Templeton gave big money to climate-denialist organizations

May 29, 2019 • 12:00 pm

Reader Robert called my attention to a 2013 paper in Climatic Change (described by Drexel University as “one of the top 10 climate science journals in the world”) that tracked the source of money given to American climate-denialist organizations. While the results may be out of date, it shows that over at least seven years, the Templeton Foundation gave more than twenty million dollars to organizations—mostly think tanks—opposing the idea of anthropogenic climate change. (Note added in proof: I discovered that I’d written a long post about this paper six years ago, but, rather than repeat what I said, or call your attention to an earlier post, I’ll give a shorter version here.)

The paper’s author is Robert Brulle, described by Wikipedia as

. . . . [an] environmental sociologist and professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University. He is also an associate professor of public health at the Drexel University School of Public Health. He advocates aggressive political action to address global warming.

A free pdf of the full paper can be downloaded at this link or by clicking on the screenshot below.

Or click here to see a Drexel-written summary of Brulle’s paper:

Brulle used Internal Revenue Service data to find out both which organizations were making donations to climate change counter-movement (CCCM) organizations (see the list below) as well as data from the CCCM groups’ tax reports to find out where their money was coming from. In total, he found data from 91 different CCCM organizations funded by 141 foundations between 2003 and 2010. It would be nice to have a more recent sample, though some foundations, as reported below, hide their contributions by funneling them through untraceable sources. 

The four main points of the paper are outlined by the Drexel site (quotations direct).

1.) Conservative foundations have bank-rolled denial.The largest and most consistent funders of organizations orchestrating climate change denial are a number of well-known conservative foundations, such as the Searle Freedom Trust, the John William Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation. These foundations promote ultra-free-market ideas in many realms.

2.) Koch and ExxonMobil have recently pulled back from publicly visible funding. From 2003 to 2007, the Koch Affiliated Foundations and the ExxonMobil Foundation were heavily involved in funding climate-change denial organizations. But since 2008, they are no longer making publicly traceable contributions.

3.) Funding has shifted to pass through untraceable sources. Coinciding with the decline in traceable funding, the amount of funding given to denial organizations by the Donors Trust has risen dramatically. Donors Trust is a donor-directed foundation whose funders cannot be traced. This one foundation now provides about 25% of all traceable foundation funding used by organizations engaged in promoting systematic denial of climate change.

4.) Most funding for denial efforts is untraceable. Despite extensive data compilation and analyses, only a fraction of the hundreds of millions in contributions to climate change denying organizations can be specifically accounted for from public records. Approximately 75% of the income of these organizations comes from unidentifiable

The fact that organizations are hiding their donations is of course worrying, but also shows that the companies know they’d get bad publicity from giving money to CCCMs. Donors Trust, which gives 25% of all money to CCCM over the period, is designed to hide the source of donations. As Brulle’s paper states:

Of special interest in this regard is that Donors Trust and Donors Capital are both “donor directed” foundations. In this type of foundation, individuals or other foundations contribute money to the donor directed foundation, and it then makes grants based on the stated preferences of the original contributor. This process ensures that the intent of the contributor is met while also hiding that contributor’s identity. Because contributions to a donor directed foundation are not required to be made public, their existence provides a way for individuals or corporations to make anonymous contributions. In effect, these two philanthropic foundations form a black box that conceals the identity of contributors to various CCCM organizations.

While I suppose this is legal, I don’t know why it should be, for the donations still go to the specified recipient.

And here’s the breakdown of money given to CCCMs from 2003-2010 by various foundations. Brulle’s paper summarizes the results visually presented in the pie chart (my emphasis in both the words and the chart):

Figure 1 shows the overall amount and percentage distribution of foundation funding of CCCM organizations. The single largest funders are the combined foundations Donors Trust/Donors Capital Fund. Over the 2003–2010 period, they 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.

The size of the donations, in descending order are given as the pie slices going clockwise from “others” at the bottom:

Here is the money received by various CCCM organizations; if you study global warming, you’ll be familiar with many of them, with the largest being well known conservative think tanks. In other words, the pie chart above shows the amount of money given by foundations to organizations shown below, who use the dosh to create climate-change-denialist propaganda.

Sunny Bains’s 2011 article in Evolutionary Psychology, “Questioning the integrity of the John Templeton Foundation,” details more involvement of Templeton in climate-denialism.

Given Templeton’s predilection for selling itself as a science-friendly organization, and the number of genuine scientists who swill at the Templeton trough, I’d hope that the Foundation would have stopped this behavior, though of course they continue funding ludicrous religion-and-science-are-bffs initiatives. I can’t find any information later than this study, but that means nothing. If Templeton lets me know that not a penny of their resources goes to organizations involved in climate-change denialism, I’ll be glad to issue an update. But for the nonce, no scientist with any self-respect should be taking money from Templeton.

31 thoughts on “Templeton gave big money to climate-denialist organizations

  1. I always considered Templeton’s efforts to undermine evolution and bolster ID as relatively harmless. More a sign of stubborn religiosity than any meaningful or lasting anti-evolution legacy. But giving money to organizations that deny climate change and thus endanger the lives of most living things on the planet? That goes beyond the pale. In my mind is a new pit of loathsomeness for Templeton’s ambitions.

    And then there’s this (excerpt) today from the NYT:

    In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration. It will expand its efforts to impose Mr. Trump’s hard-line views on other nations, building on his retreat from the Paris accord and his recent refusal to sign a communiqué to protect the rapidly melting Arctic region unless it was stripped of any references to climate change.

    And, in what could be Mr. Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests.
    As a result, parts of the federal government will no longer fulfill what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet and presenting a picture of what the earth could look like by the end of the century if the global economy continues to emit heat-trapping carbon dioxide pollution from burning fossil fuels.

    The attack on science is underway throughout the government. In the most recent example, the White House-appointed director of the United States Geological Survey, James Reilly, a former astronaut and petroleum geologist, has ordered that scientific assessments produced by that office use only computer-generated climate models that project the impact of climate change through 2040, rather than through the end of the century, as had been done previously.

    Stopping projections at 2040? The predictions don’t start getting really dire until 2050 iirc.

    The planet can’t go on like this. It’s frightening how short sighted the rich and powerful are. Are they all childless? This willful denial of climate change fueled by greed and corruption may well spell doom for our planet.

    1. “magic numbers” for analysis should not be set by politicians – that’s why one needs an arms-length public service.

      (Disclosure: I work for an arms-length public service.)

    2. “It’s frightening how short sighted the rich and powerful are. Are they all childless? This willful denial of climate change fueled by greed and corruption may well spell doom for our planet.”

      According to the latest Pew poll only 56% of Americans see climate change as a major threat (compared to 77% who see terrorism and 73% who see foreign cyber-attacks as major threats) with 27% seeing it as a minor threat, and 17% seeing it as no threat at all. And this is despite the stigma attached to being a “climate change denialist” (it’s gotten to the point where, if you judge by the media coverage, “climate change denialism” is a more serious threat than climate change itself).

      As much as we’d like to paint climate change denialism as the prerogative of the “rich and powerful. . .fueled by greed and corruption,” the simple truth is that a great many Americans, not all of whom are childless, see climate change as a political football rather than as impending “doom for our planet.”

  2. Templeton has faith that God will take care of things, just as he has taken care of the southern and central parts of the USA in the last week. It’s an opportunity for many “miracle” tornado survival stories to bolster the faith of idiots.

  3. I’m sickened. Mark R. expresses my sentiments far better than I could. I just sputter in fear and loathing.

    This article on Trump and his administration’s most recent climate change denial activities is pertinent because he’s moving on several fronts to block any and every attempt to learn about climate change and take action http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/05/trump-climate-denier-william-happer-co2-jews-science.html. The article notes that this William Happer finds a bizarre and exceedingly offensive (no, depraved) equation between persecution of Jews under Hitler and demonizing Co2: “the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.” That the Templeton Foundation aids and abets climate change denial is also depraved. But I guess “The Kingdom of God is nigh”

  4. As much as Templeton funds intellectually dishonest, agenda-ridden research, they have been largely innocuous since the scope of their ventures are peripheral to any mainstream science. Further, I doubt even they know their money is used to fund anti-climate science.

    They are in the market to support faith-is-real and other-ways-of-knowing programs. It is not surprising those same programs are well aligned with conspiratorial efforts to undermine climate science.

    1. Are you serious? You don’t think that they know about the use of their money? Jack Templeton donated personally to the Heartland Foundation, which is a think tank very largely involved in global warming denialism. I suggest you read the relevant part of Sunny Bains’s paper. They don’t give money to global-warming denialist organizations because they’re supporting “mainstream science.” I’m surprised you could think that.


  5. Not wanting to add all the numbers, but I estimate the total number of donations is between $500-600 million for climate change denial. Basically half a billion dollars.

    Any idea how much money scientists are raking in with their ‘climate change conspiracy’???

    1. I almost took your comment at face value 🙂

      In the first link we are told that a sample of 91 CCCM organizations have a combined annual income of just over $900 million. This is probably way short of a realistic total figure for denial shenanigans as political influencers are bribed in many imaginative ways & the funds for that don’t all flow through so called think tanks & foundations [also many bribes aren’t financial being based on the swapping of influence].

  6. “Any idea how much money scientists are raking in with their ‘climate change conspiracy’???”

    [Outdated figures, 2011]: According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, annual federal climate spending increased from $4.6 billion in 2003 to $8.8 billion in 2010, amounting to $106.7 billion over that period. The money was spent in four general categories: technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, science to understand climate changes, international assistance for developing countries, and wildlife adaptation to respond to actual or expected changes.

  7. With the current administration in control and undermining climate science at every turn it is hard to understand why Templeton and others are throwing so much money at this. I suppose they just can’t help it.

  8. Does it seem to anyone else like Templeton’s interests have shifted/expanded in the last couple of years? They’ve branched out to other far-right conspiracy-laden BS. I’d like to see some investigative journalists dig deeper into Templeton, its funding, its connections, and the possible reasons for this shift/expansion.

    1. I don’t agree that they’ve moved more into conspiracy laden BS. The foundation was set up 30 years ago with a strong emphasis on free markets & on the belief that huge chunks of precisely allocated money can be wielded as a force for good. SEE THE TABLE IN THIS PAGE of their top ten 2018 grants.

      They have moved how they look for God – they are ‘God Gapists’ just like creationists, but they now look for the Mighty Ones signature in consciousness studies & other ‘gappy’ ill defined disciplines. A decade ago they had a hadron [sorry] for physicists & the quantum & the Big Bang, but that train has left the station because poor returns & the Krauss scandal.

      1. Thanks for the info. I guess I’m younger than a lot of people here, so my familiarity with the Foundation doesn’t go too far back.

        Also, concerning yesterday’s link, I couldn’t see it because I use ScriptSafe and hadn’t approved the dailymotion.com script. I forgot that posting a video link in WordPress comments places the whole video instead of just a link, so I didn’t think to check my scripts. Once you replied…well, I was impressed as well 😛

        1. Exactly. The American John Templeton bought his way into British citizenship via financing a new stained glass window at Westminster Cathedral & other goods deeds before & after. Then he settled in Nassau, Commonwealth of the Bahamas [no taxes on personal income, inheritance, gifts or capital gains] for the rest of his days – out of reach of the nasty, grasping IRS. Saved himself hundreds of millions in pesky taxation.

  9. This seems a good place to ask a question to which I’ve yet to receive a useful reply:

    What conceivable piece of evidence would suggest that the consensus theory of climate change is false? What is the theory’s Precambrian rabbit?

    1. I’ve added the bolded word to your question because denialists often say correctly that climate is always changing:

      “What conceivable piece of evidence would suggest that the consensus theory of anthropogenic climate change is false?”

      Such a piece of evidence probably does not exist, but let us suppose that a scientist discovers a huge, natural, deep CO2 emitter in the west Pacific Ocean near the Mariana Trench – CO2 being released from ancient chalk beds in a previously unimagined process [& not picked up by satellite]. Suppose that CO2 release rate accounts for all the CO2 ppm increase rate over the last 160 years…

      That would set the Ceiling Cat among the pigeons because the IPCC would have to recalibrate their models to include a weird, recent [160 years] process & scientists would be in the dog house for many decades afterwards, but enough of utter fantasies.

      I blame the animals diversion on your damned rabbit…

      The hub of denial is in the USA. Even non-American denialists link back to that hub where the deep pockets full of greenbacks are eager to massage the IRL & online liars & loons. I don’t know of any scientist denialist who has put forth a prediction that’s equivalent to a misplaced pre-Cambrian rabbit-type theory which tells me most of the science literate denialists have an investment in bullshit.

      Wiki has a good list of retreat positions employed by denialists & the existence of these positions is good evidence that these people are not playing with a straight bat in their version of cricket – it’s reminiscent of creationists & their acceptance of micro-evolution:


      [1] CO2 is not actually increasing.

      [2] Even if it is, the increase has no impact on the climate since there is no convincing evidence of warming.

      [3] Even if there is warming, it is due to natural causes.

      [4] Even if the warming cannot be explained by natural causes, the human impact is small, and the impact of continued greenhouse gas emissions will be minor.

      [5] Even if the current and future projected human effects on Earth’s climate are not negligible, the changes are generally going to be good for us.

      [6] Whether or not the changes are going to be good for us, humans are very adept at adapting to changes; besides, it’s too late to do anything about it, and/or a technological fix is bound to come along when we really need it.

      How many different animals did you count?

      1. [0] Falsify every experiment since Svante Arrenhius showing that CO2 is not, in fact, a greenhouse case. Ditto for water vapour, methane, etc.

        As the kids used to say: good luck with that.

      2. Thanks for this. Sorry I didn’t answer sooner. I asked WordPress to notify me of comments, and WP did not so me notify.

        I’m thinking of a friend I’ll see in a couple of months. I know how he’d respond: “Fine. What conceivable piece of evidence would suggest that increased atmospheric CO2 – let’s say, doubled – is likely to have only a small effect on temperature – let’s say, less than a tenth of a degree?”

        I’d love to have a reply as pithy and effective as Haldane’s. I’m sure there is one, but I’m not a scientist, so I can’t come up with it.

        1. I didn’t quite understand that. Your friend is of the type that claims that if current CO2 levels doubled to 800 ppm the increase in heat retention would be minimal?

          1. No, his objection is that he can’t take climate-change theory seriously if it’s undisprovable. (He’s the one who told me about the Precambrian rabbit.) I see his point, and I’d love to have an effective answer.

          2. The answer is, the models predict certain (bad) outcomes with an estimated level of certainty. They cannot be proven at 100% certainty until after the fact, which would be too late to do anything about it. So, we are left with a fairly simple choice – do nothing and suffer whatever the future offers, or take action at some level that seems reasonable and hope to mitigate. That’s it.

  10. I had nothing but derision for an organization that corrupts science by religion. Now they are an actual threat to the survival of millions of people. GRRRRRRRRR.

  11. “Because contributions to a donor directed foundation are not required to be made public,…”

    A good place to start is with some legislation to close this loophole.

Leave a Reply to Kevin Henderson Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *