Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Warming Wednesdays: who pays for climate denial?

Via laci the dog
Recently on the NPR interview program Fresh Air, host Dave Davies had this exchange with author McKenzie Funk, on book tour talking about Windfall: the booming business of global warming.
DAVIES: … Do you see either the private interests or the governments deliberately influencing public policy to discourage efforts to halt global warming? Are we seeing people who will, you know, happily destroy the planet to make a buck?

FUNK: I have not seen that, no. I think it's an important point to say that the people I have talked to, I don't think they were necessarily bad people. Now, they were looking to make a buck but I don't think many of them were wanting, OK, let's let the planet burn so I can make this buck. It's more that they were sort of hopeless about the prospects. And I don't think there's any lobbying against sort of climate action.
The book sounds interesting. If we're going to respond to climate change, we'll need entrepreneurs. But Funk didn't help his credibility with that claim for his subjects.

It's pretty clear that efforts to obfuscate and suppress the scientific evidence about global warming have been paid for by fossil fuel companies with Exxon Mobil and the Koch brothers in the lead. As denial has become a more untenable posture, this sort of traceable funding seems to have disappeared into what Scientific American calls "dark money" vehicles. Relying on a Drexel University study, the magazine explains:
… the amount of money flowing through third-party, pass-through foundations like DonorsTrust and Donors Capital, whose funding cannot be traced, has risen dramatically over the past five years.

In all, 140 foundations funneled $558 million to almost 100 climate denial organizations from 2003 to 2010.

Meanwhile the traceable cash flow from more traditional sources, such as Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, has disappeared.
Climate change obfuscation creates the milieu in which the entrepreneurial efforts of McKenzie Funk's subjects expect to thrive. They may not be bad people, may in fact be perfectly nice to their own children and pets. But they intend to profit from society's learned hopelessness, a hopelessness that large amounts of cash to willing shills have helped create. I certainly think that is morally culpable self-centeredness.

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