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Friday, April 22, 2011

The Climate Change Fight

Our chapter on interest groups looks at their organizational forms and sources of influence.

Matthew Nisbet, an American University communications professor has made an important contribution to this field with Climate Shift: Clear Vision for the Next Decade of Public Debate, a report on the climate change debate.

The conventional wisdom is that industry and its conservative allies get their way by vastly outspending the environmental movement. Nisbet finds that this notion is wrong.

[P]ropelled by a wealthy donor base and key alliances with corporations and other organizations, the environmental movement appears to have closed the financial gap with its opponents among conservative groups and industry associations. Indeed, the effort to pass cap and trade legislation may have been the best-financed political cause in American history. The effort also demonstrates not only the vast revenue base and organizational capacity of the environmental movement, but also the movement’s enhanced ability to coordinate activities among its constituent members and to build partnerships.

In particular, he looks at the "cap and trade" issue during 2009:

[T]he combined program spending of environmental organizations ($1.4 billion) is almost twice as much as the combined program spending of conservative organizations and industry associations ($787 million). Specific to climate change and energy policy, environmental groups outspent conservative groups and their industry association allies $394 million to $259 million. Spending figures, however, are only approximate. As reviewed, the figures under-count the resources devoted by environmental groups and over-count the resources devoted to the issue by the conservative-industry association alliance.