The current situation
The western world is shifting to the right. More and more populistic and right parties are growing stronger (GREGOR AISCH, ADAM PEARCE and BRYANT ROUSSEAU, 2016), with Donald Trump there is a populist voted as President of the United States and it seems that the fear of more terror attacks is growing. But when everyone is focused on security and many people are voting right, what will be the consequences in working against climate change?
Traditionally Europe is not as vulnerable to climate change denial as the United States, but the broad field of different players is complex in Europe as well. The active populists, organizations or think-tanks are a minority compared to the most scientists and organizations agreeing on man-made climate change, but with non peer-reviewed studies, conferences or using mass media they are able to confuse parts of the public (CORPORATE EUROPE OBSERVATORY, 2010). Climate change denial is defined as “organized attempts to downplay, deny or dismiss the scientific consensus on the extent of global warming, its significance, and its connection to human behavior, especially for commercial or ideological reasons” (DUNLAP, RILEY and MCRIGHT, 2011)
One of the biggest players and funders of climate change denial in the western hemisphere is Koch Industries, one of the largest private companies in the United States. In the years 2005 to 2008 foundations of the company spent 24,9$ million in funding organizations denying climate change. They created a network of lobbyists, former executives and organizations in which they are spreading misinformation mainly on scientists, climate policy progress and renewable energy. This information and the funding reaches Europe over connections to many organizations like the Heartland Institute, which are sending them to others as well. And while funding all these different players, only a few people are actually aware of Koch Industries (GREENPEACE, 2010).
One particular case is the so-called “Climate Gate”. It is about a hack, where selected emails were stolen from the servers of the University of East Anglia. A lot of organizations, many of them funded by Koch Foundations, used them out of contact trying to prove a conspiracy and deny man-made climate change. Conferences about Climate Gate took place in Europe, where Americans For Prosperity (AFP) named it “the biggest hoax our world has ever seen” (GREENPEACE, 2010). AFP received more than five million US$ in fundings since 2005. This case states that, even if there are not so many climate change deniers in Europe, the western hemisphere is soaked by companies willing to pay for the denial.
A lack of transparency
While it is already hard to understand all the connections from the United States to Europe, it is even harder to get any information about fundings in Europe. Think tanks do not have to reveal where their fundings are coming from. It seems obvious that european companies like BASF, Bayer or EON funding organizations and senators in the United States are funding some in Europe as well (WWF, 2010).
Players in Europe
One of the most active groups in Europe is CFACT Europe, which is directly related to the US Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. Founded 2004 by Holger Thuss, CFACT is producing denial material and spreading misinformation all over Europe. On their website, there is no information about funding and when Thuss was asked on phone he answered just with “Do I ask you about your money?”. Besides founding CFACT Europe Thuss is the president of EIKE, too. EIKE, the European Institute for Climate and Energy, organizes conferences where speakers are denying climate change with different theories. They are receiving money from the Heartland Institute for these conferences, so indirectly from the Koch Foundations. EIKE regularly invited Fred Singer to conferences (CORPORATE EUROPE OBSERVATORY, 2010). Fred Singer is a US-Physician and one of the best-known climate change deniers worldwide. He is living in a world, where reputable scientists are recognized as liers. From his point of view politicians trying to stop the man-made climate change have only one mission: to bring socialism to the western hemisphere. He is actively denying climate change by trying to make the public receive serious science as crap (MEYER, 2010).
In our times deniers like Fred Singer have the chance to create the impression that they are on the same level, in many different fields, as serious scientists. Furthermore there are parties all over Europe, mostly right and populistic, which are including the denial of climate change in their party program. The Alternative für Deutschland (AFD) in Germany, for example, states in the official program, that “scientific research on the climate change in the long term is fraught with uncertainty”. In the end science is too complicated for many people and this makes it easier for populists to provide easy answers. With populists on the rise, it is going to be a bad time for working against the man-made climate change.
Dunlap, Riley and McRight. (2011). Climate Change Denial: Sources, actors, and strategies. Taylor & Francis.
Greenpeace (2010). Koch Industries Secretly Funding the Climate Change Denial Machine. Washington. Greenpeace USA.
Corporate Europe Observatory. (2010). Concealing their sources — who funds Europe’s climate change deniers? Brussels. Corporate Europe Observatory.
Aisch, Pearce and Rousseau. (2016). How far is Europe shifting to the right? New York. The New York Times.
Meyer. (2010). Die Wissenschaft als Feind. Hamburg. Der Spiegel.
WWF. (2010). Lobbyarbeit mit dem Scheckbuch. Berlin. WWF.