THE paper trail connecting the climate change sceptic movement in Australia and the conservative US expert panel the Heartland Institute goes back at least to 2009, documents obtained by the Herald show.
The Heartland Institute, a leading group that funds activities designed to sow doubt about climate change science, was embarrassed this week when its strategy and budget documents found their way to a US blog.
The institute described the leak as a theft and said a police investigation was under way, while apologising to the 1800 companies and individuals whose identities were revealed as donors.
Documents from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission show that a group funded by the Heartland Institute, via a thicket of other foundations and think tanks, provided the vast majority of the cash for an anti-carbon price lobby group in Australia in 2009 and 2010.
The Australian Climate Science Coalition, an offshoot of a conservative lobby group called the Australian Environment Foundation, received virtually all its funding from the International Climate Science Coalition, which has been financially supported by Heartland.
In 2010, the Australian group had an income of $50,920, and $46,343 of that came from the American Climate Science Coalition, an offshoot of the International Climate Science Coalition, the ASIC documents show. The amount of public donations received was nil.
In 2009, the US arm kicked in $60,699 in funds - virtually all the Australian organisation's entire budget of $62,910 - the ASIC documents show. Donations from the public, at a time when debate over the federal government's proposed emissions trading scheme was at a peak, were just $138.
The chief science adviser to the International Climate Science Coalition is Bob Carter, an adjunct professor at Queensland's James Cook University.
When the Herald asked Professor Carter if people should be concerned about his impartiality given that he is on the Heartland Institute's payroll, he said: ''No more so than you should be concerned that a CSIRO employee is paid by the government.''
Professor Carter would not discuss the details of the ''monthly payment'' of $US1667 ($1547) to him in the Heartland Institute's budget.
''It's not something I would comment on in public - that's grossly insulting,'' he said. ''At time to time, I have worked as a scientific adviser for them. I have acted as a consultant from time to time. From time to time, I take payments when people seek my professional opinion on something.''
But that was a different thing to being paid to change his opinion on climate science, he said.
''The idea that a professional scientist - and a particularly distinguished scientist, if I may say - gives an opinion which has been paid for, is offensive.''
The function of the International Climate Science Coalition has less to do with science than with public relations, a strategy and budget document released by the group last year said.
The coalition's main activities seem to be writing letters to newspaper editors, ringing talkback radio programs and flooding websites with comments that attack climate change coverage.
The Australian Climate Science Coalition's list of advisers has included Professor Carter, Professor Ian Plimer and Professor William Kininmonth.
The International Climate Science Coalition has disputed the statement in this article that its function has "less to do with science than with public relations". A response from its executive director, Tom Harris, is published below. The Herald stands by its story in all respects.
Mr Harris writes: As explained on our website: "The ICSC is a non-partisan group of independent scientists, economists and energy and policy experts who are working to promote better understanding of climate science and policy worldwide. We aim to help create an environment in which a more rational, open discussion about climate issues emerges, thereby moving the debate away from implementation of costly and ineffectual 'climate control' measures. Instead, ICSC encourages assisting vulnerable peoples to adapt to climate variability and continuing scientific research into the causes and impacts of climate change."
In other words, we focus on public education.
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