In 2019 the climate activist and UCL Geography Professor Mark Maslin wrote that oil companies were spending $200 million a year promoting something he termed “climate change denial”. The ‘dark forces’ claim has been in regular use ever since. The Guardian recently reported Big Oil was “wringing humanity dry”, noting once again the annual $200m spent on climate change lobbying. Great story. Shame there is no actual evidence to back it up.
That can be concluded from a major new work from the investigative journalist Ben Pile. He traces the Maslin claim to a Forbes article, which in turn was based on the work of InfluenceMap, an international think tank at the “cutting edge of climate and sustainability issues”. InfluenceMap claims to use a funding methodology based on “best available records”, but Pile notes the presence of a “tower of estimates”. This is largely guessing, “not the discovery of a cache of receipts”, he observes.
In more detail, Pile notes that this stack of assumptions involves defining areas of corporate activity that might be used for climate lobbying and then estimating spending associated with these activities, and then further estimating the proportion of spending directed at climate change related issues, before finally categorising as ‘lobbying’ or ‘branding’ based on whether the activity pertains to a political agenda. Overall, Pile concludes, “it is just guesses”. The work is “performative” in nature, and gives the impression of an investigation in order to make real one of green ideology’s major articles of faith.
He goes on to note: “And so the idea of an entire industry of climate denial servicing the interests of big oil companies has become the most respectable conspiracy theory at all levels of society – the online troll is as comfortable reproducing the smear as the chair of the internationally-renowned scientific organisation.”
Of course there is no reason why Big Oil, which includes Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Chevron and Total, cannot spend money in the course of contributing to the energy debate. Fossil fuels provide over 80% of global energy needs and make huge contributions to society, including the pumping of billions of pounds into state funds and individual pension schemes. The oil business is a lawful enterprise that has helped provide humankind with a current standard of living almost unimaginable to the vast majority of people that existed previously. But the actual evidence indicates they have been keeping a lowish profile in the current debate, possibly taking the view that when the madness of Net Zero subsidies, they will still be required to provide 80% of the world’s energy.
Emeritus Professor Richard Linden of MIT notes that the current climate narrative – from ‘settled’ science to Net Zero – is “absurd”, but trillions of dollars currently says it is not absurd. Pile’s latest work – an excellent examination of many of the sources funding climate and Net Zero extremism – goes into great detail about many of the green billionaire foundations that bankroll everything from activist scientists, political campaigns and parts of the mainstream media, including, of course, the Guardian. The Daily Sceptic has reported on many of these activities, noting for instance the funding of green propaganda in schools and the provision of Armageddon-friendly copy for newsrooms and TV meteorologists.
To provide an insight into the vast amount of money available to fund the green agenda, Pile tabulated the information below estimating all the annual grants made by InfluenceMap’s own benefactors.
In total, InfluenceMap’s funders alone are making grants of about $1.2 billion every year to fund climate change lobbying. And these are only the funds with which InfluenceMap has a direct relationship. There are many others, including the Rockefeller family, Bezos, Bloomberg, Gates along with the Hewletts, Packards and Gettys.
Set against this, Pile goes on to note that in a small Westminster office building at 55 Tufton Street, scene of Extinction Rebellion paint-throwing and protests, is a clutch of small think tanks including the Global Warming Policy Foundation that are, as he gently puts it, “somewhat misaligned to the dominant ideologies of woke Western politics and media”. In total, Pile estimates the income of all nine campaigning organisations at just $6.7m.
Pile is able to show that billions of dollars have been poured into “manifestly false” philanthropic foundations with the money claimed to have been used to construct narratives, to found fake civil society organisations, to actively misinform the public, policymakers, governments and intergovernmental agencies, and to buy favours from or into research organisations, media companies and public institutions. Any contrary influence from Big Oil simply does not compare, he adds.
The vast sums spent by the Green Blob are noted, but Pile observes that members are confused as to why they are not living in a green Utopia. They have long felt it unnecessary to explain themselves, preferring to smear, fearmonger, block roads, use moral blackmail in place of reason – and invent conspiracy theories around oil companies. Furthermore, even after nearly two decades of lobbying, adequately effective green tech remains a distant dream. Wind power has been a failure, EVs are an expensive luxury and heat pumps cost multiples of gas boilers. As we have started to see all too clearly, nudge has now come to shove as activists demand that society must reorganise around the shortcomings of green technology and the ‘climate emergency’. This requires the construction of supranational political agencies in the form of technocratic bureaucracies with unprecedented power, beyond democratic control, populated by unaccountable wonks.
“Environmentalism is an elite ideology, and climate change fearmongering is a preoccupation only of the topmost parts of society. The rest of us find it implausible, somewhat ridiculous and manifestly self-serving,” Pile concludes.
Chris Morrison is the Daily Sceptic’s Environment Editor.