Untraceable Funding Mechanisms Support Climate Change Denial

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Although a majority of US citizens believe in the scientific evidence of climate change, a number of powerful individuals and corporations are determined to undermine public faith in the scientific evidence for climate change. A new study conducted by Robert J. Brulle, an environmental sociologist at Drexel University, “exposes the organizational underpinnings and funding behind the powerful climate change countermovement.”  The Science Daily reports that, “this study marks the first peer-reviewed, comprehensive analysis ever conducted of the sources of funding that maintain the denial effort.”

The climate change countermovement, Science Daily reports, is “a well-funded and organized effort to undermine public faith in climate science and block action by the U.S. government to regulate emissions.” It involves “a large number of organizations, including conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, trade associations and conservative foundations, with strong links to sympathetic media outlets and conservative politicians.”

According to Brulle’s study:

* Conservative foundations (including the Searle Freedom Trust, the John William Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation) have bank-rolled climate change denial;
* Since 2008, major foundations, including the Koch Affiliated Foundations and the ExxonMobil Foundation, have pulled back from publicly visible funding; and
* Funding has shifted to pass through untraceable sources, including organizations such as the Donors Trust foundation.
* As a result, most funding for climate change denial efforts is now untraceable.  According to Brulle’s data, approximately 75% of the income of climate change denying organizations comes from “unidentifiable sources.”

“Like a play on Broadway,” Brulle explains, “the countermovement has stars in the spotlight — often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians — but behind the stars is an organizational structure of directors, script writers and producers, in the form of conservative foundations. If you want to understand what’s driving this movement, you have to look at what’s going on behind the scenes.”

“The real issue here is one of democracy,” Brulle reports. “Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible… 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.”

Sources:

“Not Just Koch Brothers: New study reveals funders behind climate change denial effort,” Science Daily, December 20, 2013, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131220154511.htm.

Robert J. Brulle, “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations,” Climatic Change, February 2014 (Vol. 122, Issue 4:681-694), http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-013-1018-7.

Student Researcher: Mitchell Monack (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluators: James Dean (Sonoma State University) and Stanley Falkow  (Stanford University)