"Dark money" a leading funder of climate-denial efforts

More money being channelled through "pass through" organizations that hide funding origins

The largest, most consistent sources of money fuelling the climate-denial movement are a number of well-funded conservative foundations built with so-called “dark money”, or concealed donations, according to an analysis released Friday afternoon [December 20].


The study, by Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert Brulle, is the first academic effort to probe the organizational underpinnings and funding behind the climate-denial movement.

It found that the amount of money flowing through third-party, pass-through foundations like Donors Trust and Donors Capital, whose funding cannot be traced, has risen dramatically over the past five years.

In all, 140 foundations funnelled $558 million to almost 100 climate-denial organizations from 2003 to 2010.

Meanwhile, the traceable cash flow from more traditional sources, such as Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, has disappeared.
The study was published Friday [December 20] in the journal Climatic Change.

“The climate-change countermovement has had a real political and ecological impact on the failure of the world to act on global warming,” Brulle said in a statement. “Like a play on Broadway, the countermovement has stars in the spotlight—often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians—but behind the stars is an organizational structure of directors, scriptwriters, and producers.”

“If you want to understand what’s driving this movement, you have to look at what’s going on behind the scenes.”

Consistent funders

To uncover that, Brulle developed a list of 118 influential climate-denial organizations in the United States. He then coded data on philanthropic funding for each organization, combining information from the Foundation Center, a database of global philanthropy, with financial data submitted by organizations to the Internal Revenue Service.

According to Brulle, the largest and most consistent funders were a number of conservative foundations promoting “ultra-free-market ideas” in many realms, among them the Searle Freedom Trust, the John Williams Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation, and the Sarah Scaife Foundation.

Another key finding: from 2003 to 2007, Koch Affiliated Foundations and the ExxonMobil Foundation were “heavily involved” in funding climate-change-denial efforts. But Exxon hasn’t made a publically traceable contribution since 2008, and Koch’s efforts dramatically declined, Brulle said.

Coinciding with a decline in traceable funding, Brulle found a dramatic rise in the cash flowing to denial organizations from Donors Trust, a donor-directed foundation whose funders cannot be traced. This one foundation, the assessment found, now accounts for 25 percent of all traceable foundation funding used by organizations promoting the systematic denial of climate change.

A call and email Friday night [December 20] to Donors Trust was not returned.

Matter of democracy

In the end, Brulle concluded that public records identify only a fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars supporting climate-denial efforts. Some 75 percent of the income of those organizations, he said, comes via unidentifiable sources.

And for Brulle, that’s a matter of democracy. “Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible,” he said. “Money amplifies certain voices above others and, in effect, gives them a megaphone in the public square.”

Powerful funders, he added, are supporting the campaign to deny scientific findings about global warming and raise doubts about the “roots and remedies” of a threat on which the science is clear.

“At the very least, American voters deserve to know who is behind these efforts.”

Comments (9) Add New Comment
And where is the dark money that funds Climate Change proponents? For every Exxon there is a George Soros....
Rating: +4
Lee L
Oh yea D
'Dark Money' fuelling...fuelling what you say?

I think you need to look at the work our own Vivian Krause has done digging up 'Dark' funding close to our home. THAT worries me a lot more.
Rating: +3
Bruce is mistaken. The anti-science PR campaign Dr. Brulle studied controls the output of its PR firms. PR flacks are paid to deceive on behalf of clients. Scientists are paid to tell the truth, and they get ahead by showing their colleagues' (competitors') mistakes. There is no mechanism for research grants in the physical sciences to determine research outcomes. David Koch has a say in what you hear from Limbaugh and Beck and Brietbart about manmade global warming. There is no equivalent control on the science side. Grant makers know they'll be fired for funding false science. Sponsors don't like wasting their money that way.
Rating: -9

This paper conducts an analysis of the financial resource mobilization of the organizations that make up the climate change counter-movement (CCCM) in the United States. Utilizing IRS data, total annual income is compiled for a sample of CCCM organizations (including advocacy organizations, think tanks, and trade associations). These data are coupled with IRS data on philanthropic foundation funding of these CCCM organizations contained in the Foundation Center’s data base. This results in a data sample that contains financial information for the time period 2003 to 2010 on the annual income of 91 CCCM organizations funded by 140 different foundations. An examination of these data shows that these 91 CCCM organizations have an annual income of just over $900 million, with an annual average of $64 million in identifiable foundation support. The overwhelming majority of the philanthropic support comes from conservative foundations. ...


Oh dear, this is a dog's breakfast. It would ruin my Christmas to have to go through it seriatim and untangle it. 'climate change' (something that occurs even during thermal equilibria) morphs into 'anthropogenic climate change', the 'anthropogenic' component of which has no credible, as yet, formal quantification in any serious science discussion. The author is attempting to nail jello to a jelly wall.

Never let a sociologist anywhere near a science topic.
Rating: -3
Amazing to find an article on the climate-change counter-movement as being a bad thing. The entire climate-change movement has been created to make money and that is it! Your local weather guy can't tell you for certain whether it will rain or not therefore I am sure he's correct on the ebbs and flows of the Earth's climate over millions of years. People are fools for listening to anyone that has a blood pressure and believing them. While Christians are waiting for the return of our Lord, you lefties are wanting to save your God, the world. Believe God created this world and yes global-warming will be upon us soon. Just pray you won't be left on the Earth to experience it.
Rating: -3
Martin Dunphy

Thank you, Sheldon.
Rating: -4
It looks like the recent pipeline conflict has increased funding for those paid to pad the comments sections of local media.

The most amusing thing about the whole denial movement is that they expect us to believe that some ninety odd percent of climate scientists are involved in an air-tight world wide conspiracy to generate grant money and to disbelieve that the handful of corporations that represent the energy industry would ever adopt the same obfuscate and deny strategy used by the cigarette companies.

Hilarious. And another reason to look further into the nature and identification of psychopathy - because that is what it takes to knowingly ignore the realities of climate change.
Rating: -4
It's like if your septic tank is backing up.
You first observe that your back yard is looking kind of wet. Then as you investigate you determine that the moisture is coming from your septic tank. So a wet back yard morphs into an overflowing septic tank.
Then if your danR you continue to wallow around ankle deep in s**t water because the idea of a backed up septic tank doesn't appeal to you.
Rating: +4
Jerry B.
There are two salient questions the experts need to answer:

1 - Is climate change occurring?
2 - If so, is human activity the source?

The part of the scientific community that specializes in climate study has answered yes to both these questions. There is no more serious debate between credible experts on AGW. Anyone that suggests otherwise is either a liar or a dupe.
Rating: +1
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