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Climate Denial Funding is Decreasing

GinaMarie headshotWords by Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Energy & Environment

Climate change denial is waning in popularity. The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), a climate change denial group, lost over two-thirds of its funding over the last two years. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reviewed tax filings for the group. The CFACT tax filing for 2014, filed in late 2015, reported that the group received grant revenue of $1.5 million, a decrease from $2 million it reported receiving in 2013. In 2012, CFACT reported receiving $5.5 million.

CFACT was founded in 1985 “to promote a positive voice on environment and development issues,” the organization’s website states. CFACT has received funding from fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil. However, that funding seems to have dried up. A big reason is that ExxonMobil is facing possible lawsuits and criminal penalties. New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman started investigating whether ExxonMobil lied to the public or investors about climate change risks. Last month, Schneiderman issued a subpoena to the company to hand over financial statements and other documents, the New York Times reported.

Back in the early ‘80s, ExxonMobil not only acknowledged that carbon dioxide from fossil fuels would increase global temperatures, but also researched how it would impact the planet. However, by 1997, the company’s then-CEO Lee Raymond spoke out against the Kyoto Protocol, as an Inside Climate News investigation revealed. “It is highly unlikely that the temperature in the middle of the next century will be significantly affected whether policies are enacted now or 20 years from now,” Raymond said.

In the 1990s, a shareholder petition asked ExxonMobil to develop a carbon emissions reduction plan, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation. The company’s board responded that its “examination of the issue supports the conclusions that the facts today and the projection of future effects are very unclear.” However, the company’s own researchers and engineers were “quietly incorporating climate change projections into the company’s planning and closely studying how to adapt the company’s Arctic operations to a warming planet,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

The days when a fossil company like ExxonMobil can practice and fund climate change denial are clearly over. The majority of Americans (70 percent) believe there is solid evidence of climate change during the last four decades, a recent poll revealed. That is the second highest level of belief in climate change in the history of the National Surveys on Energy and the Environment (NSEE), falling short of the 72 percent mark in a fall 2008 poll.

Even some Republican lawmakers believe in human-caused climate change. In September, 11 House Republicans signed a resolution recognizing the role of humans in climate change. Led by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), the resolution expressed that the House “commits to working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation and exceptionalism to create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates.”

“All too often, the conversation about appropriate and balanced environmental stewardship gets caught up in partisan politics,” Rep. Gibson said in a statement. “Yet, this conversation is key to the preservation of our great country for generations to come, as important as ensuring we have fiscally responsible policies to secure our future.”
Perhaps Americans are leaving climate change denial behind because they are witnessing its effects. From devastating droughts and wildfires in the West to hurricanes in the Southeast, the U.S. is seeing increasingly extreme weather events. A majority of Americans believe climate change made extreme weather events in 2011 worse, according to a report by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Those extreme weather events included the Mississippi floods, high summer temperatures, and drought in Texas and Oklahoma. In other words, Americans see what is occurring and are making the connection to climate change.

Photo: Flickr/Development Planning Unit University College London

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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