News: CJ Exclusives

CAPAG Funding, Backing Questioned

Believers in man-caused global warming behind state study efforts

A Division of Air Quality project that seeks to limit carbon dioxide emissions in North Carolina is funded mostly by environmental foundations that predict dire consequences if government does nothing to stop the global warming of the Earth.

The project, called the Climate Action Plan Advisory Group (CAPAG), was created to study carbon dioxide in the state and to determine how emissions could be reduced by mobile and stationary sources.

The group is advised by the Pennsylvania-based Center for Climate Strategies, a policy center of Enterprising Environmental Strategies, Inc.

CCS negotiated a contract for the CAPAG project in which it would provide $250,000 of the project’s $350,000 cost, with North Carolina paying the balance. CCS has raised $225,000 of its portion of the funding for CAPAG from four foundations that promote policies designed to address global warming through carbon dioxide limitations.

The fact that the majority of the amount of financial backing for CAPAG comes from these sources calls into question whether the Division of Air Quality is unprejudiced in its findings and in its hiring practices, says Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican.

“I just wonder whether or not politics is controlling this and science is not,” he said. “They have engaged in a process that is going to lead to the promotion of an agenda instead of finding the answer to a question.”

The largest private funding group for CAPAG is the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which contributed $100,000. The philanthropic organization provides millions of dollars in funding to liberal ecological causes, as well as other initiatives such as peace, security, sustainable development, arts, education, and health.

The Capital Research Center, which studies nonprofit organizations that promote the growth of government instead of “viable private alternatives,” in a January 2005 newsletter said the Rockefeller Brothers Fund was characterized by “reflexive anti-capitalism.”

In 2005 Rockefeller Brothers specifically granted $255,000 over two years for the work of CCS in various states, including the Colorado Climate Project, the Western Regional Air Partnership (formed by the Western Governors Association), the New Mexico Climate Change Advisory Group, and others.

The next-largest private supporter of the CAPAG project is the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, based in Winston-Salem, which contributed $75,000. Reynolds contributes to a broad range of ecological preservation efforts, mostly in North Carolina. The foundation clearly backs initiatives emphasizing the dangers posed by global climate change, including (in 2005) $20,000 for the NC Council of Churches to “connect communities of faith with the challenges of global warming,” and $30,000 to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy for its work on climate change in the state.

“More than 61 percent of our electricity in the Southeast comes from decades-old, dirty coal-burning power plants, which pollute hundreds of millions of tons of global warming gases,” says SACE’s Web site. “These dinosaurs can be phased out, cleaned up or replaced with cleaner sources, such as green power (or renewable energy). Relying more on green power, such as wind, solar, landfill gas methane and certain types of biomass, would dramatically reduce global warming pollution.”

Also funding the CAPAG project are the New York-based Surdna Foundation, which contributed $30,000, and the Marisla Foundation in Laguna Beach, Calif., which donated $20,000 to the effort.

The Surdna Foundation has deep pockets, which it taps into generously to advance liberal environmental causes, including greenhouse gas controls. CCS has twice been its beneficiary, receiving $60,000 in 2006 for its work in Arizona and New Mexico, and $200,000 in 2007 for assisting CCS in Colorado, Montana, Vermont, South Carolina, and North Carolina with their carbon dioxide reduction programs.

Surdna has contributed hundreds of millions of dollars for other ecological causes. “Today, the environment is at great risk due to the interrelated threats of global climate change, biodiversity loss and unsustainable levels of resource consumption,” its Web site says.

Included in its policy advocacy are the issues of “environmental justice,” “smart growth,” and land-use reform. “Our goals are to prevent irreversible damage to the environment and to promote more efficient, economically sound, environmentally beneficial and equitable use of land and natural resources.”

Not as much is known about the smaller Marisla Foundation, other than it also consistently funds similar environmental protection endeavors as CAPAG’s other patrons.

Brian Hill, a director on the board of CCS’s parent organization, Enterprising Environmental Strategies, said the source of its funding has no bearing on CAPAG’s results.

“Any private funding obtained by EESI to support the work of CCS has no mandate for, or commitment to, specific policy outcomes,” Hill said in an e-mailed response to questions. “CCS provides a model facilitation service and does not advance an agenda in terms of final policy decisions in respective states.”

Berger questioned why foundations such as Rockefeller Brothers and Surdna would then fund efforts like CAPAG without assurance their environmental goals would be met.

“You’ve got to wonder,” he said, “if you’ve got groups who’ve got a mission — why would they be funding these folks to the extent that they are, if they didn’t have some degree of confidence that their money was being spent to promote their ultimate aim?”

Contractors’ backgrounds

Consultants hired by CCS also have backgrounds as proponents of the issue of human-induced global warming. Karl Hausker, deputy director for CCS (but an independent subcontractor), is also an adjunct fellow with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, where some of his work focused on problems with global climate change. According to his bio, he led the EPA’s programs on climate change and on trade and the environment between 1993 and 1995.

Dr. David Von Hippel, who assists CAPAG’s Residential, Commercial and Industrial sub-study group, is also a senior associate with the Nautilus Institute, a public policy organization in San Francisco. The organization takes a clear posture on the dangerous repercussions from greenhouse gases: “Our planet now faces a looming climate catastrophe caused by human action,” according to a 2003 Nautilus briefing paper titled, “Our Burning Path: Action or Denial on Global Warming?”

Von Hippel himself adopted a similar stance in a report for Nautilus. “Scientific consensus is that increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, prominently including carbon dioxide and methane emitted by fossil fuels combustion, will cause global climate to change in the next several decades, if such changes have not already occurred,” he wrote. “The impacts of climate change will vary widely across the globe, but those countries with the largest, least affluent populations per unit land area will likely be among the most vulnerable.”

Von Hippel is associated with other similarly focused organizations, including the Stockholm Environment Institute, where he is also identified as a senior associate. At least two other CCS subcontractors working on CAPAG are affiliated with the Stockholm institute as well: advisors Bill Dougherty and Sivan Kartha, who work on CAPAG’s Energy Supply work group.

The Stockholm Institute focuses on issues of sustainable development. Dougherty has a doctorate in regional planning from the University of Pennsylvania, and has studied the “social costs and benefits of switching to alternative fuel vehicles,” and also “modeling of national policies in the electric and transport sectors for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” according to Stockholm’s web site. Kartha’s specialty is policy analysis related to global climate change and renewable energy technologies.

Will Schoeer, a CAPAG advisor for its Transportation and Land Use working group, is a CCS consultant employed by ICF International in Fairfax, Va. The company works with government and commercial enterprises in six fields: energy, environment, transportation, social programs, defense, and homeland security. Schoeer leads ICF’s “smart growth” consulting work.

And Ken Colburn, another CAPAG advisor, in the past has warned of dire consequences as the result of global warming, which he believes will continue if human-caused carbon dioxide emissions are not reduced. At the November 2006 annual meeting of the Mount Washington Valley (N.H.) Economic Council (video link), he showed photographs of shrinking glaciers, told stories about melting mountain snow, and the eradication of animal species, should carbon dioxide reduction not be dealt with immediately.

“If you want to get to Kilimanjaro and scale it with snow on it, you’d better do it in the next few years,” he told the group, “[in] the next decade or so.”

Tom Peterson, director of CCS, says the personal views of their subcontractors do not affect the information they provide as advisors to CAPAG members. He said all EESI representatives sign a code of conduct, patterned after the Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators, which was approved by the American Arbitration Association and American Bar Association in 2005.

“[EESI] is a policy-neutral organization,” Peterson said. “We’re a service organization.”

CAPAG has already provided 16 recommendations for carbon dioxide reductions in North Carolina to the state’s Legislative Commission on Global Climate Change. State Sen. Robert Pittenger, a Charlotte Republican who is also a member of the Legislative Commission, said he has seen enough evidence to know that the state is barreling toward carbon dioxide restrictions that could leave the state economically uncompetitive with other states and with countries such as China, which is rapidly building its electricity sources with coal-burning power plants.

“The [Legislative] commission is clearly not balanced in representation and the speakers have not been balanced,” Pittenger said, “so I don’t know why I should assume that there would be balance in the associated organizations providing input to the process.

“The press is overwhelming on their side and most folks have bought the line of anthropogenic cause, even the president, Supreme Court, major corporations, and enough scientists to offer credibility.”

Berger said there is no scientific consensus on global warming or on the need for carbon dioxide controls, and government study efforts ought to reflect that.

“The Division of Air Quality should be cognizant of the skepticism that would greet their report,” Berger said, “given the background of the people they have contracted with.”

Paul Chesser ([email protected]) is associate editor of Carolina Journal.