Denial for Money

Sustainability, like Climate Change is a common sense subject where scientific theories have been backed up by evidence gathered.

It’s right to question theories – in fact it’s one of the principles of science – but there comes a point where, once proven, it’s important to stop talking and start acting on the results. Yet in recent years it seems as though the voices of climate change scepticism are getting louder despite the evidence in the scientific community building up beyond question.

Climate Change action campaigners are largely charitable organisations – their adversaries are companies investing in fossil fuels, which by default means substantial resources to invest in PR. Recently our political system has been in the spotlight after whistleblowers revealed some uncomfortable relationships between large companies, lobbying groups and politics: In a round about way, organisations have been paying to get laws passed or changed that suit the aims of their businesses.

Recently, and not for the first time, leaked documents from inside one of the world’s most powerful lobbying groups, the Heartland Foundation,  have revealed a multi-million dollar campaign designed to cast doubt on the science of climate change – as this achieves results that  “align with the interests” of the companies that fund it.

The documents were posted on Desmogblog – a website that monitors groups that peddle false claims about climate science –show that some of the wealthiest corporations in the world, including General Motors, Bayer, Pfizer, GSK and Microsoft, are helping to fund the Heartland Institute.

The leaked memos shows one “anonymous donor” paid the group more than $8.6 million through 2007-11 to promote what opponents are calling “climate change denial”.

Climate Change sceptics are generally given a platform by editorial rules which exist to protect the public from unbalanced opinion – to show fairness: Unfortunately if the story is climate change, which is based on fact rather than an opinion, seeking a counter-view means that fact must be cast into doubt instantly. An educated reader might discard a misinformed anti-climate change opinion by knowing better, but to the general public, the distinction might not be so clear. 

Where editorial policies make it impossible to report a scientific fact without casting doubt upon it, do they fail the public? For topics like climate change – not your average story – it might be worth a look.

For now, anti-climate change commentators are regularly approached by some of the biggest broadcasting platforms in the world – including the BBC – and thanks to lobbying groups like the Heartland Institute, are paid handsomely to give their climate-sceptic opinions:

One document in the leaks says: “At the moment, this funding goes primarily to Craig Idso ($11,600 per month), Fred Singer ($5,000 per month, plus expenses), Robert Carter ($1,667 per month), and a number of other individuals, but we will consider expanding it, if funding can be found.”

Changing the School Curriculum.

One particular sinister objective of the Heartland campaign is to “dissuade teachers from teaching [climate change] science” – part of their “global warming curriculum project.” For this a coal industry insider has been hired, at the expense of $100,000 a year, to develop a plan to teach children that climate change is a hoax.

Another document says that Heartland has not yet tried “To raise funds from businesses with a financial interest in [shale gas] fracking. In 2012 we intend to correct that oversight.“

In the UK we have our own mini-version of the Heartland Foundation – The leak will raise new questions about who is funding Lord Lawson’s influential lobby group ‘Global Warming Policy Foundation’. Lord Lawson has consistently refused to reveal who is funding their campaign, which functions in the same way.


One of the most powerful witness statements from the recent Leveson Enquiry said that the people in positions of power “just lost track of the boundaries”. Unfortunately, the companies that fund anti-global warming lobbyists aren’t just hacking phones – they’re taking the future into their own hands and won’t stop at re-writing the curriculum to secure the future of their wealth.

Greed, it seems, is a powerful thing.


You can read all the documents on DeSmogBlog.
This blog first appeared on Left Foot Forward.

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