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New Study: Fossil Fuel Funding of Climate Science Denial Goes "Dark"

2 min. read

As we well know, the fossil fuel industries have spent large sums of money over the years to attack clean energy, to get positive press coverage, and to defend their gravy train of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare. Not surprisingly, there's been serious pushback to these efforts, which in turn appears to be pushing fossil fuel interests to more carefully cover their tracks. A new study, outlined in this article, explains how.

A new study conducted by Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert J. Brulle, PhD, exposes the organizational underpinnings and funding behind the powerful climate change countermovement. This study marks the first peer-reviewed, comprehensive analysis ever conducted of the sources of funding that maintain the denial effort.

Through an analysis of the financial structure of the organizations that constitute the core of the countermovement and their sources of monetary support, Brulle found that, while the largest and most consistent funders behind the countermovement are a number of well-known conservative foundations, the majority of donations are “dark money,” or concealed funding.

The data also indicates that Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, two of the largest supporters of climate science denial, have recently pulled back from publicly funding countermovement organizations. Coinciding with the decline in traceable funding, the amount of funding given to countermovement organizations through third party pass-through foundations like Donors Trust and Donors Capital, whose funders cannot be traced, has risen dramatically.

The fact that fossil fuel interests feel the need to cover their climate-science-denying tracks is an indicator of weakness, not strength. As the Washington Post's Plum Line explained recently:

Among the things environmentalists have been able to achieve in the past decade or so is making climate denialism (1) seem increasingly kooky and unfounded, and (2) seem like the efforts of an industry that is protecting itself rather than one that wants an honest debate about the science. If you reread Obama’s Georgetown speech, it’s clear the White House believes both areas contain much fertile ground. Recall the president’s invocation of the “Flat Earth society” and repeated references to the high percentage of scientists who agree climate change is happening.

The rush by ExxonMobil and other industry funders to obscure their funding of climate denialism could be a confirmation of those vulnerabilities. In turn, it presents an opportunity for environmentalists: keep pressing on those fronts. Climate denialism is wrong, and it is largely funded by CEOs trying to protect profits. Our present campaign finance system makes that harder to demonstrate, but far from impossible.

We couldn't agree more, and plan to keep pressing the fossil fuel industry to come clean - even as they work twice as hard to obscure what they're really up to.

Topics: Clean Economy