issue of the journal Climatic Change.
Warnings of adverse political and security impacts of climate change issued by the International Energy Agency, the World Bank, the National Research Council and the National Intelligence Council in 2012 have been obstructed by actions of the climate change denial groups, Brulle reported.
"A number of analyses haves shown that one major factor driving this misunderstanding and an overall lack of legislative action is a deliberate and organized effort to misdirect the public discussion and distort the public's understanding of climate change," Brulle said in the report.
The study launches "an analysis of the funding dynamics of the organized effort to prevent the initiation of policies designed to limit the carbon emissions that are driving anthropogenic climate change," said Brulle. "The efforts of the climate change counter-movement span a wide range of activities, including political lobbying, contributions to political candidates and a large number of communication and media efforts that aim at undermining climate science."
The issue of 'dark money' being used by climate change deniers has troubling implications for a democratic society, Brulle said.
"The real issue here is one of democracy. Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible," Brulle said in a report on the study by Drexel University on its website Drexel Now.
"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."
Many of the organizations that contribute to the movement to deny climate change are multi-purpose, so not all of the funding is devoted to climate change activities, according to Clean Technica. The 91 groups include trade associations, think tanks and advocacy organizations, with 78 percent registered as charitable organizations, allowing them to take advantage of considerable tax breaks.
On of the trends Brulle uncovered is the shift that traditionally high-profile funders, such as the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil, have taken to turn away from publicly funding organizations that oppose action on climate change. Over the eight-year period Brulle analyzed, the single largest funders are the combined foundations Donors Trust/Donors Capital Fund, which provided $78 million during that time.
"These donor-directed foundations make grants on behalf of an individual or corporation, thereby funding their preferred causes while keeping their identity a secret," said Brulle, accoridng to the Clean Technica article.."As a result, these two philanthropic organizations from a black box that conceals the identity of contributors to various climate change counter-movement organizations."
"The climate change countermovement has had a real political and ecological impact on the failure of the world to act on the issue of global warming," said Brulle in the Drexel Now article."If you want to understand what's driving this movement, you have to look at what's going on behind the scenes."
Bruelle conducted the study during a year-long fellowship at Stanford University's Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. It is the first part of a three-part project by Brulle to examine the climate movement in the U.S.
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