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Bjorn Lomborg think tank funder revealed as billionaire ‘vulture capitalist’

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Desmogblog

lomborg singerA 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 a parcel 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.

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 Businessby 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.

Source: Desmogblog. Reproduced with permission.

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  • Diana

    You’re knitting fast and furious here, Graham, trying to cast aspersions about Lomborg, however I believe his aim is true and that he will accept donations and not let them influence his work.

    Lomborg was right then and he is right now – the EU’s then pledge on reducing emissions would have cost $250bn every year until 2100 for a miniscule reduction in global temperatures, and not brought the world along with it.

    Lomborg’s argument that we could spend the money in ways that brought more value as well as lifted the poorer countries, and still addressed and mitigated on climate change were reasonable – the problem lies in those saying that in asking we re-cast how we address climate change is to waste time.

    Well sure it is, if a very good recasting of how we could go about things, now over four years old, is continually ignored by those who yell loudest about climate change and wonder why things aren’t changing – or try to make a good thing a conspiracy theory, as you are doing.

    BTW, one of the things alluded to in Lomborg’s “Cool It” was how much money, reputation and air flights were made out of banging on about climate change. Al Gore is very definitely a part of that, as are many of the people I have known. Just how seriously are we taking climate change, if that is also the case?

    • bill

      LOL! You are obviously sucking on the same teet as Lomborg..

      • Diana

        Don’t hide behind an anonymous gravatar, bill, tell me why I’m supposed to be laughable and sucking on teeties – if you have any reason other than you simply don’t agree with something and have to smear as a result. Have you watched “Cool it”?

        • Pedro

          How do you explain Lomborg’s assertion that coal power is the only way to lift 3rd world populations out of energy poverty when the coal fired power industry has been the dominant energy source for at least 100 years and half the Indian population still have no power or unreliable power? The new Indian president obviously does not think so.

          If Lomborg truly believed what he was spouting, why then the need for such generous FF industry donations??

          • Diana

            First part of Q pretty naïve! However, India seems to be of the view it can’t or won’t evolve as it would like without coal (late Jan ’15 article http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/energyhungry-india-doubles-down-on-coal-20150126-12y037.html).

          • Alan Baird

            Ya da ya da ya da ya da… Thank goodness the coal industry pays so handsomely. Of course, it’s SO much less than the fortunes paid to scientists to come up with false conclusions as asserted by the usual denialists. There’s obviously so much money in climate alarmism as the hard right asserts and so little in coal. That’s why the coal industry can afford to send a lazy $200K off to Lomberg. And of course, the Murdoch Press always gives him a good run. Join the dots Dianna. It says scam. Oh, and by the way, I LOVE the way the Right is SO concerned about the poor of other countries. LOL! Such soft centres. Just as the Conservatives always bang on about jobs in coal in Oz when the real aim is profits for their source of electoral funding. Jobs are so front and centre with the coal industry that they spend lots of time figuring out how to reduce labour. And of course, you’ve got that ornament for your argument, Gina , who wanted Oz coal workers to think about the the $2 an hour wage in line with South Africa practically the day before the wage riots that killed dozens. Yeah, the right really is a bunch of softies. Tlak about naive statements: but only if we agree to go along with your egregiously tendentious reasoning.

          • Diana

            What are you raving on about? All this because Lomborg”s institute got an amount of money not amounting to that much and you are frightened of his influence as a result? I followed his work for a year, in 2012, and I agreed with him then, then looked again at what he said late last year and still agree – but I’ve not heard a thing about him otherwise since this ooo! conspiracy! bits’n’pieces’from’Net “article”. I think you can relax….

          • Pedro

            Naive question, how so? Please enlighten me, I will make the question shorter. How does centrally FF derived power actually reduce poverty in the 3rd world.

            I suspect that you can’t answer in anything but a glib, simplistic way.

          • Diana

            The part of the question you’ve since removed was the naivety.

      • Mark Jackson

        Great call Bill. Good chance she works for him I reckon.

    • Gary

      Lomborg is wrong about most things. Including his position that the best way to get renewable costs down is to restrict them to the lab and not deploy them. When in fact it is commercialisation and manufacturing economies of scale that has led to the huge cost reductions in recent years – and driven more R&D.

      The costs of mitigation are minimal. The costs of not mitigating are huge.

      http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2014/04/tackling-global-warming-could-mean-slowing-economic-growth-by-006-per-cent/

      • Diana

        “Costs of mitigation are minimal……costs of not [are huge]”…. is not what I have observed of Lomborg’s hopes. However, can you pls post articles where Lomborg declares that “the best way to get renewable costs down is to restrict them to the lab”?
        As for the article above, Lomborg could just as easily turn around (and he no doubt has) and say that people are going after him, being selective in what they link him to, etc, just like Al Gore. So what? We delay on climate change – that is what we do.
        No-one (as Lomborg) points out wants to give up their airflights – Professor Peter Newman, one of the “lead authors (collators)” of Australian research that went in to IPCC’s transport chapter said we weren’t cutting back our airflights like we should, in the name of cutting emissions. Well, neither does Professor Newman – just check the Net, appearing hither and thither then times that by many, many others doing the same. .

        • Gary
          • Diana

            Thanks, read it. Rather than use your choice of quote, I’m quite happy to use – as it turn’s out – Tony Abbott’s, in terms of Lomborg, ““Natural science has undeniably shown us that global warming is man made and real. But just as undeniable is the economic science which makes it clear that a narrow focus on reducing carbon emissions could leave future generations with major costs, without major cuts to temperatures.”

            Just because Abbott has used it, doesn’t trash Lomborg’s view that what it would have cost the EU to 2100 ($250bn annually) for minimal reduction in temp could have been used in wider ways to achieve climate change mitigation, adaptation and global welfare issues.

            No party in Australia, BTW, has shown itself to be particularly reliable when it comes to climate change and especially in ensuring we bring all Australians with us.

            Bill Shorten was evasive about what cuts Australia would agree to until he sees – not what others put on the table at Paris but – what they do after that, before he considers further emissions goals.

            On two different levels, the Australian Greens stopped an ETS going ahead until it suited them, and also removed a key bill from their Safe Climate suite, leading up to them taking the balance in power in 2008: Greener Homes Initiative. This bill promised to install energy efficiencies on Australia’s then 8 million homes, as best suited to each home. No more divisions as to who gets the benefits of increased energy efficiency, such as whether it was an investor property/rental or mortgaged/owned outright (and the solar panel benefits remain largely mortgage-biased, no, not haves versus have-nots but do you have a mortgage you can afford so as to take up the offer?).

            I don’t know about you, Gary, but I very strongly object to that – and that’s been the policy for years when we could have come up with a solution for everyone to rely less on the grid by now. Oh wait, the Greens did. Then they didn’t. Only mortgage holders benefit then. What of everyone else? How long do they have to wait – one of the reasons I tend to agree with Lomborg: he asks these questions in the spending estimates.

            Thanks for the article.

          • Gary

            “But just as undeniable is the economic science which makes it clear that a narrow focus on reducing carbon emissions could leave future generations with major costs, without major cuts to temperatures.”
            Not only is it deniable – it is complete garbage. I refer you again to the chart in my first link (from IPCC report) that illustrates the cost of mitigation vs the costs of not mitigating.

      • George Michaelson

        There is a well known historical position in computer science that if a computer will cost $1m to make now, and $10,000 in 10 years its better to wait because in ten years it will probably cost $100,000 to get one 100x better than the million-dollar one you can buy now: if nothing else, get ten of the $10,000 ones.

        It’s fatuous, because it tries to simplify a net present value argument without any consideration of the opportunity cost of not having the $1m computer for the next 10 years and all the things you could do with it, which include designing the next one.

        I think this kind of thinking permeates the Lomborg position: don’t buy expensive wind now, because in 25 years we can buy 100x as much cheaper wind power and we win. He forgets that a rising tide of C02 makes the backlog of thermal remediation that much more entrenched, or that advances in wind technology to get 100x cheaper demand investment in wind now, to provide the R&D and manufacturing capacity to produce economies of scale.

    • Mark Jackson

      Poor Lomborg, paid right-wing political stooge, I feel so sorry for him being so hard done by it.

      Transparent soft-pedal denialism is his stock in trade. The same brand of soft-pedal denialism that produced the disgraceful CPRS in 2009 too, with those political operatives who keep trying to defend it through deceitful propaganda even five years afterwards.

      The same type of disinformation Lomborg’s pushing when he tries to con people that developing countries should be making themselves more dependent on fossil fuels, when global warming is already close to the tipping point, along with the ocean acidification because of carbon emissions as well.

      • Diana

        Do you have anything constructive to contribute, Mark Jackson, or do you let others do the hard yards, while you just sling mud? This is where it becomes meaningless to me – climate change: you are either a slavish devotee to it, making endless demands and slagging everyone else off who asks “er, but what about…..?” or you can only be one other type: some kind of wrecking ball. Brains got left out of the equation years ago, now its just demands but no-one wants to answer the real questions – if YOU get subsidies and help RIGHT NOW to be MORE RESILIENT and DO THE RIGHT THING in the face of climate change, but others don’t, HOW IS THAT RIGHT?

        • SunGod

          Nearly assploded with laughter when I saw this denial outburst. Lecturing about being constructive, then doing the exact opposite for the rest of the post. Damn, Mark sure smoked you out, didn’t he? :)

          And as everyone knows, the fossil fuel industry are the ones who get the subsidies. $17.6 billion/year handed to fossil fuel and associated mining interests courtesy of the long-suffering Australian taxpayer, let alone the rorts of similar and larger dimensions going on elsewhere in the world.

          • Diana

            ah, you “got” me, SunGod (you gonna come out from behind the anonymous avatars you all hide behind. What about you, Diamond – I’ll keep hiding – Joe?). The education is clear from this commentary anyway: hate and attack someone who doesn’t agree with the original article that to vilify someone who is also asking is there a better way to spend trillions re climate change, whilst addressing climate change is a good thing. No wonder people have turned away from the whole thing. I’ll leave this string now as to let the commentary numbers build doesn’t lend it any more credibility, its just a auto reaction – but perhaps you might have more relevance if you stopped hiding away behind anonymity. Or stay afraid. I wasn’t.

          • SunGod

            Belated thanks for the autorepeat denialism and projection again in that reply. Did make for amusing reading :)

          • zynismus

            yeah … contradiction is THE NLP DRUG – the suckholes can’t get enough of it, at the little folk’s expense … : )

        • disqus_3PLIicDhUu

          and DO THE RIGHT THING
          What is the right thing, to do?

        • Blair Donaldson

          Diana, do you seriously believe Bjorn Lomborg is credible and not complicit in AGW denial?

    • Harry Verberne
    • Harry Verberne

      Oh and by the way when you accuse others of hiding behind avatars, I challenge you to use your full real name not hide behind a first name that can be anyone.

  • GraemeF

    Lomborg is happy to hang around and be seen in the company of outright denialists. His ‘soft’ denialism is merely another weapon they use in their campaign of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt). Birds of a feather with the aim to stifle or slow any action that would threaten the supremacy of the fossil fuel profits and the politicians and sock puppets that they can buy with them.

    He is certainly part of the problem and not of the solution.