Most donations behind the climate change denial effort in the United States are “dark money,” or concealed funding, finds the first peer-reviewed, comprehensive analysis ever conducted of the sources of funding behind the campaign.
A new study by Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert J. Brulle, PhD, exposes the organizational underpinnings and funding behind the climate change denial “countermovement.”
This well-funded and organized effort seeks to undermine public faith in climate science and block action by the U.S. government to regulate emissions 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.
Dr. Robert Brulle (Photo courtesy Drexel University)
Dr. Brulle, a professor of sociology and environmental science in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences, conducted the study during a year-long fellowship at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Published late last month in the journal “Climatic Change,” the study finds that funding for climate science denial has shifted to pass through untraceable sources.
While the largest funders of climate change denial are a small number of conservative foundations, two of the largest supporters of climate science denial, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, have pulled back from publicly funding countermovement organizations, Brulle learned.
“The climate change countermovement has had a real political and ecological impact on the failure of the world to act on the issue of global warming,” said Brulle. “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, 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.”
Brulle found that 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.