A new study reveals that while the largest and most consistent funders behind the climate change countermovement are a number of well-known conservative foundations, the majority of donations are “dark money” or concealed funding.
Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert J. Brulle recently published a study in the journal Climatic Change exposing the organisational underpinnings and funding behind the powerful climate change countermovement. He found that while there has been a decline in traceable funding, the amount of funding given to third party pass-through foundations has risen dramatically.
For instance, from 2003 to 2007 Koch Industries and ExxonMobil were heavily involved in funding climate-change denial organisations. But since 2008 they are no longer making publicly traceable contributions. At the same time, organisations such as Donors Trust – a donor-directed foundation whose funders cannot be traced – now provides about 25 per cent of all traceable foundation used by organisations engaged in promoting systematic denial of climate change. What’s more, most funding for denial efforts is untraceable: Approximately 75 per cent of the income of these climate-change denying organisations comes from unidentifiable sources.
The climate change countermovement is a well-funded and organised effort to undermine public faith in climate science and block action by the U.S. government to regulate emissions. This countermovement involves a large number of organisations, including conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, trade associations and conservative foundations, with strong links to sympathetic media outlets and conservative politicians.
Brulle calls that the secrecy surrounding the funders of the climate change denial movement an issue of democracy. “Money amplifies certain voices above others and, in effect, gives them a megaphone in the public square,” said Brulle. “Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible.”