Leading UK Sceptic Group Promotes Koch-Funded Canadian Climate Denier

by Kyla Mandel

Canadian climate denier Ross McKitrick has officially taken over as chairman of the academic advisory council of Lord Lawson’’s controversial climate-denying charity, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).

The economics professor is also a Senior Fellow of the Koch- and Exxon-funded Fraser Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

McKitrick succeeds British economist David Henderson, 87 – the man responsible for inspiring Lawson’’s climate scepticism over a decade ago.

Henderson, who stepped down at his own request on 1 January 2015, had been chairman since the GWPF’’s inception in 2009. Prior to that he was the head of the Economics and Statistics Department at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) from 1984 to 1992.

A visiting professor at the Westminster Business School, Henderson is also an advisory council member of free market think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Lawson’’s Inspiration

Lawson and Henderson knew each other long before they started talking about climate change. This fateful conversation would begin at the end of 2004, when Lawson revealed his interest in climate change during a lecture at the London School of Economics.

As Lawson recalls: ““I said there were two issues… that really did not come across my desk at the time I was Chancellor in 1989, which are now two big issues, which were the European Monetary Union and climate change, global warming. And, I made an allusion that I was rather concerned that the climate change issue was not being analysed in economic terms, and this whole dimension appeared to be missing and concerned me.

““After that, David Henderson, whom I had known for many years, who had been taking an interest in the subject for some time, starting talking to me about this,”” he explains.

So much of an inspiration was Henderson that Lawson even dedicated his book, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, to him. It reads: “”To David Henderson, who first aroused my interest in all of this.””

Henderson also knew McKitrick in the lead-up to the GWPF’’s debut. In 2007, he spoke alongside the Canadian at the Fraser Institute’’s launch of their Independent Summary for Policymakers.

McKitrick was also invited by Henderson to speak at small, informal discussion panels in England with other like-minded individuals, including ‘global lukewarmist’ Peter Lilley.

Instrumental Feedback

But Benny Peiser, director general of the GWPF, seems a little confused about Henderson’’s role in the charity.

Speaking to Brendan Montague, editor of DeSmog UK, back in 2010, he said: “”David Henderson was heavily involved … The original idea was Lawson’’s but Henderson was instrumental by giving feedback.””

Later, in 2013, he said: “”David Henderson, to my knowledge, had nothing to do with GWPF … He wasn’’t involved in the set up.””

And as Sir Ian Byatt, member of the GWPF’s academic advisory council, told Montague: “”David knows the importance of getting influence on these things, and one of the great things that David did, which has all carried on in the Global Warming Policy Foundation, is the bringing together of science, economics and politics.””

McKitrick’’s Promotion

His successor certainly has some big shoes to fill. While Henderson will continue to remain an active member of the council, what does McKitrick’’s promotion signify for the future of the GWPF?

A member of the council since 2010, McKitrick was chosen from a slew of renowned climate sceptics. Other members include heir to a vast British coal fortune, Lord Matt Ridley, and Richard Lindzen, one of the original sceptic scientists to emerge during the 1980s.

Perhaps McKitrick’s contribution to climate sceptic blogger Steve McIntyre’’s critique of Michael Mann’’s hockey stick graph was one point in his favour. After all, the GWPF has praised McKitrick for being ““instrumental in exposing the fatal flaws of the so-called Hockey Stick.””

McKitrick has also authored a couple reports that have been submitted to the GWPF, including a 49-page report calling for ‘radical reform’ of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and another arguing for an ‘evidence-based approach to pricing CO2 emissions’.

He has also become a regular speaker at the Koch-connected Heartland Institute’’s annual International Conference on Climate Change. So, whatever the deciding factor, McKitrick’’s climate denial stock has just gone up.

@kylamandel

Photo: Guelph University Wikimedia Commons

Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks

Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m (£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, the Guardian has learned.

The funds, doled out between 2002 and 2010, helped build a vast network of thinktanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarising “wedge issue” for hardcore conservatives.

The millions were routed through two trusts, Donors Trust and the Donors Capital Fund, operating out of a generic town house in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. Donors Capital caters to those making donations of $1m or more.

Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust told the Guardian that her organisation assured wealthy donors that their funds would never by diverted to liberal causes.

The funding stream far outstripped the support from more visible opponents of climate action such as the oil industry or the conservative billionaire Koch brothers. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“We exist to help donors promote liberty which we understand to be limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,” she said in an interview.

By definition that means none of the money is going to end up with groups like Greenpeace, she said. “It won’t be going to liberals.”

Ball won’t divulge names, but she said the stable of donors represents a wide range of opinion on the American right. Increasingly over the years, those conservative donors have been pushing funds towards organisations working to discredit climate science or block climate action.

Donors exhibit sharp differences of opinion on many issues, Ball said. They run the spectrum of conservative opinion, from social conservatives to libertarians. But in opposing mandatory cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, they found common ground.

“Are there both sides of an environmental issue? Probably not,” she went on. “Here is the thing. If you look at libertarians, you tend to have a lot of differences on things like defence, immigration, drugs, the war, things like that compared to conservatives. When it comes to issues like the environment, if there are differences, they are not nearly as pronounced.”

By 2010, the dark money amounted to $118m distributed to 102 thinktanks or action groups which have a record of denying the existence of a human factor in climate change, or opposing environmental regulations.

The money flowed to Washington thinktanks 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 ready stream of cash set off a conservative backlash against Barack Obama’s environmental agenda that wrecked any chance of Congress taking action on climate change.

Those same groups are now mobilising against Obama’s efforts to act on climate change in his second term. A top recipient of the secret funds on Wednesday put out a point-by-point critique of the climate content in the president’s state of the union address.

And it was all done with a guarantee of complete anonymity for the donors who wished to remain hidden.

“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,” said 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. There is no transparency, no accountability for the money. There is no way to tell who is funding them,” Davies said.

The trusts were established for the express purpose of managing donations to a host of conservative causes.

Such vehicles, called donor-advised funds, are not uncommon in America. They offer a number of advantages to wealthy donors. They are convenient, cheaper to run than a private foundation, offer tax breaks and are lawful.

That opposition hardened over the years, especially from the mid-2000s where the Greenpeace record shows a sharp spike in funds to the anti-climate cause.

In effect, the Donors Trust was bankrolling a movement, said Robert Brulle, a Drexel University sociologist who has extensively researched the networks of ultra-conservative donors.

“This is what I call the counter-movement, a large-scale effort that is an organised effort and that is part and parcel of the conservative movement in the United States ” Brulle said. “We don’t know where a lot of the money is coming from, but we do know that Donors Trust is just one example of the dark money flowing into this effort.”

In his view, Brulle said: “Donors Trust is just the tip of a very big iceberg.”

The rise of that movement is evident in the funding stream. In 2002, the two trusts raised less than $900,000 for the anti-climate cause. That was a fraction of what Exxon Mobil or the conservative oil billionaire Koch brothers donated to climate sceptic groups that year.

By 2010, the two Donor Trusts between them were channelling just under $30m to a host of conservative organisations opposing climate action or science. That accounted to 46% of all their grants to conservative causes, according to the Greenpeace analysis.

The funding stream far outstripped the support from more visible opponents of climate action such as the oil industry or the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, the records show. When it came to blocking action on the climate crisis, the obscure charity in the suburbs was outspending the Koch brothers by a factor of six to one.

“There is plenty of money coming from elsewhere,” said John Mashey, a retired computer executive who has researched funding for climate contrarians. “Focusing on the Kochs gets things confused. You can not ignore the Kochs. They have their fingers in too many things, but they are not the only ones.”

It is also possible the Kochs continued to fund their favourite projects using the anonymity offered by Donor Trust.

But the records suggest many other wealthy conservatives opened up their wallets to the anti-climate cause – an impression Ball wishes to stick.

She argued the media had overblown the Kochs support for conservative causes like climate contrarianism over the years. “It’s so funny that on the right we think George Soros funds everything, and on the left you guys think it is the evil Koch brothers who are behind everything. It’s just not true. If the Koch brothers didn’t exist we would still have a very healthy organisation,” Ball said.