Internal documents reportedly from a free-market group were published online this week. If they are genuine, the documents reveal that some of the nation’s largest fossil fuel interests are funding attacks to discredit climate science, including in public schools.
The Heartland Institute disputes the authenticity of one document, but elements discussed in that document are covered in the others, too. The documents show that the Chicago-based group derives its funding from several sources and enjoys substantial support from the Charles G. Koch Foundation and Murray Energy Company. These groups represent the largest private oil and coal interests in the United States, respectively.
Meanwhile, the documents refer often to an anonymous donor who has offered major support for the group’s efforts to undermine climate science, including a plan to challenge the teaching of climate science in public schools.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has long worked to expose precisely the kind of corporate and political interference in science these documents reveal. Kevin Knobloch, the group’s president, issued the following statement:
“These latest documents further expose the mechanics of a cynical campaign underwritten by fossil fuel interests to confuse the American public about climate change. Free market ideology has no bearing on the scientific question of whether or not human activity is dramatically altering our climate. But, just as the tobacco industry famously sought to sow doubt about the health effects of smoking cigarettes, some cynical groups and fossil fuel interests want to prevent us from coming together to address the threat posed by global warming. The fact that these interests are willing to take their ideological fight into our children’s science classrooms is especially disturbing.
“Fortunately, many energy companies accept the facts on climate change and are working on solutions. The question is no longer whether or not scientists agree about climate change and the urgency to act — they do — but when the corporations and individuals who fund attacks on climate science will finally stop.
“These documents underscore the need for greater corporate transparency when it comes to the groups they choose to fund. The public deserves to know how corporations are trying to influence public policy debates. We need to depend on stronger disclosure requirements, not unauthorized releases, to learn about their priorities.”