Even after recent reports from the IPCC stating that climate change is human’s fault, the debate continues to rage on in the U.S. resulting in public confusion. But why? The constant mixed messages in U.S. media and the adamant refusal at national legislative levels to even consider science has pretty much thrown any conversation over the damage we have done to the Earth into a tailspin of conspiracy theories and falsehoods.
A new study titled “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations” by R. J. Brulle, professor of Sociology and Environmental Science at Drexel University, sheds some light on the outrageous amount of money that backs anti-climate change foundations.
The study examines the funding of organizations that make up the Climate Change Counter-Movement (CCCM), a term created by Brulle to collectively address the organizations that take on anti-climate change positions.
In his research he looked at the funding patterns of the CCCM from 2003 to 2010. Using IRS data, he followed the money trail for funding and pieces together the social network of anti-climate change social networking. In total, he examined the income of 91 organizations that are funded by 140 different foundations that oppose climate change.
These 91 organizations received on average $900 million per year. That’s almost a billion dollars a year in funding from mostly conservative donors. Brulle states that not all this money goes to anti-climate change funding, but it still illustrates the amount of wealth that is available to cloud the water of climate science.
Most of the funding comes from conservative foundations like Searle Freedom Trust, John William Pope Foundation, Howard Charitable Foundation, and the Sarah Scaife Foundation. But a shift has occurred in the last few years of the study period as high profile donors like the Koch Brothers and ExxonMobil have moved away from publicly funding anti-climate change organizations. On the rise, however, are contributions from Donors Trust/Donors Capital Fund, which gave over $78 million to groups in eight years and provides a level of secrecy when it comes to who is donating funds.
“Private foundations gain their influence over social movements organizations through their financial power and constitute a system of power and influence,” Brulle states in his study.
Through this power, they begin to wield control over the message and priorities of the organization, steering them in the direction that would be beneficial to their business or the status-quo of their lifestyle. Basically, individuals use their wealth to take control over the proverbial megaphone that speaks to the public about the issue of climate change.
Brulle also says, “External funding creates a dynamic that can be seen as financial steering of social movement organizations.”
So any “scientific reports” that are the result of these organizations have to be questionable if they are being funded and “steered” by certain individuals with an agenda. Opposition and challenges proposed in the debate has made science what it is, but when that opposition is funded by someone who is not looking to understand the world but control it, those results should be voided.
Some would even go as far as calling these funding activities criminal. Donald Brown, a Penn State Associate Professor in environmental ethics told Examiner.com, “We may not have a word for this type of crime yet, but the international community should find a way of classifying extraordinarily irresponsible scientific claims that could lead to mass suffering as some type of crime against humanity.”
Ultimately, what Brulle has done in his study is to create a map, to the best of his ability, that follows the money trail from conservative, anti-climate change individuals/corporations to organizations that produce anti-climate change claims. His study illuminates why human-made climate change is even a debate in the U.S. and how immense wealth and funding can redirect discourse on a national scale — something that should not be allowed to happen in the first place.