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Funding the puppets of denial

Written By: - Date published: 12:11 pm, January 25th, 2012 - 12 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags: , , ,

Gareth at Hot Topic has been looking at the funding sources for our local climate denier organisations. He writes in “Puppets on a string: US think tank funds NZ sceptics uncovered” about the interesting (and long-suspected) revelation…

The Heartland Institute, the US organisation that plays a key role in organised climate denial, has directly funded New Zealand’s most prominent sceptics, a search of US Internal Revenue Service documents has revealed. In 2007, Heartland granted US$25,000 (NZ$32,000) to the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, sending the money to NZ CSC member Owen McShane. They also gifted the International Climate Science Coalition US$45,000 (NZ$59,000), forwarding the cash to NZ CSC webmaster and ICSC founding chairman Terry Dunleavy. The documents do not reveal what the money was used for, but four NZ CSC members attended the December 2007 Bali conference as part of an ICSC delegation. Bryan Leyland, energy advisor to both CSCs, confirmed in 2008 that “some expenses” for the trip had been covered by Heartland, but the NZ CSC has never revealed the full extent of the Heartland Institute funding of their operations, or its role in the expansion of their “climate science coalition” franchise.

Details of the payments from the US lobby group come in the “Form 990” statements the US Internal Revenue Service requires non-profit and tax-exempt bodies such as Heartland to file every year. These are available to the public, either by direct request to the organisation, or at various web sites. The Economic Research Institute web site provides a handy search tool for 990 forms, and here’s what they have for Heartland.

The details and particularly the timings of payments are interesting. The ICSC has been remarkable in how closely it follows the Heartland Institute “lines” since its formation and what is also interesting is

The discovery of Heartland funding of the creation of the ICSC puts the organisation in a difficult position. Its web site has this to say about funding:

Since its formation in 2007, ICSC has never received financial support from corporations, foundations or governments. 99% of all donations have come from private individuals in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, United States and Canada.

Heartland’s $45,000 seed money makes a mockery of that claim — unless of course private individuals have actually donated $4.5 million to the ICSC over the last four years, or an “institute” somehow counts as an individual. But we may never find out: the “funding” statement includes this:

The identities of all donors are kept strictly confidential to protect their privacy and safety.

Heartland’s 990 returns for the next two years are much less informative than that for 2007.

Heartland after 2007 only publishes aggregate data for the region. I guess that helps with concealing the recipients.

Over at Open Parachute, Ken is on a similar topic with “Who is funding the climate change denial groups“.  In this case he is commenting on a report on a UK based organisation.

Which brings me to the Guardians article Climate scientists back call for sceptic think-tank to reveal backers. Who funds the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a London-based climate sceptic think-tank chaired by the former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson? Many ahve been asking this. The group has been very active, and quite effective, in high publicity campaigns aimed at discrediting climate science and scientists. In particular it has attacked any real or perceived attempt by institutes to restrict availability of data.

Good on them, you might say. And who could disagree with Lawson’s 2010 statement:

“Proper scientists, scientists of integrity, they reveal, and voluntarily they wish to reveal, all their data and all their methods; they do not need a Freedom of Information Act request to force it out of them.”

And he added:

“Integrity means you show everything, absolutely.”

But he sings a different tune when asked who is funding his organisation. He just refuses to reveal the identity of his big donors. Understandably many accuse him of double standards. (I have experienced exactly the same hypocrisy from local denier groups when I have asked for copies of their data and methodology.) And so far he has had the state bodies on his side – a Freedom Of Information (FOI) request to the Charity Commission for it to make public a bank statement it holds revealing the name of the educational charity’s seed donor, who gave £50,000 when it launched in 2009, has been denied.

This Friday that decision is being appealed on the grounds that the public interest will be served by ending the secrecy around the financing of Lawson’s charity.

For groups that are so hot on the subject of transparency and freedom of information when it comes to scientist’s data, they appear to be extremely reluctant to have the same scrutiny on themselves.

I’m pretty sure that I know the reason for that reluctance. It is that companies and individuals who would be directly affected by effective measures to reduce climate change are the ones directly and indirectly funding these denier lobby groups. The hypocrisy of that funding that would be easily understood by the general public, and would forever leave pronouncements by such denier groups tainted.

But for the good of the public debate on climate change such groups should just be as completely transparent as they expect others to be. Otherwise such groups will just have to live with people like me viewing them  as being worthless sock-puppets with corporate hands stuffed up their arse manipulating them and no actual opinions of their own.

12 comments on “Funding the puppets of denial ”

  1. randal 1

    its very strange that they cant come clean.
    if they cant tell the truth about their money then they cant really tell the truth about anything.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1


      All organisations that have a political aspect should make their funding public. Where the money is coming from and where it’s going to. As they’re trying to influence us then it’s in the public interest to know.

  2. tc 2

    Failure or reluctance to disclose is a sure sign of something to hide, how many so called ‘think tanks’ and institutes are fronts for agendas being passed off as well researched balanced opinion…..yeah right.

  3. John Dalley 3

    tc. Most of them, right or left. Brian Leyland being on of the climate deniers.

  4. Solid Energy and this National Government haven’t denied the science around the dangers of mining lignite, they just ignore it it or make vague claims around how carbon emissions can be easily managed. The climate deniers are useful allies, for although Solid Energy doesn’t openly support them, their followers in conservative Southland are very vocal. After a successful Leave the Coal in the Hole Summer Festival in Mataura I am beginning to believe that science and truth may win the day.


    • Lanthanide 4.1

      I wonder how many people’s tunes will change when oil is up around $200-250 a barrel.

    • lprent 4.2

      Wow… Talk about minimal extra to scrape it on to the topic.. I guess you found the comment in OpenMike

      • Dave Kennedy 4.2.1

        lprent-Sorry, I obviously didn’t express the link as clearly as I had in my own mind (and I have just worked out what you did to my original comment). The National Government never denies the reality of climate change and pretends to address the causes while actively following an agenda of exploiting our fossil fuels with no regard at all to the resulting carbon emissions.

        While US support for New Zealand’s puppets of denial is obviously helpful to them, they are also supported by the fact that the Government doesn’t actively discredit them as they are useful allies in the rolling out of their energy plans.

        The lignite proposals in Southland will potentially see the release of 17 million tonnes of carbon emissions on an annual basis ( http://localbodies-bsprout.blogspot.com/2011/04/lignite-mining-what-price-for-future.html ) which will blow out our total emissions considerably. Even though the internationally regarded climate scientist, Dr James Hansen, has expressed his dismay at the foolhardiness of the proposals and our own Environment Commissioner, Dr Jan Wright, presented a report against mining the lignite, the projects are going ahead.

        While exposing the funding of our local deniers is hugely useful I would have thought it is their legitimacy provided by this government’s stance that gives them their greatest power. You only have to read the letters to the editor in the Southland Times to see how the deniers are influencing local decisions through creating doubt about the dangers of the lignite industry and, other than the Green MPs, there is a huge silence from the government and Labour when these crazy views are expressed under the guise of science and academic credibility.

        I wasn’t wanting to add confusion to your excellent post but broaden the discussion to what I think is the key factor in giving strength to the deniers. Accessing the lignite reserves in Southland will probably be the largest single activity that will contribute the most damage to our green house gas emissions and will benefit most from the activities of the deniers, hence my passion for contributing to this discussion. I hope I have expressed the link more clearly this time.

  5. Marjorie Dawe 5

    I cant believe that our values can be sold so cheaply. Money certainly seems to talk and we will be sold down the river by nebulous forces.

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