The first extensive study on the dark money that feeds the anti-climate change propaganda machine reveals that 91 organizations funded by 140 foundations have an annual income of over $900 million dollars with which to fight climate progress. According to the report, “the overwhelming majority of the philanthropic support comes from conservative foundations.”
Authors of the study refer to those who fight climate progress as “the climate change counter-movement” or CCCM. “It’s not just a couple of rogue individuals doing this,” the study’s author Robert Brulle told the Guardian. “This is a large-scale effort.”
With delay and obfuscation as their goals, the U.S. CCCM has been quite successful in recent decades. However, the key actors in this cultural and political conflict are not just the “experts” who appear in the media spotlight. The roots of climate-change denial go deeper, because individuals’ efforts have been bankrolled and directed by organizations that receive sustained support from foundations and funders known for their overall commitments to conservative causes.
Brulle notes that examining how the CCCM machine works can help explain just why climate change is still viewed as a controversy rather than what it is – scientific fact. As with any good theatrical production, he says, there are certain stars in the “drama of climate change, “such as “prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians” like Senator James Inhofe.
But behind the talking heads lies a vast, organized network of advocacy organizations, think tanks, and trade associations all funded by conservative foundations and working to mislead the public and hinder legislative action. And even Brulle’s study does not fully reveal the extent of funding sources in the CCCM effort. Many organizations are allowed to keep their donors anonymous. “This is how wealthy individuals or corporations translate their economic power into political and cultural power,” Brulle said.
During 2003 to 2010, the 91 CCCM organizations had a total income of more than $7 billion, with an annual average income of more than $900 million. Of the 91 organizations, 79 percent were registered as tax deductible charitable organizations.
Among the top funders are Koch-affiliated foundations, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Richard Mellon Scaife-affiliated foundations, and Donors Trust/Donors Capital Fund. Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund alone accounted for 14 percent of total foundation funding distribution from 2003 to 2010. The groups were created as a way for wealthy conservatives to secretly invest money into climate change denial groups.
In February, it was revealed that the two trusts were funding some of the main climate science adversaries such as Americans for Prosperity,an advocacy group linked to the Koch brothers, and the Heartland Institute, which focuses on spreading misinformation about climate change to children.
Whitney Ball, the CEO of Donors Trust, told the Guardian that her organization represents a wide range of opinion on the American right, but that its members found common ground in opposing mandatory cuts to greenhouse gas emissions. She also said that she assures her donors that their money “won’t be going to liberals.”
Conservative think tanks are the largest recipients of foundation support. Some of the most famous of these are the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute. “The distribution of funding shows that both conservative foundations and the recipient organizations are core actors in the larger conservative movement,” Brulle says in the report. “Private foundations gain their influence over social movement organizations through their financial power and constitute a system of power and influence.”
This year, the United Nations-sponsored International Panel on Climate Change, the world’s authority on the greenhouse gas effect, released their comprehensive climate change report, stating that it is “extremely likely,” or 95 percent certain, that human influence is the dominant cause of climate change. Furthermore, 97 percent of scientific, peer-reviewed articles agree that climate change is happening and that it is man-made.
Despite the increasing amount of dire climate predictions, the well-funded, well-organized conservative propaganda machine that exists in the United States has successfully drawn scientific fact into question and blocked legislative action on climate change. The conservative elite, who have a vested interest in the production of dirty fuels and ensuring fewer regulations on the fossil fuel industry, continue to successfully create doubt and debate where none should reasonably exist.