Bjorn Lomborg

Bjorn Lomborg Think Tank Funder Revealed As Billionaire Republican 'Vulture Capitalist' Paul Singer

  • Posted on: 9 February 2015
  • By: Connor Gibson

Bjorn Lomborg - left - received $200,000 from Paul E. Singer - right - for the Copenhagen Consensus Center's research used to interfere with global climate negotiations.

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.

Bjorn Lomborg - left Paul E. Singer - right

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Pro-Koch Op-ed Betrays Claim of "journalistic integrity"

  • Posted on: 9 February 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Stephen Moore--Wall Street Journal editorial board member and senior economics writer

Koch Industries, which has dumped tens of millions of dollars into organizations that deny climate science, also wields its influence through a network of media operatives that are now shielding the private conglomorate from criticism.

In a dismissal of the questionable connection between Koch Industries and Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto recently defended the dubious political wrangling of the Koch brothers while chastizing its critics, namely Common Cause. Common Cause organized the recent protest in Rancho Mirage, California outside of the ritzy resort Charles Koch selected as a haven for undemocratic scheming.

What is ironic about Taranto's pro-Koch piece is his offense to the Wall Street Journal's editorial page being considered biased (it clearly is, as you would expect from a Rupert Murdoch business), while the WSJ editorial board actually has a direct connection to Koch Industries itself.

Stephen Moore, who sits with Taranto on the Wall Street Journal editorial board and is an economic pundit on TV networks, attended the secretive gathering hosted by Charles Koch in Aspen, Colorado last June. In fact, it was Moore who revealed in a 2006 interview with Charles Koch that these meetings exist.

As outlined in a forthcoming Greenpeace report, Moore has ties to the Cato Institute, co-founded by Charles Koch, and the Heritage Foundation, which have each received millions of dollars from Koch foundations since 1997. Moore has provided an explicit voice in the fabricated non-debate over climate science, where scientists are pinned against industry talking points and cherrypicked data (see clip provided by ThinkProgress).



The Wall Street Journal's opinion section has also served as host to prominent climate obstructionists, such as Bjorn Lomborg and scientists-for-hire Richard Lindzen and Patrick Michaels. Lindzen and Michaels are deeply integrated into Koch- and Exxon-funded think tanks such as Cato, the George C. Marshall Institute, Tech Central Station and the Heartland Institute. Michaels is currently being scrutinized after he apparently under-reported his financial backing by coal and oil companies during a presentation before Congress.

Taranto also cites Jonathan Adler from the National Review Online to attack Common Cause. Adler has links to the Koch- and Exxon-funded Federalist Society (which paid for the Justices Thomas and Scalia attendance at a secret Koch meeting), Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Property and Environment Research Center.

Oh, and Adler's connection as a blogger for the National Review Online adds another connection to Koch Industries--NRO senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru attended the Koch meeting in Aspen last June, just as Stephen Moore did. Moore also contributes to the National Review.

...that must have been what Taranto meant by adhering to the "highest standards of journalistic integrity."

For more on Koch Industries' connections to media outlets, check out Kate Sheppard's recent piece in Mother Jones, and keep your eyes peeled for more details from Greenpeace.

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Heritage Foundation Finally Acknowledges Climate Change as Global Priority

  • Posted on: 5 October 2010
  • By: Connor Gibson

In a freakish yet more-than-welcome "dramatic reversal" (their own words!), the Heritage Foundation's Nicolas Loris blogged last Thursday about the importance of climate change, as outlined in a recent Royal Society summary on the topic.  Read for yourself (note, I truncated some things here and did some selective editing there, but please don't think I'm taking things out of context):

"Great Britain’s most prominent scientific body [the Royal Society] still asserts that greenhouse gas gases [sic] resulting from human activity contributes to warming.  [T]he group urged the U.K. government to take urgent action to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and to do so “as fast as possible.”  The U.S. took that message to heart. The current Administration is attempting to tip the balance in favor of renewable energy by advocating a cap-and-trade system and renewable electricity mandates and has allocated additional billions of dollars in government spending for government-picked clean energy sources. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving down a long regulatory path to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act because CO2 and five other greenhouse gases (GHGs) threaten public health and the environment."

For Heritage to report the position of the Royal Society and the efforts of the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions was refreshingly encouraging.  In explaining their U-turn, Heritage states, "We should welcome an objective scientific debate on global warming," and admitted that the hundreds of thousands of dollars they have received from Exxon as well as the $3.3 million obtained from the billionaire Koch brothers had affected their previous positions.

In gesture of their new position, the Heritage Foundation is today hosting fellow fence-jumper Bjorn Lomborg at a movie screening based on one of his books.  Lomborg, whose book and associated movie "Cool It" made clear his belief that money was not well spent on addressing global warming, now calls for investments in measures that could contribute to the mitigation of the crisis.

Why Heritage is showing a movie that seems to counter Lomborg's new position is a bit confusing.  Given all the recent changes of heart, hopefully they intend to deliver a public apology for their previous obstructionism to those already suffering from the symptoms of climate change.

Either way, it's great to see the Heritage Foundation doing the right thing, and to realize how silly it can be to take things out of context.