'Scientist' Group's Funding Comes with Liberal 'Strings Attached'

July 7, 2008 - 7:23 PM

(Editor?s note: Corrects reference to Carnegie Corporation in final paragraph.)

(CNSNews.com) - At a time when the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is censuring free market organizations for accepting donations from ExxonMobil, critics have turned the spotlight back onto the UCS, its left-wing positions, and its own funding practices.

In a recent report, the UCS charged that organizations are using oil industry money to create public uncertainty about what it calls "consensus" about climate change and the role of human activity in affecting temperatures see related story. Organizations named in the report have denied the claims.

The UCS describes itself as an "alliance" of over 200,000 citizens and scientists that initially came together in 1969. It integrates "independent scientific research" with "citizen action" for the purpose of developing and implementing "changes to government policy, corporate practices and consumer choices."

But critics say it is an openly political group.

According to James Dellinger, executive director of Greenwatch - a project of the Capital Research Center - the UCS has a long financial association with elements that have a "partisan view of science."

David Martosko, executive director of ActivistCash.com - a division of the Center for Consumer Freedom - agrees. He told Cybercast News Service the UCS would be "more aptly named the Union of Pro-Regulation, Anti-Business Scientists."

University of Virginia environmental scientist Fred Singer, labeled a "climate contrarian" by the UCS, told Cybercast News Service that the union had "zero credibility as a scientific organization" and was more akin to "pressure groups like Greenpeace."

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.

History of activism

Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) - another group listed in the UCS report - holds the organization in low esteem.

"The name suggests everyone involved is some kind of objective scientist, but they tend to be leftist political activists," he said. "Facts mean very little to them."

Cohen told Cybercast News Service the UCS had a "remarkably benign view of the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s and undertook extraordinary efforts to discourage the U.S. from countering whatever moves the Soviet Union was making to enhance its own nuclear arsenal."

When President Reagan was in the White House, the UCS was an ardent supporter of the "nuclear freeze movement" that was designed as a counterbalance to the U.S. administration's pursuit of a stronger national defense, Cohen said.

This was acknowledged by some of the more prominent activists speaking on behalf of the organization in that era.

"The [nuclear freeze] movement owes its momentum to Reagan," John Marks, a UCS member said in 1981. "What binds these people together is the notion that the world is getting closer to nuclear war. People don't feel safer with more missiles."

In 1983, Reagan announced his proposal for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a missile defense system that would be positioned in outer space. The following year, the UCS convened a panel that determined the system was "technologically unattainable."

Moreover, Henry Kendall, the late MIT physics professor and a UCS founder member, proclaimed Reagan's plan would "de-stabilize" and upset the strategic balance.

Carl Sagan, the late astronomer and popular science writer from Cornell University, worked in cooperation with other UCS members to organize a 15-city tour for Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale in 1984.

The union's opposition to missile defense came full circle during the current Bush administration when the president announced in 2002 he was withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

The withdrawal gave the U.S. more latitude to pursue a ballistic missile shield to protect America from missile attack by rogue states or terrorist groups.

The UCS is working to derail the project and to that end has received considerable financial support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, according to the Capital Research Center.

Make media inquiries or request an interview about this article.

Subscribe to the free CNSNews.com daily E-Brief.

E-mail a comment or news tip to Kevin Mooney.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.