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Money makes the activists go round

By Mark S. Lawson - posted Monday, 28 June 2010

A reader review posted on the Amazon website of the useful book A Primer on CO2 and Climate, second edition by American academic Howard C. Hayden says “someone recommended this book to me. So I went here, and all I see are glowing reviews. Yet, if you check up on this retired professor, he sits on an organisation called CFACT that has received over $US472,000 ($A532,000) from ExxonMobil over that last seven years. CFACT has been critical of government regulation on many issues, including the o-zone layer, mercury emissions, global warming, toxic waste and the use of pesticides. While buying this $US14.95 book helps supplement his income, it is pretty clear who is funding his retirement.”

This comment is typical of the dirt flung by activists at anyone who dares to challenge their dearly held belief that the science on human induced global warming is rock solid. Also, like all such accusations, the amounts produced with a flourish by the global warming activists contradicts the case they are trying to make, that big energy is bankrolling scepticism. The amount revealed works out to a little more than just $US67,000 a year, which is trivial even in Australian terms for a lobbying organisation of any size let alone in America where CFACT operates, and never mind that it’s been given to the organisation with which Hayden happens to be associated rather than directly to the scientist. The amount just looks large to activists.

The flip side of these accusations is that activists like to portray themselves and their scientific heroes as humble eco-warriors struggling against the odds and lack of funding to warn us all of impending doom. This portrayal is maintained in a ridiculous article by two US authors, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, posted recently on this site (Friday, June 18). In the article Oreskes, a professor of history and science studies at the University of California, and Conway, a writer, made various statements about how evil sceptics and free market forces have managed to cast doubt on the set-in-stone scientific “facts” concerning global warming by what amounts to debating tricks backed by extensive funding.


Yet a glance at the realities of the funding side of the issue shows that, at least where money is concerned, the exact opposite is the case. Sceptics get crumbs, global warming activists get whole loaves. Doubt this? The financial statements for both Greenpeace and WWF (formerly the World Wildlife Fund) are online. Greenpeace raised €196.6 million in 2008 ($A277.4 million), the latest figures available. WWF raised €65 million ($A91.7 million). Neither organisation is solely concerned with climate change, of course. WWF, in particular, does a great deal of good work around the world. But they are probably more concerned with climate change than CFACT, and there are many other such organisations - Friends of the Earth, the Environmental Defence Fund, Ozone Action, Clean Air Cool Planet, American for Equitable Climate Change Solutions and the Alternative Energy Resources Association, to name but a few. All of these are adept at raising money to continue the fight against industrial emissions.

Then there are whole government organisations, such as the Australian Department of Climate Change which turned over about $80 million last year, and lots and lots and lots of activists. In a talk to the Political Economy Club in London in early 2010, David Henderson, a distinguished economist and noted critic of the IPCC, quotes figures from the Copenhagen Conference held in November 2009 that participants included nearly 23,000 representatives from NGOs. That number may have included a few, nervous sceptics, but the overwhelming majority would have been global warming diehards. There is nothing on the sceptics side that even begins to match any of those figures, either in dollars or bodies on the ground.

When prominent US sceptic Anthony Watts, a meteorologist who founded the site wattsupwiththat, was brought to Australia recently, sceptics basically had to hand around the hat to guarantee some funding for his trip. One talk I attended in Sydney had an audience of perhaps less than 100, which the organisers admitted at the time was less than expected.

One of the very few organisations with a formal structure, that is with a full-time secretariat and an office, that has been vocal on the sceptics side in Australia is the Institute of Public Affairs. Its accounts, also online, show that in 2009 its revenues were $1.6 million. Other organisations have done valuable work, such as the Carbon Sense Coalition, but the officials are part timers. The office is the corner of the secretary or president’s kitchen table.

There are several organisations in America involved in the sceptic side of the debate to a greater or lesser degree, such as the Heartland Institute or the Science & Public Policy Institute (SPPI), and these will have full time secretariats. In the UK the only overtly sceptical organisation with any full time staff of which I am aware is the recently founded Global Warming Policy Foundation. The combined budgets of all those organisations would be miniscule compared to the vast quantities of public money flowing into various aspects of the global warming lunacy.

What about Shell or the now much-maligned BP, or the coal companies? Don’t they have enormous turnovers? Sure, but where are they in the debate? Where are the immense flows of funds into the sceptic side? I can’t work out where they are, nor can anyone else. Activists simply assume that theses funds exist, but can never produce any amounts beyond the trivial compared to the immense funds flowing into all forms of climate change lunacy. In any case, if you scratch around on any of the fossil fuel company sites you will find some statement about just how much they are doing for green issues. They want to be seen to be green. Although I have not tried the exercise myself it may be possible to construct a case that the fossil fuel companies spend more money on green issues of one sort of another than they donate to climate sceptics.


A paper recently released by the SPPI estimates that in the 20 years up to end of fiscal 2009 the US Government spent more than $US79 billion on climate change research and technology. This included $US32 billion for climate research and another $US36 billion for development of climate related technologies. (Climate Money, Joanne Nova, SPPI July 2009.) Those figures are nominal, that is they have not been adjusted for inflation, but they are stupendous none the less and there is no reason to believe SPPI is overstating the case.

According to one of the hundreds of emails hacked from the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia, CRU director Phil Jones was recipient (or co-recipient) of $US19 million worth of research grants over six years up to 2006 (a touch over $US3 million a year), a sixfold increase over what he had been awarded in the 1990s. (“Climategate: follow the Money”, The Wall Street Journal, December 2, 2009).

Then there is carbon trading. The SPPI paper estimates that carbon trading turned over $US126 billion. The Wall Street article cited above also reports estimates that $US94 billion has been spent globally in 2009 on ethanol and other alternative energy schemes, and says that the latest European Commission appropriation for climate research was $US3 billion. These are awe-inspiring sums and the counting has barely started. No wonder there are plenty of people who believe that carbon must be guilty of something. There is too much money at stake.

In contrast, in the same period surveyed by the SPPI in the report cited above Exxon-Mobil Corp was repeatedly attacked for paying a grand total of $US23 million to organisations that are associated with sceptics ($US1.5 million a year).

Despite clear evidence that the funds are going to the global warming side and the amounts going to sceptic organisations of various sorts being derisory by comparison, activists continue to scream about how the debate is loaded against them. The reality is that sceptics remain mostly unpaid part timers but those dedicated volunteers have managed to score impressive victories against full-time climate scientists backed by massive resources. Having the truth on your side does help, sometimes.

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About the Author

Mark Lawson is a senior journalist at the Australian Financial Review. He has written The Zen of Being Grumpy (Connor Court).

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