By Graham Readfern, crossposted from DeSmogBlog.
A billionaire “vulture capitalist” and major backer of the US Republican Party is a major funder of the think tank of Danish climate science contrarian and fossil fuels advocate Bjørn Lomborg, DeSmogBlog has found.
New York-based hedge fund manager Paul Singer’s charitable foundation gave $200,000 to Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC) in 2013, latest US tax disclosures reveal.
The grant to Lomborg’s think tank is revealed in the tax form of the Paul E. Singer Foundation covering that foundation’s activities between December 2012 and November 2013.
Singer, described as a “passionate defender of the 1%”, has emerged as a major force in the Republican party in recent years and was a key backer and influencer during Mitt Romney’s failed tilt at the Presidency.
The $200,000 grant represented almost one third of the $621,057 in donations declared by the Copenhagen Consensus Center in 2013.
A spokesperson for the think tank told DeSmogBlog that “not one dollar” of the Singer grant had been spent.
Lomborg, a Danish political scientist, is often cited on lists of the world’s most influential people. He writes extensively on climate change and energy issues with his columns appearing in many of the world’s biggest news outlets.
The CCC think tank produces reports that consistently argue that cutting greenhouse gas emissions and increasing the roll-out of current renewable energy technologies should be low priorities for policy makers.
Most recently, Lomborg wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal arguing climate change was not the urgent problem that many thought.
He wrote that “the narrative that the world’s climate is changing from bad to worse is unhelpful alarmism”.
Lomborg argues the poorest countries need fossil fuels to lift themselves out of poverty – a position that gained support from the world’s richest man, Bill Gates.
At a G20 side event in Brisbane last year, Lomborg appeared at an event sponsored by the world’s largest private coal company, Peabody Energy, where he again argued that the world’s poor needed fossil fuels.
The CCC’s keystone project is the Post 2015 Consensus that is trying to influence the formulation of the next set of global development goals being discussed by the United Nations. Those goals will replace the millennium development goals.
Lomborg’s CCC think tank was registered as a not-for-profit in the US in 2008 and has attracted almost $5 million in donations since then. In 2013, the CCC paid Lomborg, its founder and president, $200,484 for his work. The previous year Lomborg was paid $775,000.
The think tank has insisted that its funders, most of which are anonymous, do not influence its research. The think tank says it does not accept funding from the fossil fuel industry.
Despite being registered in the US, Lomborg has admitted that all but one of the think tank’s seven staff are based elsewhere. The think tank’s address is aparcel service in Lowell, Massachusetts.
The discovery of support from Paul Singer comes after a DeSmogBlog investigation last year found that CCC’s early funders included conservative think tanks with links to the network of organisations funded by the Koch brothers, who have pushed millions into organisations denying climate science and blocking action to cut fossil fuel emissions.
In the 2014 US political spending cycle, data presented by OpenSecrets shows Singer spent $9.4 million influencing Republicans – the biggest disclosed individual spender on the conservative side of US politics.
Singer, whose Elliott Management hedge fund manages about $25 billion in assets, has been branded a “vulture capitalist” enterprise due to investment strategies employed by his firm that targets foreign economies in trouble.
A 2011 summary of “vulture funds” in The Guardian said Elliott Management’s “principal investment strategy” was “buying distressed debt cheaply and selling it at a profit or suing for full payment”.
Greg Palast, the author of Vulture’s Picnic, documented in The Guardian how Singer’s firm had managed to pocket $1.29 billion from the US Treasury after a “brilliantly complex” financial manoeuvre in 2009 that saw Singer lead a consortium to buy the parts supplier of General Motors and Chrysler before claiming cash from a government bailout of the struggling auto industry.
Singer, who according to Forbes is personally worth $1.8 billion, remains in conflict with the Argentinian government over debt bought by an Elliott affiliate and other investors.
As well as the generosity shown to Bjorn Lomborg’s think tank, Singer’s foundation gave $500,000 to the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, where Singer is chairman of the board of trustees.
The Manhattan Institute is also known for downplaying the impacts of climate change while promoting fossil fuels.
In October 2014, Manhattan senior fellow Robert Bryce wrote a report Not Beyond Coal arguing that the future for the coal industry was bright and the fossil fuel was “essential” for addressing poverty in developing countries — a position identical to that pushed by Lomborg.
Bryce also attacks the wind industry claiming it cannot cut emissions, describing wind turbines as “climate change scarecrows”. In testimony to the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in February 2014, Bryce said wind turbines were “slaughtering wildlife” and killed 600,000 birds every year in the US.
A review of studies and data into US bird deaths has found about 600 million birds are killed annually in collisions with windows and buildings, but even this high number was only a quarter of the birds killed annually in the US by feral cats.
Another large donation from Singer’s foundation went to the Moving Picture Institute – an organisation that says it produces films that promote understanding of “individual rights, limited government, and free markets”.
The MPI helped fund the 2004 pro-mining documentary Mine Your Own Business by Irish filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney.
The two would go on to make the 2009 climate science denial film Not Evil Just Wrong, which was partly funded through a grant from DonorsTrust – a fund which stockpiles cash from conservative philanthropists and that has pushed millions into organisations promoting climate science denial while fighting action to cut emissions.
Roland Mathiasson, Executive Vice President at the Copenhagen Consensus Center, told DeSmogBlog: “Not one dollar of this grant has been spent. It's for a potential future project, pending support from a broad range of political perspectives to underline the non-political nature of the project.
“It is a project for the public conversation, so obviously there will be a lot of communication once broad support is secured, and the project is launched.”
Mathiasson declined to provide further details. DeSmogBlog attempted to contact the Paul E Singer Foundation to ask about their donation to CCC, but email requests went unanswered.