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American billionaire bankrolls programs promoting misinformation from the grave: 'Such profound influence over our politics'

"These organizations conduct 'research' that is designed to sow doubt."

"These organizations conduct 'research' that is designed to sow doubt."

Photo Credit: iStock

A man who died 17 years ago is making a significant impact on climate change, but not in a good way. Millions of dollars have been spent spreading misinformation and disinformation about the dangers of climate change, and a lot more money is about to be doled out over the next two years.  

What's happening? 

Billionaire Daniel C. Searle formed the Searle Freedom Trust in 1998. Searle's wealth came from his family's business, G.D. Searle & Company, a pharmaceutical company responsible for notable products like Ambien, Metamucil, Dramamine, and Envoid — the first commercial birth control pill. 

Searle died in 2007, but the Trust has continued donating millions of dollars annually to non-profit organizations, many of which have advocated against policies to address climate change. 

According to a CNN report, the Searle Freedom Trust has given out more than $8 million over the past decade to those groups, including the CO2 Coalition and the Heartland Institute.  

Why are the Trust's donations concerning? 

"These organizations conduct 'research' that is designed to sow doubt about either the reality or the danger of the climate crisis, or about the viability of any of the most feasible solutions," said Galen Hall, a University of Michigan researcher who has studied financial donations to climate change denial groups. 

According to CNN, the Heartland Institute mailed 350,000 copies of a book that claims climate change science is "deeply flawed" to public school science teachers in an effort to influence their teaching. 

The reality is that 97% of actively publishing climate scientists agree that the planet is heating at an abnormal rate and that human actions — specifically burning dirty energy sources like coal, oil, and gas — are directly responsible. 

Meanwhile, officials for the CO2 Coalition — whose executive director Caleb Rossiter said that the rising temperatures on our planet would be "more beneficial than harmful for humanity" this century — have briefed lawmakers and testified before Congress and state legislatures. 

Again, almost all climate scientists agree that rising temperatures are exceedingly harmful to humanity, as they are causing the extreme weather events that many of us are experiencing. Raging wildfires, devastating floods, severe droughts, and intense storms are wreaking havoc around the world, and they're all a result of our warming climate. 

"The fact that our political system works in a way where wealthy people who died years ago can continue to have such profound influence over our politics and our beliefs about science and the world is just incredibly damaging," Hall added. "It's one of the key aspects of American politics that makes positive change on issues like climate change so difficult."

What can you do to mitigate the impact of Searle's millions? 

The Searle Freedom Trust is closing down in 2025 at the request of Daniel himself, which means about $59 million will be given out over the next two years to influence politicians and public policies. 

The best thing you can do to push back against this kind of financial influence is to vote for pro-climate candidates, support eco-friendly initiatives by brands, and donate money to climate causes — even if it's not millions of dollars.

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