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The ATM for Climate Denial: Shadowy Group Bankrolls Vast Network of Science Skeptics

Millions of dollars have been handed out to organizations whose express purpose is spreading disinformation.

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SUZANNE GOLDENBERG: You know, I wish I’d—

AARON MATÉ: Suzanne Goldenberg, if you could talk about his group.

SUZANNE GOLDENBERG: Well, I wish I would seen. I mean, that’s quite incredible. Just let’s get back to the truth here, is that, yes, James Hansen was arrested, in fact as recently as last week, and what he was doing was just using plastic twist-tie handcuffs to handcuff himself to the gates of the White House and, you know, in an agreement arranged in advance with the D.C. police, arranged to be arrested in a nonviolent fashion with 40-something other activists, you know, to make a symbolic protest against the Keystone pipeline. So I do not know how you can describe these kind of acts, which, you know, were preceded by Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and other, you know, peaceful resisters—I don’t know how you can call that ecoterrorism.

But I think it’s really—it’s really interesting and important to see what Marc Morano is doing here, and which is that he’s deliberately spreading misinformation and lies, really, about what happened and about the means of protest that are taking place against the Keystone pipeline. And this is crucial because it helps create this sort of confusion about what people are doing to oppose the pipeline, and in that confusion, it makes it difficult for people to make an informed choice about what is right, what is wrong, and it makes it really hard for people in Congress or people in government agencies and in state agencies to actually act on a very urgent problem, because there’s so much confusion and controversy surrounding it.

AMY GOODMAN: Suzanne, the Donors Trust-backed Heartland Institute sparked controversy last year after it paid for a billboard advertisement in Chicago likening those who accept the reality of global warming to the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski.

SUZANNE GOLDENBERG: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: The billboard featured a picture of Kaczynski and the words "I still believe in global warming. Do you?" Talk about the Heartland Institute, this ad.

SUZANNE GOLDENBERG: That’s interesting. I just want to add, briefly, first, you know, I asked Whitney Ball about that advertisement, and she laughed. And she said, "Look" — and, you know, I was asking, "Well, did your donors like what Heartland did?" And she said, "Some of them did; some of them didn’t."

I think that ad was really interesting, because, in a way, it was—you know, it really exposed Heartland Institute and exposed the way that they see—you know, exposed the lengths they will go to to try and defend their cause, right? I mean, you know, for a lot of people looking at that, that was really an extreme kind of action. And I think that’s true. I think what Heartland and these other groups are promoting is a really extreme view and a wrongheaded view of the science of climate change, of the need for action on climate change. That billboard, for many people, crystallized that extreme view.

To go back there, the reason why Heartland put up that billboard was because they were feeling besieged and under attack because of a disclosure of information about their finances, which showed that they were being heavily financed by the Koch brothers and by conservatives like Donors Trust. So, they had been the victim of a sting, which sort of laid bare all their financials, laid bare their strategy, and they fought back and sort of went overboard with this extremist ad about the Unabomber.

AARON MATÉ: Now, Suzanne, we’ve talked already about the actions of Donors Trust on the state level, and you’ve written about their funding of groups trying to fight wind farming in several states. We have 30 seconds.

 
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