Maybe we should remember this

David Rose has a new article in the Daily Mail exposing the shadowing network who fund green policy groups in the UK. This shadowy network apparently include the nefarious Dutch National Postcode Lottery and is shadowy because….actually, I don’t know why (something to do with saying who they fund, but not how much they give).

I actually find these type of articles somewhat amusing as they’re essentially a blatant attempt to label those with whom they disagree in some extremely negative way (“Green blob”, “Red Ed”) and are extremely conspiracy heavy. There’s not even an attempt to sound mature and thoughtful; it’s just whining from beginning to end. Pointing this out, however, tends to result in a massive sense of humour failure (I get the feeling that David Rose may have blocked me on Twitter, but am not quite sure why 😉 ).

The thing I found particularly funny, was the whining by the Director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation/Forum (Benny Peiser) who is quoted as saying

‘At the end of the day, someone will have to be held accountable for us committing economic suicide. We are the only organisation that does what we do – against hundreds on the other side, all saying the same thing.’

I don’t know if they are the only organisation in Europe, but they’re certainly prominent in the UK. They are also – as acknowledged by Benny Peiser – in a minority position with respect to their views on global warming; most credible people, including thousands of professional scientists, disagree with their views. Of course, it could be that they’re a remarkable organisation, that has managed to see through this massive conspiracy, and are doing their utmost to promote the most credible view with respect to global warming. On the other hand, they could simply be wrong. Given my understanding of the topic, what I’ve seen them say publicly, and the makeup of their Academic Advisory Council, I’d go for the latter. In fact, if I was a betting person, I’d be willing to bet a large sum of money that they’re wrong.

If I could give the Global Warming Policy Foundation/Forum some advice, it would be this : don’t promote the idea that those who drive us towards economic suicide should be held accountable – you may live to regret it!

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45 Responses to Maybe we should remember this

  1. Andy Skuce says:

    At least in Britain the accusations of shadowy funding of environmental groups comes from tabloid journalists rather than the national government.

    Benny Peiser has a brass neck to talk about accountability when the GWPF hides its own sources of funding. Similarly, the industry lobby group Ethical Oil in Canada is coy about its funding, while excoriating environmental groups for taking foreign money

  2. Benny Peiser has a brass neck to talk about accountability when the GWPF hides its own sources of funding.

    Yes, the irony of that also wasn’t lost on me either.

    In a sense, the article is really silly. At a fundamental level, what we’d probably like to know is who funds what and how they benefit, not necessarily how much they actually give. The existence of organisations that lobby for particular policies, is not fundamentally wrong. Where it becomes potentially wrong is if they are funded by others who benefit financially from this lobbying (and we don’t know this) and if they somehow influence policy makes in a more direct way, than by simply trying to convince them of the merits of their policy preferences.

  3. Andy,
    Wow, that video’s quite something. She dodged the question about whether or not they were funded by Embridge oil (who are building the pipeline) and spent all her time saying “getting funding from foreign companies to fight against Canadian interests“. An amazing ability to control the dialogue.

  4. Joshua says:

    ==> “The existence of organisations that lobby for particular policies, is not fundamentally wrong.”

    How can that be? It’s a green blob!!!1!!!.

    Grab the women and children and head for the hills. Start stocking your fallout shelter today.

  5. jsam says:

    Joshua, you may be onto something. Peiser isn’t a very English name, is it?

    They come over here, shadily funded, and criticise our proud English scientists. It’s our patriotic duty to mock.

  6. jsam,
    Indeed. In fact, we should give up all these test of Britishness that require one to remember which King came after James VI, or the name of the youngest ever Prime Minister. The ultimate of Britishness should really just be, can you be mocked without whining?

  7. climatehawk1 says:

    Just another denier meme, given some credence by funding from billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg for anti-fossil-fuels causes. Daily Mail is dutifully flogging, and quite a few mainstream and liberal outlets have latched onto the idea of equivalency as well (e.g., Jon Stewart zinging Democrats recently for constantly asking for $ while deploring too much $ in politics). Unilateral disarmament, clearly, is the only way to go. We may lose elections and never get the Supreme Court (which opened the floodgates for $ in politics) back, but we will have the warm feeling of moral superiority to comfort us as the planet goes down the tubes. And after all, isn’t that what’s really important in life?

  8. Joshua says:

    ==> “‘At the end of the day, someone will have to be held accountable for us committing economic suicide.”

    The best part of this is Pieser’s insistence that he’s primarily concerned about alarmism.

  9. Joshua,
    Yes, I do rather enjoy the irony of those who complain about alarmism, being alarmist.

  10. climatehawk1 says:

    Good point. That’s been going on for a while also, courtesy of Lomborg et al. hyping economic cost of addressing climate change while downplaying climate damage costs.

  11. Steve Bloom says:

    James *VI*? A true Scotsman? 🙂

  12. Joshua says:

    Evaluating the costs and benefits and uncertainties of different policies is entirely reasonable, but i see no way to productively respond to the argument that Greens are dooming the planet, and the related argument that children wouldn’t starve if not for concern about ACO2.

  13. Steve Bloom says:

    And those Scots were ultimately dumped for Germans, which means Benny fits right in!

  14. Joshua,
    Indeed, that’s one of my issues. Similarly, I see no real way to productively engage with those whose policy views are justified by claims of “no warming for 18 years”, “Arctic sea ice has recovered”, “the hockey stick has been debunked”. Having very different views about policy options is perfectly healthy, but you’d like to think that they’re generally based on a reasonably accurate representation of reality.

  15. John Mashey says:

    For some amusing history involving GWPF, see FOIA Facts 5 – Finds Friends Of GWPF.
    And do review some of his history.
    Benny was also active in worrying about asteroid impacts, but anyone who knows real impacts people might ask them of their opinions of Benny’s contributions.

  16. > I actually find these type of articles somewhat amusing as

    But do you find the ones about shadowy right-wing networks funding denialism amusing, too?

  17. Joseph says:

    A blast from the past and more reason to ignore Peiser on the science..

    Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University who monitors studies and news reports of asteroids, global warming and other potentially apocalyptic topics, recently quoted in his daily electronic newsletter the following from a blog called Strata-Sphere:

    “Global warming on Neptune’s moon Triton as well as Jupiter and Pluto, and now Mars has some [scientists] scratching their heads over what could possibly be in common with the warming of all these planets … Could there be something in common with all the planets in our solar system that might cause them all to warm at the same time?”

    Peiser included quotes from recent news articles that take up other aspects of the idea.

    “I think it is an intriguing coincidence that warming trends have been observed on a number of very diverse planetary bodies in our solar system,” Peiser said in an email interview. “Perhaps this is just a fluke.”

  18. climatehawk1 says:

    I don’t. Should I? And if so, why? For others, here’s a little background reading:

  19. climatehawk1 says:

    Sorry, that last intended for William Connolley …

  20. Joseph says:

    The problem in the US is not so much lobbying, but the funding of political campaigns by corporations and other wealthy interests. When you see fossil fuel interests giving much more money to Republicans than Democrats, it’s not surprising that Republicans would oppose anything that limits our use of fossil fuels. I don’t think they have ever proposed any action to deal with climate change.

  21. William,

    But do you find the ones about shadowy right-wing networks funding denialism amusing, too?

    Trying to see if I’m consistent? I’m not a huge fan of conspiracy-like reasons for criticising an organisation. If I want to criticise the GWPF, I can criticise what they say, without needing to know who funds them. On the other hand, I have no specific issue with knowing who funds these organisations (in fact, I think it would be good to know this). What was amusing (in an ironic kind of way) was the whole “shadowing organisations who boast” theme in this article. Either they’re shadowing organisations, or they boast. They can’t really be both.

    Of course, lobbying organisations are funded by donors. That’s no great surprise. Making a big deal out of that seems silly. Pointing out how the funders might benefit from the lobbying is more interesting. I couldn’t see anything in this article that highlighted how they benefited from their funding. Did they own companies who make wind turbines or solar panels? I don’t know. Maybe they do benefit in some tangible way but I couldn’t really tell what it was from the article. It just seem to be an article saying “isn’t it terrible that rich people fund environmental groups”.

  22. > Trying to see if I’m consistent?

    Of course.

    > What was amusing (in an ironic kind of way) was the whole “shadowing organisations who boast” theme in this article…

    Well maybe, but you didn’t use “boast” until just now, you said: “I actually find these type of articles somewhat amusing as they’re essentially a blatant attempt to label those with whom they disagree in some extremely negative way (“Green blob”, “Red Ed”) and are extremely conspiracy heavy.”

    I’ve heard *that* before elsewhere.

  23. William,
    Fair enough. I don’t claim to peer-review my blog posts, though 🙂 To be honest, I don’t find these amusing in some laugh out loud kind of way. More a “really, you actually wrote this?”. It would have been more interesting if it had tried to make some kind of argument as to why these funders where inappropriate, rather than simply “groups I disagree with get money from somewhere”, which just seems silly. And why is “Green blobs” somehow a clever or relevant description? It rolls off the tongue maybe, but other than that?

    Do you actually have an example of something that you’d regard as equivalent, but written from the other perspective. I know that there have been recent articles about the funders of the GWPF, but I don’t recall them having quite the same over-the-top type of rhetoric that this one has.

  24. I have only glanced at it but it reads like an bad Onion satire. These people really are that stupid.

  25. > Do you actually have an example of something that you’d regard as equivalent, but written from the other perspective.

    I don’t have a database of these things, you want John Mashey for that. Is the kind of thing you’re looking for?

  26. William,
    That’s an example, but it simply seems factual. Where’s the “shadowy network”? 🙂

  27. Ahh, there is a”toxic Koch” in there, so maybe some kind of equivalence.

  28. John Mashey says:

    if a statistician testifies that in a tobacco trial that the evidence of smoking/disease is weak, would ti be relevant to know whether or not they were funded by Philip Morris or BAT?

    Most environmental entities are pretty open about what they are, but many think tanks claim to be independent, academic-ish (“Senior Fellow, Scholar-in-residence”, etc) titles, with academic advisory boards, with names like Science and Public Policy Institute … which is a PO Box in a suburban UPS store and is one non-scientist who gets well-obscured funding from fossil interests.

    At least in the US, many thinktanks are created with misleading names to provide an alternate academic-looking structure to counter unwanted science produced by government and normal academe. Oddly, in the US, most such “institutes” are located close to Washington, DC’s “K-street” (lobbyist-central).

    If an entity like Heartland Institute simply said: “we are an advocate for policies that favor tobacco, fossil fuels and eliminating public education that would be as straightforward as WWF, NRDC, etc. But they don’t usually say that so directly.

    Likewise, neither does the Institute for Economic Affaiirs, which certainly does 2 of those.

  29. Eli Rabett says:

    There is no true Scotchman.

  30. Eli Rabett says:

    Eli thinks this is called the Nisbet Gambit. Didn’t work then, won’t work now.

  31. jsam says:

    We’re only evil bastards because we’re convinced you’re even more evil. Ignore the preponderance of evidence against ys. What counts is conviction, surely.

    Is this the Peiser pincer move?

  32. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Deliberate mirroring of the right’s ‘shadowy network’:

  33. John Mashey says:

    Ahh, I just saw my name invoked. Try, more or less in chronological order:
    1) Crescendo to Climategate Cacophony

    2) Strange Scholarship in the Wegman Report, especially pp.25-32, as CEI and GMI fostered the attack on the hockey-stick, in connection with James Inhofe (#1 and #2 funders Koch Industries and Murray Energy (coal), and Joe Barton (Top 2 industries Oil&Gas, electric utilities.

    3) Then there’s Fakery 2: More Funny Finances, Free Of Tax, try p.3 of the PDF attached there. That’s an updated version of the Feb 2012 version that found the DONORS money-laundry the Kochs and friends use to anonymize their funding flows. See Appendix I, and read about the interlocking directorates of Philanthropy Roundtable, Donors Trust, Donors Capital Fund, various foundations, etc. Of course, there are interesting meetings.

    4) See No Evil, Speak Little Truth, Break Rules, Blame Others, see Appendix A.6, especially p.58, which shows Kochs & friends interconnects with George Mason U (most of which is a normal university, but some parts are dubious.)

    5) Then there’s TEA Party: Tobacco Everywhere Always which summarizes a great paper that showed the long history of Kochs+Big Tobacco in fostering the TEA Party, which they wanted to “Quarterback behind the scenes.” It especially illustrates the movement away from all-too-obvious industry associations towards “independent” think tanks, pioneered by tobacco, followed by others.

    6) Study Details Dark Money Flowing to Climate Science Denial introduces the most extensive study I know off about the funding flows, done by Drexel sociologist Robert Brulle. That was 3 years later than 1) above, and more detailed, but has some similarities.

  34. MikeH says:

    Stunning research by David Rose. Presumably his PA did the keyboard work.

    Re William Connolley and “shadowy right-wing networks funding denialism”. The “shadowy” is self inflicted. The leading advocate of climate denialism (and tobacco denialism and …) in Australia is the Institute of Public Affairs. They are hugely influential within the Abbott government yet refuse to disclose their funding sources. (Their main donor is widely assumed to be right-wing mining billionaire Gina Rinehart).

  35. anoilman says:

    I think that in order for it to be ‘shadowy’ it would need to be secret, or at least denied when folks ask.

    However, it’s not an unusual practice to keep one’s identity a secret. Paul Martin’s Aboriginal Education Initiative frequently revieves donatins which they must keep secret;
    These guys are simply trying to help Canadian Aboriginals. Aid comes from all over including foreign support like Bill Gates. (Some money is from oil and gas, obviously shoring up credibility issues.)

    Never the less sources of funding do help understand motivation. Pfizer was caught supporting Heartland’s pro smoking campaign. They sell smoking cessation drugs. Coincidence? Or do they really believe in free choice? What do you think?

  36. izen says:

    There are many organisations, groups, institutes and foundations that try to influence the public discourse and government policy. The motivations of such bodies can be divided in to the faith based and material gain as the reason for advocacy. There is often some overlap.

    The most clear-cut faith based lobbyists are the religious groups. They campaign on Sunday observance, divorce, abortion without any consideration of material gain. Their funding is from a membership who share the faith-based set of common beliefs.
    The most clear-cut examples of those driven by the economics might be the industry funded groups who support tax breaks. subsidies and oppose government regulation.

    Business groups that lobby against the imposition of or the raising of a statutory minimum wage may claim a belief-based motivation. That it is a damaging interference in the free market of labour. Or that it is materially damaging to the economy as a whole causing job losses and bankrupting small enterprises.
    However the economic data, rather like sea level rise, shows that a minimum wage is a tide that raises all boats. The economic motivation for business is that the minimum wage transfers the cost of labour from the government to business. The majority of non-pension welfare benefits are received by working people on low wages. An effective wage subsidy for the employer.
    Those campaigning for a minimum wage and a rising value can point to the real world data on its effectiveness. But ironically they often expound and seem motivated by moral arguments about social justice, a faith-based position.

    The David Rose article and the invocation of the ‘Green Blob’ seems somewhat confused. Is it attacking the greens for being a faith-based movement funded by ‘shadowy sources’ that are motivated by ideological beliefs? Or shadowy sources that have a financial interest in the advancement of the green agenda?
    The possibility that the ‘Green blob’ could be motivated by real world data that indicates a problem just as has happened in the past with asbestos, CFCs tobacco is not apparently considered as a factor.

    Organisations like the GWPF can then portray themselves as opposing an attack on the economic system from faith-based groups wanting social change for ideological reasons that are invoking AGW for their political ends. They are defenders of economic stability in the face of anti-market belief systems that spuriously invoke climate change to justify economic change.
    Or like Greenpeace, invoke faith in some benevolent natural Gaia state, balance of nature tosh.

    The problem for the Rose article is that while most of his target audience will ‘get’ the implication that the Green blob is a faith based lobby driven by antipathy to the status quo and silly hippy new age woo about the sanctity of nature, it is difficult to avoid the implication that the other side of the argument is NOT driven by financial gain. That risk is probably why groups like the GWPF and the Australian IPA are so cagey about their funding.
    They also have the problem that with very little independent science to back their position they end up having to make their own.
    And expounding their own belief systems, the faith in free markets with minimal regulation, low taxes and no employee rights is difficult just after a major collapse of the economic system and the many examples (Idaho, Kansas) where applying those principles had had the opposite effect to that claimed by the libertarian/Hayakian school.

    When dealing with any advocacy group active in politics perhaps the only addition to the famous ‘five questions’ –
    “What power have you got?
    Where did you get it from?
    In whose interests do you exercise it?
    To whom are you accountable?
    And how can we get rid of you?”

    Would be-
    ” What do those that fund you gain from your actions?”
    Monetary advantage, or just the warm fuzzy feeling of occupying the moral high ground?


  37. John Mashey says:

    Others may have done so earlier, but Naomi Oreskes was talking about the tobacco/climate anti-science connections in 2007, before she and Erik Conway started writing Merchants of Doubt(2010), in which it was an important theme.

    While preceded by other corporate anti-science, like lead paint and asbestos, (for those and others, try David Michaels’ classic, Doubt is Their Product(2008)) the tobacco folks drastically raised the level of tactics and likely still have the best marketeers on the planet.

    Many think tanks that do climate anti-science started doing the same for tobacco in the 1990s, but since most only started in the 1980s or 1990s, they were too late for lead, asbestos, etc
    It is very hard to understand modern anti-science tactics without studying the tobacco industry. Fortunately, unlike most other industries, there is a large database (80M+ pages) of internal documents at the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, UC San Francisco. Just for fun, try that search engine with “global warming”.

    See Fakery 2:
    p.39 partial table of Philip Morris funding in US 1991-2001, but if you check the references there are many more. The PM guy in charge of distributing money to think tanks was on Heartland’s Board, and in trying to find him, I discovered that each year he wrote a document listing how much money each group would get. The other companies were either less organized or hid documents.

    p.40 what these tax-exempt think tanks (which claim to exist in public interest) did to help.
    (My favorite: “access to GW Bush”)
    p.41 other interactions / payments, from a quick scan here’s one:
    Texas Public Policy Foundation, of which PM wrote internally (1998):
    “They are a conservative think tank research organization .We have had a close relationship with them for many years . Per Neal’s operation, they have done a lot of work on issues that we deem important . We are a longtime financial supporter. In the past, we have paid them out of the tort budget.”
    Recently the UK’s Rupert Darwall,spoke for at their Energy and Climate Policy Summit, with other folks whose names some will recognize. Darwall’s book was blurbed by Lord Lawson and James Delingpole. As an early calibration of Darwall’s grasp of science, see Cheshire Claim: Rupert Darwall Copies Satellite CO2 Nonsense From Murry Salby.

    Finally, the tobacco/think tank relationship continues in Familiar Think Tanks Fight For E-cigarettes.

  38. izen says:

    The figures in the Rose article are, as might be expected, misleading.
    There is the statement that ClimateWorks raised $500million from the Hewlett foundation, in the next section it is stated they set up the ECF with the implication that that sort of money was being spent in Europe. All the figures mentioned as money raise as grants for green groups is in the 100s of millions.

    However as is apparent from the Hewlett foundation website-
    The grant to the ECF was a rather more modest $5million over six years. 1% of the amount implied by the article.

    The mention of the Swiss Oak foundation is also misleading, its about as ‘Swiss’ as the Red Cross, its a global philanthropy group with interests rather wider than climate. However perhaps the Mail readers would be equally suspicious of its efforts in gender equality and human rights. But counting all the donations from such philanthropic sources as funding the Green blob is obviously inaccurate.

    There is an implied assumption that these figures that are funds to Europe for groups who campaign on many other other issues are ALL targeted at green policy in the UK.

    The source for the claim that such green initiatives and meeting the emissions reduction targets will add billions to energy costs, increase household bills by a third and result in blackouts seems to come from an analysis by an equity analyst at a stockbroker firm that seems to recommend buying oil and mineral companies. and an analyst with a rather partisan take on the economics of the UK energy market.-
    “We have long argued that current EU / UK energy policy is deeply flawed and that utility companies and public market investors should be wary of committing further capital to support and deliver it. Advice which has been increasingly accepted in recent times. After all, an energy policy that has the Hinkley Point C contract and off-shore wind as its two flagship achievements must eventually collapse under the weight of its own idiocy. ”

    Not a particularly credible or unbiased source for accurate figures for the future impacts of emissions controls, fuel prices or efficiency improvements and the way they may affect the future energy market.

  39. Andrew Dodds says:

    izen –

    UK energy policy IS catastrophic, though.

    It’s classic market-obsession stuff.. where the only actors allowed to actually do anything are private companies and if the government wants anything to happen it has to arrange incentives such that the ‘right outcome’ is achieved. It sometimes feels like one of those kid’s games where you have to get a ball bearing around a maze by tilting it.

    It also abounds with opportunity for companies to dig deep of the taxpayer’s pocket. Indeed, as in the case of Hinkley Point C, it seems that we are paying for this stuff but we won’t own it. And then, companies notice the shifting rules and incentives and suspend investment on the grounds that the rules will probably change again next tuesday.

  40. izen says:

    @-Andrew Dodds
    “It’s classic market-obsession stuff.. where the only actors allowed to actually do anything are private companies and if the government wants anything to happen it has to arrange incentives such that the ‘right outcome’ is achieved.”

    But then the fossil fuel industry achieved regulatory capture of governments around the time of the first Rockefeller, shortly after drilled oil replace whale.

    It is probably why a key element of future energy use is so rarely mentioned. Efficiency savings involve that serious heresy of big business market capitalism, a REDUCTION in consumption.

  41. John Mashey says:

    Regarding keeping things secret:
    1) In US, to get the tax breaks, private foundations can only given net to registered charities, ie 501(c)(3)s, and they report that in their yearly IRS Form 990s.

    2) A receiving charity has to report their donors to the IRS, but in an appendix that is not public (except by occasional rare accident).

    3) Of course, if you have a database of the foundation donations, like Foundation Center, one can if course ask the inverse question: which foundations donated to a charity, but that dies not find private individuals or companies.

    4) Charles Koch has especially loathed the idea that his foundations need to report where the $ goes for him to get the tax break.

    5) About a decade ago, the Donors Trust/Capital Fund was set up as “donor advised trust”. A donor ( or foundation) puts in $, controls where it goes and Shen, but all the checks are signed by Whitney Ball, who runs that.
    Thus, if enough donors are providing $, it is impossible to tell from outside who is actually funding what. Brilliant exploitation of a loophole to keep funding dark and still get the tax benefits. Unsurpisingly, $ via Donors has been growing as a percentage.

  42. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP wrote “don’t promote the idea that those who drive us towards economic suicide should be held accountable – you may live to regret it!”

    Western nations do not work that way. It is quite difficult to find an example of anyone in politics being held accountable for anything whether it is U.S. or U.K.

    But the magnitude of this is enormous and beyond anyone’s capability to make amends.

    Consider the terrorists that destroyed the World Trade Center. Supposing they had lived, how exactly would they be held “accountable”? Publish a photo in the newspaper and say “guilty!” but that would be about it. Execute the terrorists? They executed themselves and were proud of the opportunity.

    In a democracy, accountability is somewhat limited to not being elected in the next round and having your legislation repealed (Australia, carbon tax). So if global warming takes off again, which it might but I’m not betting either way, then the fingers will once again point the other way.

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