Thongchai Thailand

Funding the Climate Denial Industry

Posted on: October 21, 2019








  1. From 1997 to 2005, retired Boston Globe journalist and passionate environmentalist Ross Gelbspan wrote two books on what he calls “the climate crisis”. They are  {Gelbspan, Ross. The heat is on: The climate crisis, the cover-up, the prescription. Basic Books, 1998} and {Gelbspan, Ross. Boiling Point: How Politicians, Big Oil and Coal, Journalists, and Activists Have Fueled a Climate Crisis–and What We Can Do to Avert Disaster. Basic Books, 2005}. The thesis of these books appears to be that there is a crisis in climate change and that crisis is that there is a large, international, well organized, and well funded climate denial industry that challenges the catastrophic man made global warming theory and thereby stands in the way of its timely resolution with climate action which would consist essentially of ridding the world of fossil fuels. He argues that the source of the funds that has created this crisis in the climate change movement can be traced back to the fossil fuel industry and other capitalist big money institutions that profit from climate destroying business models. These ideas have given rise to a cottage industry of climate denialism research that traces their funding to the fossil fuel industry and to other vested interests where short term profiteering interests overcome long term environmental concerns. A bibliography of research in this area is presented below.
  2. A Scientific American article on this topic with the title “Dark Money” was published in December 2014. It cites the Brulle 2014 paper (listed in the bibliography below) to present Gelbspan’s  argument anew with respect to the challenge to climate action posed by the climate denial industry and the sinister conspiracy of their funding sources, The article presents Brulle’s data on the finances of climate denial organizations and their funding sources. The full text of the Scientific America article appears below. This Scientific American article is now the primary citation of climate activists when they make the charge of fossil fuel funding against persons or organizations that question the catastrophic man made climate change orthodoxy[LINK TO SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN ARTICLE]
  3. FULL TEXT OF SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN ARTICLE: The largest, most-consistent money fueling 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. 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 DonorsTrust and Donors Capital, whose funding cannot be traced, has risen dramatically over the past five years. In all, 140 foundations funneled $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 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 counter-movement 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.” “If you want to understand what’s driving this movement, you have to look at what’s going on behind the scenes. 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 where 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 DonorsTrust, 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. Jeffrey Zysik, chief financial officer for DonorsTrust, said in an email that neither DonorsTrust nor Donors Capital Fund “take positions with respect to any issue advocated by its grantees.” “As with all donor-advised fund programs, grant recommendations are received from account holders,” he said. “DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund ensure that recommended grantees are IRS-approved public charities and also require that the grantee charities do not rely on significant amounts of revenue from government sources. DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund do not otherwise drive the selection of grantees, nor conduct in-depth analyses of projects or grantees unless an account holder specifically requests that service.” In the end, Brulle concluded 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.”
  4. CONCLUSION: Climate science and climate activism in particular are surprised by the growth and influence of the climate denial industry and concerned that it may have grown into a significant obstacle to the implementation of climate action in terms of carbon budget prescriptions and their enforcement worldwide. It is estimated that more than $900 million a year are flowing into climate denial organizations in the USA alone and it is thought that the power and influence of climate denialism thus created can be controlled by identifying the funding sources as conspiratorial and by discrediting denialism organizations for accepting funds from such sources and thus becoming the agents of capitalist profit seeking against the greater good of environmentalism contained in climate action policies. 






  1. Dunlap, Riley E., and Aaron M. McCright. “Climate change denial: sources, actors and strategies.” Routledge handbook of climate change and society. Routledge, 2010. 270-290.  Climate change denial has taken various forms over the past two decades – including the denial of global warming, the denial of its anthropogenic sources and the denial of its seriousness – as climate science and socio-political contexts have evolved. While it originated in the US, climate change denial has spread gradually to a range of nations, creating something of an international movement. Initially funded primarily by the fossil fuels industry (Gelbspan 1997), {Gelbspan, Ross. The heat is on: The climate crisis, the cover-up, the prescription. Basic Books, 1998.} & {Gelbspan, Ross. Boiling Point: How Politicians, Big Oil and Coal, Journalists, and Activists Have Fueled a Climate Crisis–and What We Can Do to Avert Disaster. Basic Books, 2005}.over time conservative foundations and think-tanks have become major supporters and promoters of climate change denial. Conservative think-tanks in particular have facilitated and promoted the efforts of a small number of ‘contrarian’ scientists in an effort to provide the forces of denial with the guise of scientifi c credibility, magnifying the visibility and impact of the contrarians’ views (McCright and Dunlap 2000, 2003). The activities of the contrarians have supplied vital ammunition for attacking mainstream climate science, symbolised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and thus the scientifi c underpinnings of calls for policy-making to deal with climate change (Begley 2007).
  2. Dunlap, Riley E., and Aaron M. McCright. “Organized climate change denial.” The Oxford handbook of climate change and society 1 (2011): 144-160bandicam 2019-10-21 09-29-54-977
  3. Dunlap, Riley E. “Climate change skepticism and denial: An introduction.” American behavioral scientist 57.6 (2013): 691-698. The complex nature of human-caused or anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and uncertainties in the risks it poses make it challenging for laypersons to understand its causes, perceive its impacts, and take actions that might help alleviate future warming (Gifford, 2011; Norgaard, 2011; Pidgeon & Fischhoff, 2011; Weber, 2010). re These characteristics of AGW also make formulating and implementing measures that might be effective in limiting the degree and impact of continued warming modifficult for policy makers, leading to AGW being termed a “super-wicked problem” (Lazarus, 2009). This has contributed to the current situation in which there is a significant disjunction between the public’s views of AGW and those of the scientific community (Weber & Stern, 2011) as well as policy stalemate (Pooley, 2010). Even though climate science has now firmly established that global warming is occurring, that human activities contribute to this warming, and that current and future warming portend negative impacts on both ecological and social systems (National Research Council, 2010), a significant portion of the American public remains ambivalent or unconcerned (Leiserowitz, Maibach, Roser-Renouf, & Hmielowski, 2012) and many policy makers (especially in the United States) deny the necessity of taking steps to reduce carbon emissions (Brownstein, 2010).
  4. Brulle, Robert J. “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of US climate change counter-movement organizations.” Climatic change 122.4 (2014): 681-694.  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. Additionally, there is evidence of a trend toward concealing the sources of CCCM funding through the use of donor directed philanthropies.
  5. van der Linden, Sander L., et al. “The scientific consensus on climate change as a gateway belief: Experimental evidence.” PloS one 10.2 (2015): e0118489.  There is currently widespread public misunderstanding about the degree of scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, both in the US as well as internationally. Moreover, previous research has identified important associations between public perceptions of the scientific consensus, belief in climate change and support for climate policy. This paper extends this line of research by advancing and providing experimental evidence for a “gateway belief model” (GBM). Using national data (N = 1104) from a consensus-message experiment, we find that increasing public perceptions of the scientific consensus is significantly and causally associated with an increase in the belief that climate change is happening, human-caused and a worrisome threat. In turn, changes in these key beliefs are predictive of increased support for public action. In short, we find that perceived scientific agreement is an important gateway belief, ultimately influencing public responses to climate change.
  6. Farrell, Justin. “Corporate funding and ideological polarization about climate change.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113.1 (2016): 92-97.  Ideological polarization around environmental issues—especially climate change—has increased in the last 20 years. This polarization has led to public uncertainty, and in some cases, policy stalemate. Much attention has been given to understanding individual attitudes, but much less to the larger organizational and financial roots of polarization. This gap is due to prior difficulties in gathering and analyzing quantitative data about these complex and furtive processes. This paper uses comprehensive text and network data to show how corporate funding influences the production and actual thematic content of polarization efforts. It highlights the important influence of private funding in public knowledge and politics, and provides researchers a methodological model for future studies that blend large-scale textual discourse with social networks.. Drawing on large-scale computational data and methods, this research demonstrates how polarization efforts are influenced by a patterned network of political and financial actors. These dynamics, which have been notoriously difficult to quantify, are illustrated here with a computational analysis of climate change politics in the United States. The comprehensive data include all individual and organizational actors in the climate change countermovement (164 organizations), as well as all written and verbal texts produced by this network between 1993–2013 (40,785 texts, more than 39 million words). Two main findings emerge. First, that organizations with corporate funding were more likely to have written and disseminated texts meant to polarize the climate change issue. Second, and more importantly, that corporate funding influences the actual thematic content of these polarization efforts, and the discursive prevalence of that thematic content over time. These findings provide new, and comprehensive, confirmation of dynamics long thought to be at the root of climate change politics and discourse. Beyond the specifics of climate change, this paper has important implications for understanding ideological polarization more generally, and the increasing role of private funding in determining why certain polarizing themes are created and amplified. Lastly, the paper suggests that future studies build on the novel approach taken here that integrates large-scale textual analysis with social networks.

2 Responses to "Funding the Climate Denial Industry"

Many billions of dollars are expended in the promotion of the global warming science, with many of the catastrophic forecasts by so called global warming experts having been proved wrong, exaggerated, or at best still to be proven. To listen to their doomsday forecasts over the past two decades we should now be without any ice at the poles, the polar bears should be gone, the seas should have risen by metres, and warmed to a catastrophic degree, air temperatures should be at a very dangerous level, no more snow in Britain after 2005, plus very many forecasts that have been proven wrong. So why do you not think that there will be many scientists and non-scientists who will question the accuracy of the global warming scare. If the global warming scientists are confident of their facts, why not let other scientists present an opposing view? And why shouldn’t they raise funds from any source to support their case? Whatever the pointless findings for the source of their funding, it is but a fraction of the funding expended in the promotion of the unproven global warming science. To question the opposing view on the basis that the funding the promotion of their viewpoint, is somehow immoral is to indicate to logical laymen such as myself that you do not have confidence in your arguments, arguments which have so far at best been unproven and at worst, in many cases, being proven wrong by the facts. Furthermore, if the funding for the sceptic viewpoint is high, then there must be many corporate and private people who are prepared to support the sceptic viewpoint. If you are so confidant of your facts therefore, then why not come out fighting and openly debate your case with any of the very many excellent scientists around the world who do not agree with your viewpoint?

Good point. Well made. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: