UPDATE: I forgot that I posted 2.5 years ago on the connection between Templeton and some organizations that are either explicitly climate-denialist or anti-government-regulation in nature, like the Mercatus Center and the Heartland Institute, as well as those with looser connections like the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. See my earlier post for details.
Since Templeton pours huge amounts of money into free-enterprise initiatives (that is an explicit part of its mission), I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s opposed to government regulations that would ameliorate global warming.
Again, I emphasize that we don’t have the data showing exactly how much Templeton money goes to climate-denialism of anti-climate regulation. Indeed, in some cases (if they just donate for “general support”), it would be impossible to figure out. What I am saying is that the connections are deeply suspicious, that Templeton has a long history of supporting conservative, anti-regulatory organizations, some of which are mainly involved in climate denialism or anti-climate-regulation activities, and, finally, that any scientist who wants Templeton money should know about this issue and try to find out if the Foundation really is involved in fighting science or preventing improvement of climate. I suspect, though, that most scientists who want some of that Templeton dosh will find reasons to look the other way.
There are many scientists who take money from the John Templeton Foundation, whose ultimate aim is to show that science and religion are harmonious. If you’ve been at this site a while, you’ll have read my own take on Templeton, which is negative, and my opinion that scientists should not take money from this organization.
Nevertheless, many do, including Brian Greene (Templeton partly funds his and Tracy Day’s World Science Festival, which I hasten to add is a great event), Martin Nowak at Harvard (head of a $10.5 million Templeton project on social evolution), and social scientists like Elaine Ecklund and (in the past) Tanya Luhrmann. When scientists do justify taking money from Templeton, they often say that the Foundation’s religious activities are irrelevant to their own, aren’t inimical to their science, and, after all, somebody has to get the money.
Well, that excuse won’t hold water any more, for a new paper in the journal Climate Change (reference and link below) shows that Templeton gives substantial sums of money to climate-change denialist organizations. And by “substantial”, I mean more than 20 milliion dollars over the eight years from 2003-2010.
This, in fact, puts scientists directly in conflict with an anti-science strain of the Templeton Foundation, since the consensus view of scientists is that human activities are substantially altering the Earth’s climate. That’s not religion, but science, and if you take money from the hand of Templeton you are likely involved in a group whose other hand gives money to science denialism.
The paper, by Robert Brulle of Drexel University, is called “Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations.” (If you can’t download it free at the link, judicious inquiry should yield it.) What Brulle did was go through Internal Revenue Service (IRS) records of both private foundations (e.g. Templeton, Lilly Endowment, Inc., etc.) and of organizations engaged in what he calls the “climate change counter-movement,” or CCCM. Those organizations either are engaged in climate-change denialism (like the Mercatus Center), or, if they accept the scientific consensus, nevertheless argue that it’s too onerous to take action (see Brulle’s schema for identifying these groups in his “supplementary material”).
The survey period was from 2003-2010, and records for most of these foundations are publicly available, though some aren’t required to identify their donors.
His final sample included 140 foundations that gave 5,299 grants (total $558 million) to 91 organizations identified as CCCM groups. Here’s figure 1 from Brulle’s paper, showing the investment of various donor groups in climate-change denialist organizations. Note the $20.2 million dollar investment by the John Templeton Foundation: 4% of total investments in CCCM groups (I’ve added the arrow). As Brulle’s paper notes:
Over the 2003–2010 period, they [the Donors Trust/Donors Capital Fund] provided more than $78 million in funding to CCCM organizations. The other major funders are the combined Scaife and Koch Affiliated Foundations, and the Bradley, Howard, Pope, Searle and Templeton foundations, all giving more than $20 million from 2003–2010.
Brulle points out that the foundations giving the most money to CCCM organizations, Donors Trust/Donors Capital, are what they call “donor directed” foundationa, meaning that other groups and individuals contribute to such groups can state the intent of their donations, and then the donor directed foundations can disperse the money to CCCM organizations without disclosing the identify of contributors. That means that money intended to fund climate-change denialism is laundered; it’s what, in a parallel with physics, Brulle calls “dark money.”
Here, by the way, are the CCCM organizations to which the groups shown above donate:
If you want to know who Templeton donated to, here are the data from Brulle’s “supplementary material”:
As Brulle notes,
. . . conservative think tanks were the largest recipients of foundation support. These think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute, are among the best known conservative think tanks in the United States. The American Enterprise Institute received 16 % of the total grants made to organizations that are active in the CCCM. The Heritage Foundation was a close second, receiving 14 %. The majority of foundation funding goes to multiple focus conservative think tanks. As previous analyses have shown (Jacques et al. 2008; Dunlap and Jacques 2013), these multiple focus think tanks are highly active in the CCCM.
One of Brulle’s more notable findings was that “network analysis—” a measure of the “weight” of donor groups among all monies dispersed to CCCM organizations—showed that donations by two of the largest groups once funding climate-change denialim, ExxonMobil and Koch Affiliated Foundations, have dropped to almost nothing (ExxonMobil went from 4.7% of total funds in 2003 to zero by 2007, and Koch from 9% in 2006 to 2% in 2010.) At the same time, as you see in the graph below, the amount of funds dispersed by Donors Trust/Donors capital has risen dramatically, from less than 4% in 2003 to more than 23% in 2010. It is possible, but not certain, that ExxonMobil and Koch are still donating to CCCM groups, but hiding their donations by giving the money to donor directed foundations like Donors Trust/Donors Capital. That is not a certainty, but are we to think that these organizations have simply stopped donating completely?
As Brulle notes:
The rapid increase in the percentage of funding of the CCCM by Donors Trust/Capital and the decline in both Koch and ExxonMobil corresponds to the initiation of campaigns by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Greenpeace publicizing and criticizing both ExxonMobil and Koch Corporations as funders of climate denial. Although the correspondence is suggestive of an effort to conceal funding of the CCCM by these foundations, it is impossible to determine for certain whether or not ExxonMobil and the Koch Foundations continue to fund CCCM organizations via Donors Trust/Capital or direct corporate contributions. However, it is important to note that a Koch run foundation, the Knowledge and Progress Fund, initiated a pattern of making large grants to Donors Trust in 2008.
Let me add here that while Templeton has donated substantial funds to CCCM groups, it’s not certain whether (or how much of) that money was earmarked for climate-change denialist activities. I’m not sure, for instance, whether the recipient foundations just have a pot of money that they disperse for whatever activities they want (i.e., “general support,” in which case Templeton would be directly complicit), or whether Templeton can say, when it gave out that 20 million bucks, “We don’t want any of this money used for climate-change denialist activities.” The latter possibility seems quite unlikely to me, and certainly to Brulle. But at any rate, were I a Templeton-funded scientist, I would demand to know how much Templeton money goes for climate-change denialism. If any does (and I suspect it does), or if they won’t reveal the answer, I’d stop taking their money. (I would never take Templeton money anyway, but lots of scientists do, for federal grants are hard to get, and Templeton has deep pockets and much looser standards.)
On December 21, The Daily Climate reported on Brulle’s paper and interviewed him in a piece called “Study finds shift to ‘dark money’ in climate denial effort.” Here are a few statements by Brulle in that interview:
“The climate change countermovement has had a real political and ecological impact on the failure of the world to act on global warming,” Brulle said in a statement. “Like a play on Broadway, the countermovement has stars in the spotlight – often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians – but behind the stars is an organizational structure of directors, script writers and producers.”
“If you want to understand what’s driving this movement, you have to look at what’s going on behind the scenes.”
. . .In the end, Brulle concluded public records identify only a fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars supporting climate denial efforts. Some 75 percent of the income of those organizations, he said, comes via unidentifiable sources.
And for Brulle, that’s a matter of democracy. “Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible,” he said. “Money amplifies certain voices above others and, in effect, gives them a megaphone in the public square.”
Powerful funders, he added, are supporting the campaign to deny scientific findings about global warming and raise doubts about the “roots and remedies” of a threat on which the science is clear.
“At the very least, American voters deserve to know who is behind these efforts.”
And so do American scientists, especially those who take money from Foundations like Templeton. So how about it, Drs. Greene, Nowak, Ecklund, and Luhrmann? Will you demand to know how much money from the organizations that fund you goes for climate-change denialism? If any does, will you continue, as scientists, to take money from groups that fund anti-science, a kind of anti-science that threatens to destroy our planet?
And if you look at the Board of Advisors of the John Templeton Foundation, you will find many prominent scientists and academics. Will they be willing to demand accountability from the organization they “advise”?
The “I-don’t-care-about-religion” excuse can no longer hold for those associated with Templeton money. For scientists must surely care if they’re supported by a group that also gives money to deny the findings of science in the service of capitalism.
h/t: Diana MacPherson
Brulle, R. 2013. Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations. Climatic Change. doi:10.1007/s10584-013-1018-7