Fossil fuel companies have a long history of adopting public relations strategies straight from the tobacco industry’s playbook. But a new analysis shows the two industries’ relationship goes much deeper — right down to funding the same organisations to do their dirty work.
MIT Associate Professor David Hsu analyzed organisations in DeSmog’s disinformation database and the Guardian’s tobacco database and found 35 thinktanks based in the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand that promote both the tobacco and fossil fuel industries’ interests.
Of these organisations, DeSmog can reveal that 32 have taken direct donations from the tobacco industry, 29 have taken donations from the fossil fuel industry, and 28 have received money from both. Two key networks, based around the Koch brothers and Atlas Network, are involved in coordinating or funding many of the thinktanks.
While reviewing the Guardian’s database, Hsu recognized many of the names among those fighting tobacco regulations were the same as “those working to foment climate science denial”.
“This is a well-funded movement,” he says. “The strategies used in the tobacco debate are definitely strategies being used in the climate debate.”
Anti-Science Industrial Complex
There exists an ever-growing network of self-described ‘free market’ organisations that create reports, make media appearances, and disseminate information that the industry then uses to lobby policymakers. This analysis shows that many of these organisations also take donations from the industries they research and report on.
As a Guardian investigation by Jessica Glenza, with additional reporting by Sharon Kelly, recently revealed, these organisations provided “a powerful voice of support to cigarette manufacturers in battles against tougher regulations”. And as DeSmog has previously shown, the same organisations have a long history of promoting climate science denial to discourage policymakers from implementing carbon pollution regulations.
It matters where the money for the thinktanks’ activities comes from, Hsu says:
“There’s a lot of good research that shows that regardless of what people think of how money affects what they do, people that receive large donations are responsive to those donor interests.”
“The fossil fuel industry and the tobacco industry are funding disinformation campaigns so societies and countries can’t take action in ways that would generally benefit everyone except the fossil fuel and tobacco industries.”
“This is an interesting but not unexpected finding,” Robert Brulle,