REPORT: Climate Change ‘Philanthropy’ Efforts Included $20 Million To Al Gore’s Group

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

After the collapse of cap-and-trade legislation, major non-profit foundations spent hundreds of millions of dollars to sound the alarm on global warming, promote green energy and attack fossil fuels, according to a new study.

These liberal foundations spent nearly $567 million on global warming-related funding between 2011 to 2015, according to a study published in the journal WIREs Climate Change on Tuesday.

The biggest portion went towards promoting green energy, however, foundations funneled tens of millions of dollars towards attacking the coal industry and hydraulic fracturing, the study found.

“Nearly a quarter of all funding, however, remained dedicated to promoting renewable energy and efficiency-related actions with comparatively little funding devoted to other low-carbon energy technologies,” wrote study author and Northeastern University communications professor Matthew Nisbet.

“Significant funding was also devoted to mobilizing public opinion and to opposing the fossil fuel industry,” Nisbet wrote, later adding: “$69.4 million in grants focused on promoting policy actions and regulations to limit fossil fuel production and development.”

“In this case, $42 million was devoted to opposing coal power,” Nisbet wrote. “The major funders in this area were Bloomberg ($20 million) and MacArthur ($15 million) which supported the Sierra Club’s work on the issue.”

The Sierra Club was also the single largest recipient of major foundation funding, according to Nisbet, raking in $48.9 million, more than double the next highest recipient activists group.

Former Vice President Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection got $20 million in funding from major foundations. The group, however, merged with the Climate Reality Project, also founded by Gore, in 2010.

Major foundations tracked in the study included the Energy Foundation, ClimateWorks, the Heinz Foundation and Bloomberg Foundation, now known as Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The Energy Foundation was by far the biggest funder for climate activism, handing out more than $95.8 million in 823 grants between 2011 and 2015. Bloomberg “prioritized the funding of litigation and advocacy to limit or shut down coal-fired power plants,” Nisbet noted.

Founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Bloomberg Foundation gave $20 million to the Sierra Club’s anti-coal campaign. Bloomberg announced additional funding for the Sierra Club’s anti-coal effort in 2017, bringing his total commitment to $80 million since 2011. The Sierra Club claims to have contributed to the closing of 262 coal plants since 2010.

Nisbet also noted that foundations spent no money promoting nuclear energy, the U.S.’s largest source of zero-carbon dioxide electricity, during the period covered by the study. Only a small amount was dedicated to “clean coal” technology.

“During the post cap-and-trade years, out of 2,502 grants reviewed, not a single grant was awarded for work focused on developing and promoting nuclear energy, and only $1.3 million was granted to support work on carbon capture and storage,” Nisbet wrote.

Aside from targeting the coal industry, Nisbet broke down the rest of foundations’ climate activism funding as follows:

  • $140.3 million for “policy actions and goals that promote renewable energy”
  • $92.4 million for “climate change-related communication, media, and public mobilization”
  • $91.4 million for “work advancing specific policy goals and actions related to climate change mitigation, adaptation, and resilience”
  • $46.6 million for “renewable energy-related communication, media, and public mobilization efforts”
  • $21 million for “promoting public transportation, fuel efficiency standards, and clean vehicles as a means to lower GHG emissions”
  • $10.5 million for “so-called hard energy path technologies that many experts believe are needed to decarbonize the U.S. and world economy”
  • $8.9 million for “fracking-focused communication campaigns and public mobilization, including “$3.7 million supported direct public mobilization and activism efforts”

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