How much does it take to fund a campaign of mis-information?
What resources are required to deceive the public about climate change?
Let’s ask the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), the right-wing think tank at the centre of climate change denial in Australia.
There is little doubt the IPA can’t hide the incline in cash over the past few years.
Between 2000 and 2010 the IPA has witnessed a threefold increase in revenue.
A review of its annual reports over the past 10 years demonstrates (see reports here) a dramatic increase in revenue. Most of the IPA’s revenue comes from what it calls “subscriptions” – in reality cash injections from anonymous sources – and these have been growing at an extraordinary rate.
Famously the IPA refuses to disclose who funds it. We can speculate, but the IPA states that for “commercial in confidence” reasons it is not able to divulge this information.
Of course, the irony of the IPA attacking the “closed” world of scientists while steadfastly hiding its own sources of funding is impossible to ignore.
Fear of Labor and the IPCC
The increase in IPA funding coincides with the lead up to Labor taking power at the federal level, the acrimonious public debate over climate change and the “carbon tax” and the release of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) in 2007.
Between 2000 and 2003 there was marginal growth in IPA revenue – typically revenues hovered around the mid $600k mark.
However, by the end of the 2004/5 financial year revenues for the IPA started to dramatically climb. Total revenues for the IPA in 2005 were $859,781, a significant increase over past years.
And yet within a very sort time, the IPA would start to see a dramatic increase in funding, the timing of which more than a little suspicious.
IPA revenue grew into the millions – the timing of which is important.
The surge: fighting the CPRS and IPCC AR4
Revenue for the IPA exceeded $1.4 million in 2007 – the year Kevin Rudd came into office. It was also the same year that the IPCC released its fourth assessment report stated with a “high degree of confidence” that human activities were influencing the climate.
While we can only speculate as to why the IPA enjoyed this surge in funding revenue (if/when they come clean), but I would put forward the following hypothesis:
- By early 2006 it was clear the Coalition government would lose the 2007 election
- Labor under Kevin Rudd had strongly signalled its intention to sign the Kyotoa greement and “action” on climate change – such action would mean increased regulation and a price on carbon
- The IPCC AR4 did much to convince the public climate change was real, therefore the denial movement needed to begin its attack on its credibility
- Pubic support for action on climate change was very high, in part due to the success of Al Gore’s “An inconvenient truth”.
During the debate over the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) in 2010, revenue for the IPA reached its highest level in ten years.
The IPA is a critical player in the “war on science”, and its increased levels of funding may be seen as part of a broader campaign by vested interests to shape public opinion and stymie action on climate change.
Climate change denial: fuelling the IPA?
I’m fully aware that co-relation does not equal causation, however I would make the following argument:
- IPA funding has grown significantly since Labor has been in power
- The IPA is free-market libertarian think tank, and is heavily involved in coordinating the “denial” movement in Australia
- Science has been increasingly certain that climate change is happening – thus efforts to cast doubt on the science by the IPA have risen dramatically
The central question is just who is funding the IPA?