A LOW-PROFILE funding organisation acting as a middleman for wealthy conservative businesspeople has been quietly backing climate denial campaigns across the US.
The Virginia-based Donors Capital Fund and its partner organisation Donors Trust has been giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to groups blocking attempts to limit greenhouse gas pollution and undermining climate science.
Yet the structure of the funds allows the identities of donors and the existence of any vested interests to remain hidden from public view.
Step aside the fakery of “hide the decline”. Say hello to “hide the deniers”.
During the 2009 unlawful release of the private emails of climate scientists, the phrase "hide the decline" became a catch cry for the denial industry as it tried to convince the world that global warming was some kind of hoax.
Sceptics, fake climate experts, conservative politicians and right-wing commentators latched onto the phrase contained in an email from British climate scientist Phil Jones.
Sceptics claimed it was evidence scientists were trying to manufacture global temperature records. In fact, Professor Jones's email said nothing of the sort.
Jones, as he explained to many, including the BBC
, was referring to data taken from tree rings that, up to the 1960s, had correlated well with global temperatures.
But “removing the incorrect impression given by tree rings that temperatures… were not rising”, as Jones explained, just didn’t have the same ring to it as “hide the decline”.
The most high profile case involving climate sceptics since that non-scandal of “Climategate” is the ongoing unmasking
(or for some, confirmation) of the methods the free-market Heartland Institute think-tank deploys to confuse the public about the dangers of fossil fuel emissions.
But the case also gives an insight into how Heartland and other ideologically aligned groups gather their funding while preserving the identity of their wealthy backers.
Heartland does not like the public to know who is funding its campaigns to deliberately undermine decades of research into the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on the climate and oceans.
Like other groups, such as the UK’s Global Warming Policy Foundation or Australia’s Institute for Public Affairs, these think-tanks promoting climate confusion say they keep their funders secret, in part, because of the public vilification they may attract if their identities are revealed.
Even so, previous investigations of Heartland’s funding
have found their backers to include Exxon Mobil, the Scaife oil, aluminium and banking family and a suite of other libertarian foundations.
A review of their grant giving, recorded in documents filed to the Internal Revenue Service, reveals DCF’s penchant for other climate sceptic, anti-greenhouse regulation campaigns which pour scorn on climate science and climate scientists while claiming environmental regulations are attacks on freedom.
DCF works by establishing what it calls “donor-advised funds” with a “minimum initial gift” of $1 million.
According to DCF’s IRS 990 declarations, in 2010 it gave out $41.1 million in grants. In 2009 this was $59.7 million and in 2008, $70.8 million.
The dollars given by donors are held by DCF in an account and invested, “until the donor recommends grant disbursements to any number of liberty-minded public charities”.
Donors can also appoint third parties or entire committees to dish out the cash on their behalf. DCF keeps spending the money at the donor’s request as long as it falls within DCF’s “overall mission and purpose”.
That purpose is to always promote private initiatives, rather than government programs, as the best way to tackle society’s issues in areas including the environment, social welfare and health.
As well as cutting down on paperwork, the DCF also allows the funders, and any vested interests, to remain hidden from public view.
In 2009, Heartland’s revenue was $6,785,374. That same year, DCF gave Heartland $2,171,530, of which at least $770,000 went specifically to global warming-related projects.
In 2008, when Heartland’s revenue was $7.78million, the DCF gave the institute $4.6 million, of which $184,000 was specifically for “global warming research projects” and $2million for “general operations”.
Also in 2009, DCF gave $115,000 to the Oregon-based Cascade Policy Institute for what the IRS 990 form described as “a cap and trade/climate change transparency video”.
The documentary in question was most likely “Climate Chains
”, which is part of the Cascade Policy Institute’s “Carbon Cartel Education Project”. DCF gave the Carbon Cartel Education Project $80,000 the previous year.
During the film, the “experts” claimed human-caused climate change was a “bandwagon”, a “fad” and that somehow, during what has since been declared as the hottest decade on the instrumental record, the world was cooling.
Any attempts to introduce laws to mitigate climate change, were simply an “attack on freedom”.
The experts featured in Climate Chains
were exclusively staff members of other free-market think-tanks, such as Myron Ebell and Christopher Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Pat Michaels, of the Cato Institute.
Heartland’s leaked 2012 Fundraising Plan highlighted a project to develop teaching modules for schools from kindergarten to grade 12 that would teach how climate science was “controversial”.
Heartland says that an “Anonymous Donor” has already pledged $100,000 to pay for the project.
The Daily Kos blog
(which has also provided links to all the relevant IRS 990 forms) puts a compelling case that this “Anonymous Donor” is reclusive industrialist Barre Seid, who has been using the DCF to direct his funds.
Also in 2010, DCF gave $35,000 to the “Free-to-Choose Network” for “unstoppable solar cycles DVD” – presumably to either pay for them, or distribute them. The network has also received $393,607 cash from DCF the previous year.
There were four principal scientific voices in the video, which argued the sun could be to blame for climate change and argued CO2 was a minor element in the climate system.
Dr David Legates and Dr Willie Soon are both well-known contrarian scientists with outlying
views on climate change.
The IRS forms reveal that in 2010 Donors Trust gave $50,000 to the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, “for research under Dr Willie Soon”.
and others reported last year, the Greenpeace investigation
found that every grant Dr. Soon has received since 2002 had originated with fossil fuel interests.
Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute and Koch Industries were revealed as major supporters of Soon’s research.
One of the other two interviewees in the video, Rie Oldenburg, the curator of the Narsaq Musem in Southern Greenland, claimed the makers of the video had misled her.
She was under the impression she was being interviewed for a video on Norse history. Oldenburg also claimed that the remaining participant in the video, Ingibjorg Gilsladottir, had been told the film was for the Discovery Channel.
The student presenter in the video, “Beth”, concluded, “From what I’ve heard the cost to reduce CO2 will be enormous and, as the scientists said, this may not be the cause. We could create disaster for poor countries and hardship for all of us and not change the pattern of warming and cooling.”
Other recent donations of note from DCF include $100,000 to the James Madison Institute for Public Policy “for climate change and Vaclav Klaus event”. Klaus is the president of the Czech Republic who describes human-caused climate change as a “mass delusion”.
The International Policy Network, which has published papers focusing on the “uncertainties” in climate change science and lobbying against putting a price on greenhouse gases, received $185,000 from DCF in 2010.
In 2010, Donors Trust gave several grants to one of the most overt of all climate science denying organisations, the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, which flew a delegation including Lord Christopher Monckton
to Durban for last year’s UN climate conference.
Some $535,500 went to CFACT’s “Environmental Education Fund”. A further $24,753 went towards the “Not Evil, Just Wrong project”.
Not Evil Just Wrong
is a film that claims regulating greenhouse gas emissions will cripple world economies and hurt the third-world.
DCF has close ties to another, higher profile funding group, Philanthropy Roundtable .
Adam Meyerson is DCF’s chairman and also the president of Philanthropy Roundtable. DCF’s vice-chairman, Kimberly O. Dennis, is a Philanthropy Roundtable board member as well as being the chairman of Donors Trust.
DCF shares an address with Donors Trust and several board members and staff. Whitney Ball is the president of DCF and Donors Trust.
Steven Hayward, a DCF board member, is also a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. In 2006, it emerged that Hayward had written to an astrophysics professor offering $10,000 for a review of an IPCC report to “explore the limitations of climate model outputs”.
Earlier this week, Hayward wrote in detail about the Heartland issue, not mentioning his role on the board of DCF, which has given Heartland more than $6million in recent years.
In Heartland’s most recent “Quarterly Performance Report ” the institute bragged it had logged “63,418 contacts with legislators” on climate change and environmental policy issues”.
In the report, senior fellow James M. Taylor, a Forbes blogger, was still claiming the 2009 “Climategate” emails showed scientists committing “fraud and misconduct” more than a year after numerous independent inquiries into the allegations found the opposite.
Not so much a case of “hide the decline” as a case of “hide the facts”, “hide the science” and “hide the deniers”.