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Billionaires Secretly Fund Vast Climate Denial Network 848

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Suzanne Goldenberg reports that conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120 million to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, helping build a vast network of think tanks and activist groups working to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarizing 'wedge issue' for hardcore conservatives. 'We exist to help donors promote liberty which we understand to be limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,' says Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust. Ball's organization assured wealthy donors that their funds would never by diverted to liberal causes with a guarantee of complete anonymity for donors who wished to remain hidden. The money flowed to Washington think tanks embedded in Republican party politics, obscure policy forums in Alaska and Tennessee, contrarian scientists at Harvard and lesser institutions, even to buy up DVDs of a film attacking Al Gore. 'The funding of the denial machine is becoming increasingly invisible to public scrutiny. It's also growing. Budgets for all these different groups are growing,' says Kert Davies, research director of Greenpeace, which compiled the data on funding of the anti-climate groups using tax records. 'These groups are increasingly getting money from sources that are anonymous or untraceable.'"
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Billionaires Secretly Fund Vast Climate Denial Network

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  • Disgusting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:34AM (#42927567)

    Make lobbying equal to bribery and throw the fuckheads in jail for life.

  • by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:35AM (#42927573)

    'We exist to help donors promote liberty which we understand to be limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,' says Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust.

    And don't forget the disinformation. We can't have all that freedom with an informed public.

    • What exactly is 'Climate Denial'? Denying that climate exists? For people claiming the moral and scientific upper hand here we aren't very good at framing the issue. I thought the issue was over the 'man made' element of it all. The fact that one thinks the other side of that debate is wrong isn't really a very good excuse to completely misrepresent their argument. A little integrity would go a long way to validate one's position: if you're not capable of fairly state the opposing side's claims, how ar

  • Secretly? (Score:5, Informative)

    by mosch ( 204 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:36AM (#42927581) Homepage
    Was there somebody who didn't know this was going on?  Petrochemical plutocrats were obviously behind this.  In many cases they didn't even bother to hide.
    • Re:Secretly? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:43AM (#42927627) Homepage Journal

      Was there somebody who didn't know this was going on? Petrochemical plutocrats were obviously behind this. In many cases they didn't even bother to hide.

      "Knowing" this is going on based on faith and knowing this is going on based on evidence are two very different kinds of belief. This kind cannot be questioned away; indeed, it is the result of questioning, and it can only make belief stronger. It's news because now there is evidence. It's interesting because it's not illegal to fund climate research or publication, so they wouldn't need to hide their activity unless they knew they were up to something illegal, like perpetrating fraud.

  • ok... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:39AM (#42927599)

    Let me get this strait, conservative billionaires are funding groups that are trying to discredit groups funded by liberal billionaires and this is news?

    Disclaimer: I have no doubts that climate change is happening and CO2 plays some role in that change.

    • by quax ( 19371 )

      Old industries are tied to fossil fuel, add to that that liberal policies usually tax billionaires more than liberal ones, and it should be obvious that this is not a level playing field. Really not rocket science.

  • Only fair (Score:5, Funny)

    by paiute ( 550198 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:43AM (#42927629)
    The secret billionaires are just trying to even the playing field against those fat cat scientists who are rolling in their trillions from government grants. Exxon is David against the NSF Goliath, man.
    • by Grashnak ( 1003791 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:56AM (#42927699)

      All my billionaire scientist friends heat their homes by burning the trillions they get from grants. On special nights, they have big bonfires and invite the neighbourhood over to toast weenies over the money.

  • by elucido ( 870205 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:46AM (#42927657)

    So the network can be put through social network analysis to produce interesting facts. That data can be crunched, so who is going to crunch it?

  • by MSTCrow5429 ( 642744 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:46AM (#42927659)
    ...don't demonize them as neo-Holocaust deniers. One-hundred twenty million, but is their side true? Address the facts, don't engage in ad hominem attacks.
    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:51AM (#42927681)
      You poor soul. You seem to think that convincing people of anything has to do with facts. The school of sophistry teaches us that he who makes the best sounding argument wins, and the facts be damned. If you want to be sure of a victory, appeal to basic emotions: anger, hatred, triumph...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 17, 2013 @11:00AM (#42927725)

      Address the facts, don't engage in ad hominem attacks.

      Skeptics are not the problem. Skeptics address the facts and the data - and they are becoming more and more rare because the data is damning. It's the people electing and directing public policy. The real problem are the folks with "opinions" spoon fed to them by the lying, incompetent, and irresponsible media - ALL the MEDIA - but especially Fox News.

      Listen to talk radio or watch Fox News sometime. I constanlty hear people (my neighbors) parrot what they say. They personally attack Al Gore and equate global warming with him. Actual facts or scientific data NEVER come up or if they do, it's a liberal conspiracy to tax more and for wealth transfer.

      Ad Hominem attacks are perfectly "logical" to those people - actually to people in general (how many times have you seen people being called "fanboys", "scientologists", or whatever for having an unpopular opinion here!)

      Add in the emotional hit of Liberal vs. Conservatives and BINGO you have a completely irrational response to an issue.

      • by stenvar ( 2789879 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:33PM (#42928933)

        Actual facts or scientific data NEVER come up or if they do, it's a liberal conspiracy to tax more and for wealth transfer.

        I don't see any actual facts in your post either. And having checked a wide range of predictions and statements by AGW activists, I can say that a large fraction of them are scientifically either unsupported or plain wrong.

    • This. I'm one of the ones who really doesn't know what to believe, but every time I hear the term "denier" used in this amazingly offensive and inappropriate context I stop listening, because it makes it sound like the one saying it doesn't have actual dispassionate arguments and has to rely on ad hominem. I won't say I agree with the skeptics, but mocking them is the antithesis of science, not the defense of it.

      Here's a longer, more nuanced verison of why crying "denier!" is anti-scientific [].

      • by siride ( 974284 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @11:11AM (#42927793)

        That article completely misses the point of why we use terms like "denier". The deniers are not people who having legitimate qualms with the theories and data behind AGW. Those are skeptics and those are fine to have and indeed important in the scientific process. The deniers are the people who *know* that AGW is wrong, or believe that it has to be wrong because the consequences are antithetical to their worldview (e.g., the idea that there could actually be downsides to American capitalism and industry) or for some other reason that has nothing to do with the science. That's denialism. These people would never be convinced by any amount of evidence in favor of AGW. They don't even care. As such, they are correctly labelled deniers.

        Now, perhaps some AGW fans are too broad with their use of the term, and perhaps some of them forget their own equivalents -- those people who just *know* AGW is right because capitalism is evil, facts or no facts. And that's a sad truth. That doesn't diminish or destroy the usefulness or correctness of the term "denier".

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BasilBrush ( 643681 )

        If there are people still around who say that the earth is flat, not round. What's a suitable term for them? Obviously there's a lot of choices, but a "Round Earth Denier" is certainly one of them. And an accurate one.

        What about people that deny that tobacco smoke is carcinogenic? It's fair enough to call them deniers too, yes?

        And sure enough, we do call people that say that the Nazi holocaust never happened "Holocaust Deniers".

        The reason is that we know all these things are true. And for whatever reason, t

        • I speculate that the reason you're uncomfortable with it is not to do with science at all, but to do with your politics. You find that the people on the other side of the political spectrum from you have no doubt about AGW. But that people who are your natural allies are where the deniers come from. That's obviously going to make you uneasy about it.

          That's probably fair. Thing is, though, not only do (most) progressives have no doubt about AGW, they've stridently politicized skepticism toward it. That doesn't make them wrong on the issue, but at the same time it's not unreasonable that would make moderates, conservatives, and libertarians suspect that their motivation is not so much from science, but rather is simply a convenient article of faith that supports their ideological objectives.

  • The Sheep Look Up (Score:5, Informative)

    by stevegee58 ( 1179505 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:52AM (#42927689) Journal
    I just finished reading the excellent novel "The Sheep Look Up", written in 1972 by John Brunner. I was amazed at the many parallels between the novel's dystopian vision and today's environmental issues. Even though some of the novel's environmental issues were mitigated (at least in the West) by education and regulation (DDT, leaded gasoline, smog, etc), many continue to this day. One thing that struck me particularly was the collusion of big business in denying that environmental issues exist and the draconian measures they went to to discredit and silence their critics. Also striking was government's powerlessness to act in the face of lobbying and bullying by big business.

    A recommended read, as appropriate today as it was 40 years ago.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by argStyopa ( 232550 )

      Re DDT you might want to review the research; the fact is that DDT is a poster-child for the misinformed politically-driven 'eco-conclusion' that ISN'T informed by science.

      The tests that were used for the basis of the book Silent Spring were deeply flawed, and the scientists that ran them, themselves acknowledged that they'd drawn the wrong conclusions as the birds' lab diets were woefully low in calcium - needed to make strong eggshells. When the same labs ran the same tests with adequate diets, there was

  • by Grashnak ( 1003791 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @10:57AM (#42927713)

    This just in.... billionaires think the minimum wage is just fine where it is. Film at 11.

  • Follow the money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BergZ ( 1680594 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @11:24AM (#42927927)
    There's this game that "skeptics" of the scientific theory of Global Climate Change like to play.
    They assume that climatologists have come to their conclusions (that the Earth is warming due to greenhouse gas emissions and human activity is partly responsible) because the scientists (they say) "were paid by people and governments to come to that conclusion".
    While us "warmists" have been providing the scientific evidence; the "skeptics", on the other hand, argue politics "follow the MONEY!!!" (they say)
    The problem is that when you do take their advice and the money leads to conservative billionaires, the Heartland Institute [], Exxon Mobil [] (Fossil Fuel industries), and others who have a financial and political interest in denying the science of Climate Change:
    All of a sudden the "skeptics" want us to forget about following the money!
  • The Numbers (Score:5, Informative)

    by jamesl ( 106902 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @11:46AM (#42928087)

    The reported $120 million is total funding, not what is spent on "climate."

    Greenpeace annual spending (year ended 12/31/2010) -- $35 million

    Al Gore's Climate Reality Project had revenues of $16 million and spent $25 million in 2010.

    WWF, formerly The World Wildlife Fund, spent $243 million in 2012.

    The US government has spent over $79 billion since 1989 on policies related to climate change, including science and technology research, administration, education campaigns, foreign aid, and tax breaks. []

    There's a lot of money floating around, most of it being spent by "warmers."

  • Misleading (Score:4, Informative)

    by dog77 ( 1005249 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @11:49AM (#42928101)
    The article is misleading. Donations were giving anonymously to conservative think tanks. Many conservative think tanks are skeptical of human impact on climate change. These donations were not given directly the cause of deny climate change. This article seems to exist for the purpose to incite controversy where there is very little. Based on the comments on this site, I think it has been successful.
    • The article is spot on. Do you think that these organisations are funded because of the word conservative in them? Heartland and co. whine about the "liberal" conspiracy to warp the public's mind, yet that is exactly what they do with crackpot science on the like of climate, evolution, and smoking. Rich billionaires fund them, because they help get sheeple to the polls in order to pressure congress critters into protecting them from economic disappointment. This is crony capitalism in action.
  • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <> on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:09PM (#42928709) Journal

    When Anthony Watts was outed as a Heartland Institute shill, right before the eyes of those who believe the Global Conspiracy of Climate Scientists and Politicians in Collusion with Big Green for Government Money, there was a collective "meh" from the denialists and Watts suffered no loss of credibility in their eyes. They probably strongly suspect it already and it just doesn't bother them. Heck they probably strongly suspect that climate denialism is total bullshit but would rather tell science to go fuck itself than do anything that goes against conservatism.

  • by AlabamaCajun ( 2710177 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @01:48PM (#42929069)
    While politics and media commentary rule the blogs and airspace, Science get shredded into worthless dribble. Climate Science needs to be taken seriously and not turned into media spectacle. The problem is, the real stuff can be quite boring and mostly looked over. Stories about carbon levels, thermal convection and greenhouse gasses are not read by the majority of readers. Most of the media today is sensationalized and pumped with soundbites to increase readership. Just about every attempt by Al Gore to pass along data his group has collected is countered with disinformation. You never see an attempt to deflate some missed data and provide what the other group thinks is more realistic, We only see a polar opposite approach the just discredits each view and the public takes these battles to the office and public places. Even with all this funding the real Science does tend to get heard by the people that need to hear it. I've noticed over the years how changes have taken place that are more indirect approaches to reduce climate change. Many businesses are reducing consumption of power, most say it's to increase profits by reducing waste. Recycling programs have been around for at least four decades now but it's just starting to catch on due to waste elimination costs. Meanwhile these same corporations are funneling money into the disinformation channels. The real question becomes, why are we wasting money on propaganda when that money would better to be spent in fixing the problems.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Sunday February 17, 2013 @03:50PM (#42929999)
    All of them graduated from MIT with engineering degrees in the 1960s. One brother- David- focuses on science and education charities. He has funded the New York Science Museum Hall of Evolution - probably the best dinosaur exhibit in the world. He also funds the very liberal Aspen Institute in Colorado.

    Perhsps they are moderating some of the over-zealousness of the climate change supporters. Its almost as silly to have them find GW under every rock as it is for anti-climate change peope to deny every observation.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire