Concerned Scientists Discover Self-Interest!

That the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is a far-left political activist group is hardly news. Yet the point needs to be made repeatedly, given how much so many in the media insist on treating UCS as an impartial representative of the greater scientific community. Because of this, today’s story on UCS (“Scientist” Group’s Funding Comes with Liberal “Strings Attached”) is welcome. UCS has attacked climate skeptic groups, like CEI, because of their receiving funding from corporations (especially, until recently, ExxonMobil). So it’s only fair that UCS’s own funding should now come under scrutiny. AS CNS reports:

The UCS receives substantial donations from liberal-leaning foundations, and a number of the donations are earmarked for specific studies, used to promote positions on issues including the environment, disarmament and criticism of missile defense initiatives.

Private foundations cumulatively spend tens of millions of dollars annually on climate change projects, according to information made available through the foundations’ websites.

Donations to the UCS in recent years include the following:

  • 2000 – a $25,000 Carnegie Corporation of New York grant for “dissemination of a report on National Missile Defense.”
  • 2002 – a $1 million Pew Memorial Trust grant “to support efforts to increase the nation’s commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy as a cornerstone of a balanced and environmentally sound energy policy.”
  • 2003 – a $500,000 Energy Foundation grant over two years “to continue to support a national renewable portfolio standard education and outreach effort.”
  • 2004 – a $50,000 Energy foundation grant “to design and implement the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative carbon market in the Northeast.”
  • 2004 – a $100,000 Energy foundation grant “to study the impacts of climate change on California using the latest climate modeling.”
  • 2004 – a $600,000 Energy foundation grant over two years “to promote renewable energy policy at the federal and state levels, with a focus on the Midwest, the Northeast, and California.”

In a study published in 2005, the George C. Marshall Institute (GMI) explored funding for global warming studies and reported that the UCS was among the top five recipients of grants dispersed for climate studies.

In a new book, Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, observes that a number of environmental activists have expressed exasperation over the amount of “strings attached to the foundation grants” that reduce their independence.

Further, a lot of UCS’s funding originates from foundations that were set up by conservative businessmen, but have been hijacked by left-wing partisans to advance their agenda. Unlike the leftists on many foundation boards, the CEOs at companies like ExxonMobil are spending money that they earned themselves.The most egregious violator of donor intent is the MacArthur Foundation, which has given the Union of Concerned Scientists $3.09 million since 2000. Somewhat prophetically, John D. MacArthur—an insurance entrepreneur who once called environmentalists “bearded jerks and little old ladies” who “are obstructionists and just throw rocks in your path”—told the lawyer who in 1978 helped set up the Foundation: “I figured out how to make the money. You fellows will have to figure out how to spend it.” Only nine years later, the MacArthur Foundation’s then-president admitted to USA Today that if MacArthur were alive to see where his money was being spent, “I think a lot of it would just make him furious.”

Other prominent businessmen whose name-bearing foundations are today funding UCS include: Henry Ford ($950,000 since 2000), Time magazine founder Henry Luce ($400,000 during 2001-2002), and J. Howard Pew ($1 million during 2002-2003).

To put this into further perspective, consider: In the time from 1998 to 2005 that Exxon spent $16 million over all groups that combat global warming alarmism (for which the company was been condemned by the Union of Concerned Scientists and other green groups), UCS alone received nearly $24 million in foundation grants.

Of course, none of this necessarily implies that the Union’s positions are necessarily wrong, only that for them to present themselves as disinterested and objective is facetious. UCS’s positions deserve being debated on their own merits. But if they are willing to smear their ideological opponents, they should expect similar scrutiny. What’s good for the goose…