A research center that has produced scores of reports dismissing the dangers of human-caused climate change was being paid by coal company Peabody Energy to produce reports about its greenhouse gas emissions.
The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (CSCDGC) is revealed as having historical financial ties to Peabody in the coal company’s bankruptcy papers.
A DeSmog investigation has also uncovered undisclosed financial links between the center, run by veteran climate science denialist Craig Idso, and another contrarian group, the Science and Public Policy Institute.
Peabody Energy was revealed as a funder of a web of groups and organisations that have worked to spread doubt over human-caused climate change while fighting rules to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Dr Idso, the chairman and founder of CSCDGC, has written many reports claiming that extra carbon dioxide is a benefit to the planet, while ignoring or downplaying the many negatives.
His work was used in a flawed report from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity — a grouping of coal miners, transporters and burners — which argued greenhouse gas emissions were a large net financial benefit to society.
Other reports from the center include “The Many Benefits of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment”, “Problems with Model Predictions of Species Extinctions” and “Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment: Boon or Bane of the Biosphere?”
Craig Idso has been a regular speaker at Heartland Institute climate science denial conferences and was a driving force behind the organisation's Non-Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports designed to challenged the UN's IPCC. In December 2014 Idso appeared as a speaker at a conference organized by ALEC — the conservative corporate bill mill which faced a corporate exodus over its climate science denial.
Ties to SPPI
CSCDGC is registered with the IRS as a not-for-profit organisation where funders can claim tax breaks on their donations.
But IRS documents show the CSCDGC's highest paid individual is Robert Ferguson, who was paid $170,000 through the center, according to the latest filings.
Ferguson is the president of the Science and Public Policy Institute, which has co-published several reports with Idso’s group.
Idso earns $130,000 a year from his center and his wife is paid $120,000 as the center’s secretary. The center declared $670,000 of income in 2014.
But the center’s website does not identify Ferguson as working for the center. Neither do the IRS filings identify SPPI as a project, but do indicate Ferguson as the highest paid employee.
SPPI’s website has no information about how it is incorporated. Questions to Ferguson, a former Republican staffer, went unanswered.
Researcher and DeSmog contributor John Mashey has described SPPI as a front for Idso’s center.
In 2014, CSCDGC received a $10,000 grant from the conservative Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. According to that foundation’s tax filing, the grant to CSCDGC was to “support the Science & Public Policy Institute”.
The IRS revoked SPPI's charity status in 2001 after the organisation had failed to file the required forms for three consecutive years.
SPPI lists Idso as a “science adviser” alongside other climate science denialists Australian William Kininmonth, meteorologist Joe D’Aleo and climatologist David Legates. SPPI’s chief policy advisor is British peer Lord Christopher Monckton.
The Peabody bankruptcy papers showed a financial relationship, either current or former, between the ailing coal company and Idso’s center. The documents also show either a current or former financial relationship with SPPI. The documents only indicate financial relationships and do not detail dollar amounts, although further documents being released could provide more detail.
Idso a Peabody director of environmental science
In a 2014 radio interview, Idso was asked if he had “any ties to any energy companies.” He responded: “No I don’t, actually.”
In a statement to DeSmog, Idso said he had been hired by Peabody to develop the company’s response to the Department of Energy’s Voluntary Greenhouse Gas reporting program.
Idso was appointed Peabody’s director of environmental science in 2001. He said he left the company the following year but continued to work as a consultant “for a few more years” to prepare annual reports as part of the greenhouse gas reporting program.
He had ended the consulting because he felt he was “too far removed from their company and that they needed someone within the company who better understood their ever-changing structure to take over the report.”
Commenting on the Peabody bankruptcy papers, Idso said if the center was listed as a current creditor then “that would not be correct”.
He added: “Our relationship in helping Peabody report their greenhouse gases has been over for a few years now and they owe us no money.”
DeSmog also asked if the center received funding from any other fossil fuel companies, but this question went unanswered.
Idso was also unresponsive to questions about the nature of his center’s relationship with SPPI and Ferguson.
Emails to Ferguson asking about his institute and the nature of its incorporation also went unanswered.
Peabody Energy refused to comment on its donations to climate science denial groups when approached by The Guardian.
Main image credit: Flickr/ Roland Klose