Robert J. Brulle, PhD, a professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University, is leading a massive three-part project to study and understand the climate-change movement in the U.S at a national level. The first stage of Brulle's project gathered and analyzed information on supporters of climate-change denial, including uncovering, tracking and analyzing the sources and flows of funding for climate-change countermovement organizations.
Some of Brulle's findings clearly confirm what we already know. Conservatives have long supported organized, coordinated efforts to deny climate change. Corporations such as Koch Industries and ExxonMobil have, unsurprisingly, been some of the largest supporters of climate-change denial, donating tens of millions of dollars over the years.
Conservative foundations have bank-rolled denial. The largest and most consistent funders of organizations orchestrating 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. These foundations promote ultra-free-market ideas in many realms.But Brulle's data also shows changes in the overall funding patterns. The amount of spending on climate denial hasn't decreased over the years. But it is dramatically shifting away from publicly traceable organizations and becoming increasingly untraceable:
Koch and ExxonMobil have recently pulled back from publicly visible funding. From 2003 to 2007, the Koch Affiliated Foundations and the ExxonMobil Foundation were heavily involved in funding climate-change denial organizations. But since 2008, they are no longer making publicly traceable contributions.Brulle's study is about as objective as any such study can be, driven by academics rather than politics. His project's first-stage year-long research was submitted for peer review in January 2013, accepted in November 2013 and is just now being published publicly for the first time.
Funding has shifted to pass through untraceable sources. Coinciding with the decline in traceable funding, the amount of funding given to denial organizations by the Donors Trust has risen dramatically. Donors Trust is a donor-directed foundation whose funders cannot be traced. This one foundation now provides about 25% of all traceable foundation funding used by organizations engaged in promoting systematic denial of climate change.
Part one of Brulle's research focused on climate deniers. Part two will focus on the climate-change movement, and part three will compare the two groups.