It's Not Just The Koch Brothers Funding Climate Change Denial

This Drexel University professor discovered the largest and most consistent funders behind the climate change denial movement are a number of well-known conservative foundations, mostly through "dark money."
It's Not Just The Koch Brothers Funding Climate Change Denial

Drexel University professor Dr. Robert J. Brulle has untangled how the funding was established by special interests to push climate change denial:

To uncover how the countermovement was built and maintained, Brulle developed a listing of 118 important climate denial organizations in the U.S. He then coded data on philanthropic funding for each organization, combining information from the Foundation Center with financial data submitted by organizations to the Internal Revenue Service. The final sample for analysis consisted of 140 foundations making 5,299 grants totaling $558 million to 91 organizations from 2003 to 2010.

Key findings 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 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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This study is part one of a three-part project by Brulle to examine the climate movement in the U.S. at the national level. The next step in the project is to examine the environmental movement or the  movement. Brulle will then compare the whole  flow to the entire range of organizations on both sides of the debate.

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