Dark Money Funding Climate Change Denial

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The network of corporate-funded right wing think tanks in America is massive. The money that flows to these organizations is even more massive than the networks themselves, and it flows in almost total secrecy thanks to Donors Trustand Donors Capital Fund.

These think tanks and astroturf groups are the leaders in climate change denial, spreading misinformation and corrupt data to the masses in order to downplay — and in many cases flat out deny — the reality of anthropogenic climate change.

And though we may not have the names of individual donors, a new report published in a leading British Newspaper does a great job of laying out how much money is flowing to these climate change denial groups.

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According to the report, a staggering sum of $125 million has been given to these organizations that deny climate change over the last three years. This money is used to fund industry-friendly groups who create and disseminate talking points, and support other public relations efforts and the right wing media echo chamber to promote climate change denial.

Another goal of this money is to undermine federal regulations aimed at curtailing emissions and other environmental health and safety standards. For example, The Guardian says that portions of this $125 million have been used to fight the Obama administration’s recent rules for coal-fired power plants that would put limits on the amount of greenhouses gases these plants are allowed to release into the atmosphere.

Of course, since these groups all participate in other areas of politics, it is difficult to conclude whether or not all of this money went directly to climate change denial, although all these groups are actively engaged in climate change denial.

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In order to find out where the money is going, journalists sifted through several years’ worth of tax filings. Many of these organizations are classified as 501(c)3 groups, which means that they are tax exempt and do not have to disclose the names of their donors.

What they uncovered is a massive web of climate denial being funded by a seemingly limits “dark money ATM.”

A few of the groups listed in the report include:

The Federalist Society, a networking group for conservative lawyers and justices which calls on states to reject the EPAauthority to regulate carbon pollution, received $8.7m over the past three years.

the State Policy Network, a network of ultra-conservative think tanks, received a total of $8.2m over the last three years.

Think tanks allied with the State Policy Network have worked with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a pro-business lobby, which has sought legislation to penalize homeowners who install solar panels.

The Hudson Institute, a Washington think tank whose climate expert opposes cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, took in $7.9m over three years. The Heartland Institute, which sent a delegation to Rome in April to try to upstage meetings between the Pope and the United Nations chief Ban Ki Moon on climate change, received $3.8m.

Another big beneficiary of the anonymous funds, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has received $4.3m over three years, claims on its website that climate change is its biggest program.

The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, whose communications director is Marc Morano, took $3.7m from donors in 2012 – its most ever. A year later, however, the organization received $325,000.

Again, the source of the money is not clear, thanks to U.S. laws that allow donors to give anonymously to these organizations. But what is painfully clear is that the money flowing to climate change denial is only for the benefit of the dirty energy industry, as the rest of the country only stands to lose if corporations are allowed to continue to pollute without limits.

To learn more about Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, check out the analysis by DeSmog’s Graham Readfearn exploring the dark money ATM in further detail.

Polar Bear by Carla Lombardo Ehrlich

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6th mass extinction already here as species disappear 100 times faster – study

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The world is on the brink of its sixth mass extinction, as animals are disappearing 100 times faster than previously, scientists warned in a new report. They also say humanity could be among the first victims of this extinction.

According to the Princeton, Stanford and UC Berkeley scientists, rates like these have not been seen since the last age of the dinosaurs some 66 million years ago. Paul Ehlrich of Stanford says the data“shows without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event.”

The data demonstrates “without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event,” Ehlrich, whose work on the disappearance of species dates back to 1980, said.

The report has been drawn to counter critics who believe the data is exaggerated. Ehlrich and co-authors seek to demonstrate, using conservative assumptions, that the new phase is already well under way, seeing as they are “far above the ‘background’ rates prevailing in the five preceding mass extinctions.”

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The background rate is the normal rate of disappearance between mass extinctions.

“If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on,” lead author Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico said in support.

But the background rate is difficult to estimate, so the scientists had to improvise with techniques. Humanity has gaps in its knowledge of what happened over Earth’s 4.5 billion-year lifespan.

The team used a past extinction rate that was twice as high as the estimates widely used in previous studies, and compared that rate to the most conservative estimates. In this way, they brought the two approximate rates as close to each other as possible – the current and all-time background rates.

Polar Bear by Carla Lombardo Ehrlich

The researchers argue that if the past rate was two mammal extinctions out of 10,000 species over 100 years, then the “average rate of vertebrate species loss over the last century is up to 114 times higher than it would be without human activity, even when relying on the most conservative estimates of species extinction.”

They add that their “calculations very likely underestimate the severity of the extinction crisis because our aim was to place a realistic lower band on humanity’s impact on biodiversity.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature backs up the alarming news, providing a threat level of 26 percent for mammals and 41 percent for amphibians – Elrich calls those who made it into the statistic“the walking dead.”

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“Averting a dramatic decay of biodiversity and the subsequent loss of ecosystem services is still possible through intensified conservation efforts, but that window of opportunity is rapidly closing,” the scientists say.

There is a man-made causal chain that leads to biodiversity reduction, habitat loss, deforestation, overexploitation of resources and other evils. As species disappear, so do the key ecosystem services provided by bee pollination, as well as wetlands water purification. The researchers say we stand to lose many of those biodiversity benefits within three generations. As Ehlrich puts it, “We are sawing the limb that we are sitting on.”

The authors hope their study, published in Science Advances, will serve to influence policy and propel conservation efforts forward before the changes become completely irreversible.

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