Conservatives Donate $1 Billion To Climate Denying Groups Per Year

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Originally published on ThinkProgress.
By Kiley Kroh.


Organizations that actively block efforts to address climate change are funded by a large network of conservative donors to the tune of nearly $1 billion a year, according to the first in-depth study into the dark money that fuels the denial effort.

The study, published Friday in the journal Climatic Change, analyzed the income of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups, and industry associations, funded by 140 different foundations, that work to oppose action on climate change. The study’s author, Robert Brulle, refers to these organizations as the climate change counter-movement, and concludes that their outsized influence “has not only played a major role in confounding public understanding of climate science, but also successfully delayed meaningful government policy actions to address the issue.”

“It is not just a couple of rogue individuals doing this,” Brulle told the Guardian. “This is a large-scale political effort.”

From 2003 to 2010, the organizations had a total income of more than $7 billion, averaging out to over $900 million per year. Over the eight year span, their funding has increased by 13 percent and in 2010, total funding for the organizations was nearly $1.2 billion. An important caveat, as Brulle notes, is that many of the organizations are multi-purpose, so not all of the income was devoted to anti-climate change initiatives.

Brulle defines the climate change counter-movement as the organized effort to prevent policies that will limit the carbon pollution emissions that drive man-made climate change. Their efforts cover a range of activities, from lobbying to political contributions to media campaigns that attempt to discredit the scientific consensus around global warming.

The 91 groups include trade associations, think tanks, and advocacy organizations. The vast majority of the groups — 78 percent — were registered as charitable organizations and enjoyed considerable tax breaks.

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Heritage Foundation, two of the best-known conservative think tanks in the U.S., were also among the top recipients of funding. AEI received 16 percent of the total grants that were made to organizations active in the climate change counter-movement and Heritage was close behind, receiving 14 percent of total grants.

The largest and most consistent funders of organizations leading the charge on 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.

A key shift Brulle uncovered is that traditionally high-profile funders of climate denial, such as the Koch brothers and ExxonMobil, have moved away from publicly funding organizations that oppose action on climate change. The single-largest funders are the combined foundations Donors Trust/Donors Capital Fund, providing more than $78 million in funding to the groups over the eight year span. These donor directed foundations make grants on behalf of an individual or corporation, thereby funding their preferred causes while keeping their identity a secret. As a result, writes Brulle, “these two philanthropic organizations form a black box that conceals the identity of contributors to various CCCM organizations.”

The Donor Trust/Capital giving increased dramatically over the period of time Brulle examined, from just 3.3 percent in 2003 to 23.7 percent in 2010. At the same time, the funding from Koch Affiliated Foundations and ExxonMobil Foundation declined significantly, with Exxon effectively ending public funding of climate change counter-movement groups in 2007.

Just as it’s impossible to know whether Koch Foundations and ExxonMobil are channeling their climate-denying funds through third-party groups such as Donors Trust, most funding for denial efforts is untraceable. Despite extensive data compilation and analyses, only a fraction of the hundreds of millions in contributions to climate change denying organizations can be specifically accounted for from public records. According to Brulle, approximately 75 percent of the income of these organizations comes from unidentifiable sources.

Despite the significant amount of “dark money” being funneled into efforts that seek to obstruct action on climate change or misinform the public, Brulle concludes that sufficient evidence exists that “a number of major conservative foundations have clearly played a crucial role in the development and maintenance of the [climate change counter-movement].”

The result is not just an obfuscation of fact and deliberate effort to slow any progress on addressing the most pressing issue of our time, but an assault on democracy. “Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible,” said Brulle. “Money amplifies certain voices above others and, in effect, gives them a megaphone in the public square. Powerful funders are supporting the campaign to deny scientific findings about global warming and raise public doubts about the roots and remedies of this massive global threat. At the very least, American voters deserve to know who is behind these efforts.”

Image: pollution via Shutterstock

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75 thoughts on “Conservatives Donate $1 Billion To Climate Denying Groups Per Year

  • When we once again see on our TVs the extreme weather events which now occur with monotonous frequency and cause untold hardship and loss of life to the most vulnerable communities, these reactionary activities can no longer be tolerated as the benign questioning of the need for the revolution from the established poisonous energy sources which they purport to be.
    If there was any actual risk, as with nuclear, that wind and solar could cause damage, that would at least partly justify their blandishments, but there is not, so they can at best be regarded as irresponsible and, at worst, criminal.

    They need to be dealt with accordingly.

  • If the climate change true believers would stop evangelizing to the choir of CO2 geeks and start talking about replacing coal and petroleum coke with something cleaner and 2.5x better relative to CO2 they would do every living person a big favor.

    Everyone but the true believers, knows that real people will care more about their own lives than pie in the sky projections of ten generations from now. Wake up and smell the diesel fumes that a little planning could stop the crippling effects on your kids and grandkids.

    • People who are plugged into reality know that the majority of US citizens are concerned about climate change, understand that it is happening now, and want something done about it.

      • Desertec has pretty much bit the dust. Largely, I suspect, due to North Africa political unrest.

        It’s been largely replaced by eHighway 2050. A mostly European version reaching out to Iceland and, I think, including Morocco.

  • There is no real long-term adaption that is possible for the type of Climate Change we continue to create. Why do articles such as this only consider the small consequences? Science has shown us the long term devastation.

    Unfortunately for all of us, the science is very clear: Tar Sands, Natural Gas leaks, and Coal will cause climate change to go beyond the control of humans. Worldwide, we have to fully stop using these fossil fuels 2030, with a rapid phase out occurring immediately. Only if the United States leads this effort do we have a chance.

    The consequences sound unreal, but they are true: there is now the probability that earth will go the way of Venus. If humans allow oceans to warm to the point where the 50+ million year buildup of methane hydrates currently sitting on ocean floors are released into the atmosphere, our planet will warm too much to support life. Earth will become another Venus.

    Between the unprecedented climate forcing by human use of fossil fuels + the release of methane hydrates – climate change will run away. Our surface temperature will go from 15C to 100C, and the oceans will boil away. This is where we are going. If we continue to burn coal and unconventional fossil fuels, this will happen in less than 300 years from now. The humans alive in 2100 will have such a different planet than we live on today as to be unknowable to us. We need to keep most known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground – regardless of what we fear that choice may do to our current immediate lifestyles.

    Our government must do more. Obama much do much more on this issue. We must lead and change the world.

    This is not science fiction. This is what science and the data tell us. Read about it. Study it. We can’t afford not to understand this. Listen to the leading scientists our world has to offer: Hansen, etc.


    • Let’s not forget that all these tar sands coal deposits and natural gas reserves originated from carbon that was in the atmosphere millions of years ago and it was an ecological disaster of mass scale when new carbon sequestering organisms such as the emerging azolla species set off cooling that caused the formation of the ice caps and triggering rapid fluctuations in global temperature, ice ages, and massive extinction events. Earth has a warmer stable state with higher atmospheric carbon and no ice caps, in this state life flourished throughout all of earth and in this state mammals such as bats, elephants, rodents, marsupials, aquatic mammals and even primates first appeared.

      Although I agree that the current rate of change is perhaps too excessive returning to a pre industrialized level of carbon consumption would be devastating to life on earth. Due to carbon sequestration there has been a definite cooling trend for the past 50 million years with rapidly warming and cooling cycles in the pas 2 million years with devastating effects on ecology.

      To me the biggest concern is that climate science frequently presents a notion that the climate was in a stable state before industrialization, we where in a brief warm period between ever more frequent and ever more severe ice ages. Earths ideal climate of the 1400’s should not be viewed as some sort of idyllic pinnacle. We should grab hold of the leavers of climate with both hands and carefully guide it safely back to the vastly more stable flourishing and healthy conditions that existed during the Eocene.

      Would you like to know more?

      • On what planet do you live where climate scientists frequently present a notion that the climate was in a stable state before industrialization?

        • We often call it earth.

          • Funny, we call our planet Earth.

            Weird, huh?

          • Interesting. We call our planet “Earth”.

            Perhaps that’s how you managed to get your comment on our intertubes.

  • And how much is donated by Climate Affirming groups including the EPA and other Fed Agencies? Talk about one sided, biased reporting!!

    • Poor jed. He doesn’t want anyone supporting the facts. Only the greedy rich should be allowed to talk.

      Peasants should keep their mouths shut and let their betters speak.

      • Not at all- So how much IS being spent by the Agonist crowd? The problem with the so called climate change science is that it seems to be based on Consensus. Science is not about consensus. Show me the Hypothesis, show me the null hypothesis and show me how the null was rejected/planned to be rejected. Meanwhile, why not answer the question regarding the amounts spent by the pro Lobby?

        • I have no idea what the agonist crowd might be.

          If you’re asking how much effort many of us spend dealing with knuckleheads that don’t understand science, quite a bit.

          • So Bob,
            What’s the null hypothesis and where is the disproof? It doesn’t get any more scientific than that

          • Actually, jed, science moved so far past that sort of stuff it can only be found in history books and cobweb-filled brains.

            Now, if you have an actual point to make, hopefully one that you can back up with valid data, please make it. Otherwise you’re invited to not post.

  • Once again the Warmist crowd misrepresents the so called climate deniers. There is not one group of so called deniers that denies humans have an effect on the climate. The real issues is how much of an effect and is the cost of doing something worth it. Currently the “how much” is based on computer models that indicate accelerated temperature growth with the rise of CO2. These models are currently failing to account for the last 20 years of actual temperature data. Until the models show differently then the Warmist crowd will not be believed.

    • What is it with so many engineers who seem to be unable to understand basic science? One would think that they would have had to pass some undergraduate science classes in order to become engineers. And that would have left them able to comprehend basic principals.

      Here – under informed engineer. Get up to speed on climate models-

      • Please don’t generalize.
        Not all engineers are so ludicriously undereducated in science.

        In engineering degrees you do have to pass science classes in order to become an engineer.

        • I certainly do understand that. But it seems that so many of the deniers identify themselves as engineers.

          It’s simply strange to me that a group of educated people who would need little time to understand the basics of climate science would keep themselves intentionally uninformed.

          Bubba, down at the bait shop, I get that. But these people spent years learning scientific principals and how to apply them. They already understand the difference between heat and visible light wave lengths, selective absorption, all that stuff….

          • Maybe there is some reason to choose engineer over scientist for these bought denialists, because let’s face it, most isn’t because of honest sincere opinion.

            Maybe they choose engineer over scientist because it looks less like ivory tower. Engineers make things are naturally assumed to be pragmatic. Engineers make stuff for you, scientists produce words you can’t use is maybe why they choose engineers over scientists as a title.

          • “Engineers make stuff for you, scientists produce words you can’t use ”
            Scientists discover principles and causes. Engineers take those findings and apply them to daily use.

          • It’s just how the common man could view the difference.
            I know science and engineering complement each other and are both crucial.

    • I guess you forgot to read the last IPCC report stating the apparent slowing of temp increases in recent yeas is because the oceans are absorbing more heat. The long term graph is clear, the planet is warming. Once again someone like you cherry picks the data to support their erroneous view.

      Here you are, read that.

    • “The real issues is how much of an effect and is the cost of doing something worth it. ”

      Start with the cost of not preventing the worst of climate change.

      The loss of our most productive farm lands. Flooding of our coastal cities, requiring massive infrastructure rebuilds.

      As an engineer are you able to comprehend how much just those two problems would cost?

      Then, as an engineer, you must realize that power plants have finite lifespans. They must be replaced at some point. The average lifespan of a US coal plant is about 40 years. Take a look at the chart and see how old our plants are. We will replace them with something over the next few years. Thankfully wind, solar and storage are cheaper than new coal plants.

      Solar is now cheaper than gas peakers. Wind is bringing down grid electricity prices. By installing renewables we not only help cut out GHG problems, we save money.

    • The climate hiatus turns out not be so.. Arctic measurements, now being made, show temperature increases in line with those previously.

      And please explain to me how CO2 would suddenly stop being a greenhouse gas. OR, explain what other mechanisms can account for temp rise over last 150 years, or why 12 of the last 15 years are the warmest on record. Is reality a scam?

      Denial kills. And you are complicit.

  • I thought we are a litigious society? Why not sue these climate change deniers if they have money? The evidence is overwhelming.

    • Maybe we should.

      • Sure let’s sue the anyone that has an opposing via. Why don’t we just skip that and send them to jail. We would ask the North Korean’s to help us.

        • Sure, why not?

          Deniers have made it very clear they won’t stop attempting to murder everyone on the planet.

          You can’t negotiate or compromise with death cults whose only goal is to watch the world burn.

  • These donors, along with supporters of the NRA, should be jailed.

    • We could ask Russia how to trump up some charges and lock them away.

      • Sure that would work too.

  • More doom & gloom from the global warming conspirators…meanwhile it’s -10 where I live and for you metric heads that’s -18.3 Celsius.
    Why are you all so scared about global warming?? I for one hope we do commit suicide as the planet will do fine without us..has for billions of years and will continue to do fine without humans.

    • Some of us humans kind of like the idea of living in a climate that doesn’t start kicking our butts on a regular basis.

      You seem to not care. That’s your choice, not too many in your camp.

    • So there you have it folks!

      If you believe in climate change, it’s only because you understand the concept of winter and think murdering everyone is a bad thing.

    • Deforestation in warmer area’s, agriculture is still extremely vulnerable to even small fluctuations in temperatures different than the usual regime (most not in greenhouses), water shortage in all area’s.

  • You can see who the real deniers are, they’re the ones who resort to ad hominem attacks on those who don’t agree with their strange Religion of Gaia. Unfortunately, religious zealots have been a thorn in the side of true science since the dawn of Man, and this is just another example of that blind zealotry. In 50 years time, hopefully, much less, they will be looked upon in the same way as the Luddites and flat-Earther’s were in theirs.

    • “they’re the ones who resort to ad hominem attacks on those who don’t agree with their strange Religion of Gaia.”

      And the niggers are the real racists, right?

      The simple fact of the matter is, you deniers are being flushed down the toilet of history.

      And it doesn’t matter how much you scream and say everyone agrees with you.

      They. Just. Don’t.

      Face it, you lose.

      The only thing left is for your odious little gang to die off.


    • John, when you post stuff like that do you not realize that you’re labeling yourself as a ignorant old git who is being left behind?

      Twisting words in a Rovian “1984” manner doesn’t make for a logical argument. It just says “I ain’t got nothing, so I’ll just toss in some trash”.

      How about this, John? Let’s assume you are of at least average intelligence and if exposed to some scientific facts you could grasp the basics of what is happening.

      Here’s a page on which 174 denier myths are addressed. Lots of excellent information. Just spend some time there and click on the ones that the fossil fuel industry has fed you and find out why they are wrong.

      Come on, John. Get up to speed. Don’t embarrass us old guys.

      • Thanks for the link. Now, if “reason” commands respect….o, well..

  • Silly BS will be taken down.

    • BS? An inconvenient truth perhaps? these are not “tribes” just as Abdul Hassan’s was not “workplace violence”

  • Only a few years ago we looked forward with trepidation to a future where our fuel was due to expire in the not too distant future. Then, we learned that in the meantime we faced a hostile environment which might destroy our lives.

    Let us celebrate the twin miracles of the effortless and efficient means of communication provided by the Internet and now Renewable Energy sent to us as our means of salvation from doom, exactly at the right time.

    Merry Christmas everyone.

    • And let’s make our New Year’s resolution to move quickly to install renewables and put fossil fuels behind us.

      We’ve got the solutions. Time to implement.

      Enjoyable festivals, everyone….

  • Answering who could possibly be against objectively studying climate change.

    • Coal costs taxpayers $100-$300 billion per year in over 70 impacts (Google: Harvard School of Medicine, social cost of coal). And over 14,000 premature deaths per year. The alternatives are far better and growing at a rapid rate.

      Offshore wind, for example could supply 70% of the East Coast with power. You will see it coming on, I bet.

      • Have you ever thought of the consequences of large scale interference with natural winds by putting up bazillion propellers in the sky? What impact would impeded wind on a global scale, equivalent to the use of fossil fuels, have on global climate? Similarly, what impact would interference with intercepting light from falling on its own natural surfaces and instead be trapped by solar panels? Sounds kooky? Yep, and so did similar assertions on fossil fuel a 100 years ago. The point is that according to the laws of Nature, you just cant win and the best bet is to out-migrate to Mars and beyond to save some of the human genome.

        • Anything is possible, it is speculation; but it’s best to go on evidence.

          Svente Arrhenius showed, in the 19th Ce, evidence that CO2 in sufficient quantities would warm our atmosphere.
          He had evidence, and his prediction as to the effects of doubling CO2 was ballpark close to current estimates.

          Our policy makers have ignored the evidence in a most reckless way.

          In my own experience, my solar panels have cooled my office – in addition to dropping electric bills near to zero.

          But, if there is evidence that wind/solar will damage our biosphere as do fossil fuels, we should look at it carefully. And act. There is no evidence so far.

          • Is there a model for that?

          • Sorry…a model for what?

        • Enough wind turbines and solar panels to produce our electricity would not be noticeable in changing the Earth’s wind speeds and albedo. Do we worry about that when we build cities?

          The emissions from fossil fuel plants are killing us and killing our climate.

  • Forget “debate”, just a fancy word for delay.

    If a doctor (or a father) with a sick child just “didn’t
    believe” in the Germ Theory of Disease, he would face criminal charges when his
    patient (or his son) died of infection. But, “hey, it’s just my
    opinion”, he whines.

    In the same way Congressmen who simply “don’t believe” in AGW should face criminal negligence charges.

    Just as certainly as in the case of Germ Theory denial, one can demonstrate their complicity in actions that lead to deaths of hundreds of thousands every years due to climate extremes. The WHO, for example, estimates annual mortality of 140,000 (and their number is far lower than most).

    James (Worm Tongue) Inhofe should be first in the docks. He knows he lies; cherry picking means ignoring evidence.

    • Prions don’t follow germ theory.. skepticism is not a bad thing

      • I am skeptical of denier’s “skepticism”. It is simply a mask for delay, profiting fossil fuel corporations, at the great expense to the rest of us. It blocks reasonable precautions. It is not truly skeptical, as it begins with the certainty that the scientists (by and large) are wrong. It is not open minded, and is rather dogmatic. It is merely oppositional.

        • The scientific method calls for skepticism- without it no progress can be made. You can only disprove a hypothesis, you cant prove it. The only recourse is to disprove the skeptic’s theories, and not indulge in ad-hominum attacks on those expressing it. Skeptics are the only ones that advance science.

          • Yes, skepticism within reason. Enough skepticism to keep from absolutely believing in something to the extent that one is unable to take on new discoveries and modify ones belief.

            Climate change deniers are not skeptics. They are true believers in something not supported by scientific fact.

      • What is a prion?

      • Skepticism is a good thing. Any decent scientist is a bit skeptical, that leaves room to consider new information.

        Deniers are not skeptics. They are true believers who maintain their belief regardless of the information people provide to them.

        Warming deniers are not swayed by the data from so many divergent sources, from atmospheric temperature records, ocean temperature records, tree ring core samples, melting sea and glacial ice, change in geographic range of plants and animals, changes in planting zones.

        Human-caused warming deniers are not swayed by the so easily demonstrated heat trapping ability of greenhouse gases, by the measured increase in greenhouse gases, by the lack of any other physical force that would drive temperature increases,.

        Don’t make the mistake of thinking that deniers are skeptics. Deniers are among the most closed-mined of all. They “know” based on nothing but “what they know” and in order to maintain that belief they have to ignore what is happening in plain sight.

        • What makes the “deniers” dig their heels in is the fact that those asserting Man Made Global warming are not content to declare it so – they want “action” which usually means grabbing money and resources from the rest in the name of Global Warming Mitigation and Research. If these efforts were privately funded, I don’t think there would be this much push back. Denial is a good thing too- keeps a healthy balance between those who are only too eager to act
          and those not willing to do so. By The Way, whatever happened to the “scientific” global COOLING hysteria of a few decades ago?

          • If that is what is driving deniers then they are stupid beyond stupid. They are willing to destroy the climate in order to save some small change.

            And they are ignorant. Minimizing further climate change will not be expensive if we get going soon. Much of the cost would be paid by the money we would otherwise spend on replacing worn out thermal plants.

            Take a look at how old our coal and nuclear plants are. We’re going to have to spend money to replace them regardless of what we do. We can spend that money on renewables, minimize climate change, and lower our electricity bills.

            Denial is not healthy. It’s stupid. It’s being closed-minded. Denial is what is keeping us from wiping polio off the face of the Earth.

            BTW, there was no scientific global cooling hysteria. There were a few papers that suggested cooling might happen but they were in the minority and flawed. If you think there was a cooling hysteria then it would appear that you get your information from sources that lie.

            Why don’t you read what scientists have to say about the “cooling hysteria”?


            Then why don’t you read through all the various denier arguments on this page and check what scientists have to say about them? An open minded person would….


          • If I was so frightened that the world is going to end and that I do not want to die, I would post haste get onto that first one way trip to Mars

          • Just to give you an example of how simplified thinking may be flawed (such as we are all going to die of global warming). The polio issue is not one of deniers. They (the Muslims) are taking a calculated risk that the disease will confer natural immunity on members of their religion and they will “take care” of the kids who succumb. The advantage is that their “group” will have developed natural immunity while the general population (western, non Muslim) world would constantly be needing immunizations and therefore more vulnerable to the disease in the long term. See? nothing is as simple as you make it out to be, not even global warming. or not.

          • You’ve confused Muslims with Drow.

          • Oh, come on.

            The tribal people who are not allowing polio vaccines believe that the vaccines are being used to make them sterile.

            All they have to do is to look at the people who have been vaccinated and who are producing children. The facts are in their faces.

            Just like human-caused global warming facts are clearly visible to those whose minds are open enough to take a look.

          • What makes the “deniers” dig their heels in is the fact that those asserting Man Made Global warming are not content to declare it so – they want “action” which usually means grabbing money and resources from the rest in the name of Global Warming Mitigation and Research. If these efforts were privately funded, I don’t think there would be this much push back.

            Extra! Extra! Read all about it!:


  • even if they are right, and they better,
    there is a lot of money to be made for everybody out there.
    put solar, put a EVI heat pump, go all electric,
    EV car, solar on the garage
    produce what you use
    its all there
    its affordable
    just do it,
    I did
    and save 8000 dollars a year, every year.

  • Once again the alarmist try to demonize anyone who disagrees with them:
    “It also seems as though engineers are less likely than scientists to accept the fact of evolution” from Duwayne Anderson or “Not all engineers are so ludicriously under educated in science.” from johnBas5 or from you Bob Wallace “I certainly do understand that. But it seems that so many of the deniers identify themselves as engineers.”
    If you have a sensible argument then I would like to hear it.

    Maybe if would read my post you would understand that I don’t “Deny” climate change. What I question is whether humans are going to cause a catastrophic effect on earths climate. So far the models, that the so called warmist point to, have failed.

    I also think it is also amazing that this articdle somehow indicates there is $1 billion dollars being spent to tamp down the discussion. Even the author of the study disputes this:
    If you believe that then PBS which if funded by many of these same organizations must be part of the “denier” conspiracy.

    • No, Non-sensible Engineer, the climate models have not failed.

      What has failed is your knowledge base.

      Must you be reminded – “Garbage in, garbage out”? Step away from the coal-industry disinformation stream and learn some science.

      Were you building bridges using the sort of crappy structural information like you’ve accepted for climate science you would kill a lot of people.

      • Your right on one point “Garbage in, garbage out”. These models are currently at the tail end of the 95% confidence level.
        One this is for sure, because of the failure of the Current Hypothesis to show model based warming, there will be no concrete action on worldwide CO2 emissions. In the next 5-10 years the ACTUAL data will prove that either the Warmist crowd was correct or the so called “Deniers” are correct.

        • Please don’t abuse capital letters.

          The data clearly shows that the planet is warming and the warming is due to humans burning fossil fuel. If you aren’t aware of that then you need to catch up with the science.

          Climate models are working well. They are not 100% accurate which is to be expected. We’re still learning the fine points of how the various variables interact with each other.

          Let me suggest you spend some time on this page and learn why the denier myths are nothing but myths…

  • we dont see the expenditures of the liberal left fueling this hoax… to tax to death capitalism. wake up u dumb liberals. u are killing jobs an freedoms and will be doomed if u get ur way!!!

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