Photo: Roland Klose
Man-made climate change is taking place on a regular basis.
Of course, not everyone wants the news out. If enough people truly believed that fossil fuels were contributing to global warming, they’d likely put a lot of energy companies out of business.
Peabody Energy is one that feels at risk. Classified as “America’s biggest coal mining company,” the corporation is facing allegations that it funded dozens of climate denial groups, hoping to spread word that mankind is not responsible for rises in global temperature. Among those that purportedly received funding from the energy conglomerate are corporate lobby groups, contrarian scientists, trade associations and industry front groups. Conservative think-tanks may have also received a piece of the action.
Peabody sought bankruptcy protection last April, citing competition from natural gas sources and other less-expensive alternatives to traditional fossil fuels as the primary reason, and disclosures uncovered during the bankruptcy proceedings are exposing the company’s financial alliances with those denying climate change.
“These groups collectively are the heart and soul of climate denial,” said Kert Davies, founder of the Climate Investigation Center. “It’s the broadest list I have seen of one company funding so many nodes in the denial machine.”
Evidence suggesting climate change is numerous and widespread. Events ranging from ocean acidification to glacial retreats may be recorded side effects, and as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of 2013 explains, “Scientists are 95 percent certain that humans are the ‘dominant cause’ of global warming since the 1950s.”
But it’s the burning of fossil fuels (Peabody’s source of income) and the subsequent release of CO2 emissions that seem to be the primary actions behind ongoing, weather-related changes. Carbon dioxide absorbs infra-red heat faster than nitrogen and oxygen alone, so the more CO2 there is in the air, the sooner things tend to heat up.
Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, humans and carbon dioxide have gone together like peanut butter and chocolate. As of 2006, carbon emissions from the fossil fuel industry have reached a staggering eight billion tons per year, and the numbers seem to increase with each passing decade, yet in spite of all this, many of us choose not to believe in our planet’s ongoing alterations. Peabody has worked hard to instill what it feels is necessary doubt, but the company isn’t simply denying climate change… It says it’s actually beneficial.
In a 2015 letter to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Peabody explained that carbon dioxide was “a benign gas that is essential for all life.” The letter further continued with, “While the benefits of carbon dioxide are proven, the alleged risks of climate change are contrary to observed data, are based on admitted speculation, and lack adequate scientific basis.”
An impending lawsuit made the company officially change its stance. Peabody had been accused of misleading the public and investors alike regarding the potential impacts of climate change, and executives eagerly sought to shut the door on future legal action.
Still however, it’s unclear just how deep the root of Peabody’s present scenario really goes. Filings have revealed financial aid for specific organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council, the State Policy Network, and the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which seeks to fight climate bills in Washington and overturn pollution standards set forth by the EPA.
While Peabody refused to comment on the allegations, senior vice-president Vic Svec did mention that the company, “has a track record of advancing responsible energy and environmental policies, and we support organizations that advocate sustainable mining, energy access and clean coal solutions, in line with our company’s leadership in these areas.”