Koch Family Spends Millions to Undermine Climate Science
Koch Industries multibillionaire Koch brothers bankroll attacks on climate change science and policy
Climate Science Watch, March 18, 2010
In order to block proactive government policymaking and keep corporate interests unregulated, libertarian groups have focused a significant part of their efforts on climate change on distorting the science to confuse public opinion, denying the seriousness of the problem, and, most recently, impugning the integrity of the climate science community. The Koch brothers have stepped forward with deep pockets to bankroll such efforts.
Charles and David Koch (pronounced "coke") own Koch Industries, which according to Forbes, is the second largest private company in the United States with estimated 2008 revenues of $100 billion and with 80,000 employees. Its CEO is Charles G. Koch (age 74, residence Wichita, Kansas) (. David Koch (age 70, residence New York City) is the executive vice-president and a board member. According to Forbes, the brothers are tied as the 9th richest Americans, with a net worth of $16 billion each.
The company, based in Wichita, Kansas, was founded by their father, Fred C. Koch, who started in the petroleum business in the 1920s and who by 1945 had established the Koch Engineering Company. Since that time the company has grown and diversified to include, among other things, the forest-products giant, Georgia Pacific Corporation.
On its Web site, Koch Industries summarizes its views on “Climate Controversies and Energy Needs." In addition to raising doubts about climate science and about the need to slow climate change by reducing emissions, the company site omits any discussion of the costly consequences of climate change, choosing instead to focus exclusively on high-end estimates of the costs of reducing emissions. If there are any doubts about the position of Koch Industries on the issue, these are dispelled by the resources it suggests for those wishing to learn more -- such as this book by denial machine lawyer Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute: “Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to keep You Misinformed.”
To kick off the New Year, Koch Industries published on January 1, 2010, a piece titled "Blowing Smoke" in its Discovery Newsletter. "We are often told our planet will be devastated unless we immediately make drastic reductions in man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions," the piece contends. Then it levels the bogus charge: " Rather than encouraging open and honest scientific enquiry and debate about the issue, climate extremists are trying to shout down any and all dissenters."
Koch Industries goes well beyond its Web site to advance the views and interests of its owners. According to OpenSecrets.org. Koch Industries dramatically increased its lobbying in the decade leading to the 2008 election, from $200,000 in 1998 to over $20 million in 2008, making it the 8th largest spender on lobbying in the country. In 2009, it contributed another $12.5 million, with major legislative targets including the energy and climate change legislation before the Congress -- and legislators who support the Koch brothers' views on the legislation.
At the same time, the Koch brothers have undermined climate science and policy through their foundations, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation. According to the report Axis of Ideology: Conservative Foundations and Public Policy, from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, "most of their contributions go to support organizations and groups advancing libertarian theory, privatization, entrepreneurship and free enterprise." As the Center for Public Integrity said in its 2004 brief, “Koch’s Low Profile Belies Political Power: Private Oil Company Does Both Business and Politics with the Shades Drawn.”
"Although it is both a top campaign contributor and spends millions on direct lobbying, Koch's chief political influence tool is a web of interconnected, right-wing think tanks and advocacy groups funded by foundations controlled and supported by the two Koch brothers."
In addition to funding groups directly, the Koch brothers have developed other ways to assist like-minded organizations. For example, the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow Program (funding approximately 80 fellows each summer) and the year-long Koch Associate Program, fund the training and placement of individuals in organizations including groups that are leading the attacks on climate change science and scientists: Americans for Prosperity Foundation, Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, National Center for Policy Analysis and the Heartland Institute.
Among the groups currently active in the climate debate and with strongest support from the Koch brothers are:
The Cato Institute (SourceWatch profile). "The mission of the Cato Institute is to increase the understanding of public policies based on the principles of limited government, free markets, individual liberty, and peace." The Cato Institute was established in 1977, with Charles Koch being one of the co-founders. David Koch is on the Board of Directors. From 2001 through 2008, the Koch family foundations contributed $2.3 million to the Cato Institute, with funding in 2008 at $270,000. In addition, the Koch brothers fund the placement of summer fellows and associates at the Cato Institute.
Americans for Prosperity and (tax-exempt, non-profit) Americans for Prosperity Foundation. "AFP is an organization of grassroots leaders who engage citizens in the name of limited government and free markets on the local, state and federal levels." It was established in 2004 by David Koch, who is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the AFP Foundation. For each of the three years, from 2005 through 2007, the Koch family foundations contributed more than $1 million to AFP. In 2008, the funding level doubled to $2 million (27% of AFP's budget), bringing the total 2005-2008 contribution to $5.2 million. Information on Koch family contributions to the AFP 2009 budget is not yet available. In addition, several top level AFP staff are former Koch Industries or Koch Foundation employees; and the Koch brothers fund the placement of summer fellows and associates at AFP.
Just as the organizations share a common "free-market" and "limited government" philosophy, they share similar views toward climate change. It is a threat to be denied, discounted or minimized, while the costs of slowing climate change are exaggerated; climate change impacts and the need for climate change preparedness are largely ignored. In “Climate Killers." Rolling Stone magazine recently counted the Koch brothers as being among the "17 polluters and deniers who are derailing efforts to curb global warming." Referring to Charles and David Koch as "The Tea Partiers," Rolling Stone says:
"The multibillionaire brothers not only run the nation's largest private energy company, they rival Exxon in funding the front groups that spread disinformation about the dangers of climate change... As author Thomas Frank observes in What's the Matter With Kansas?, `Koch money subsidizes the mass production of bad ideas...'"
Kevin Grandia of DeSmogBlog noted in June 2007 that "[w]hile Exxon is continuously vilified as the leader of the attack on climate change science, the Koch Foundation is heavily involved in the same type of activity, but receives very little of the bad press."
Americans for Prosperity (AFP), part of a network of libertarian organizations devoted to "limited government" and "free markets," is distorting climate change science and economics to "halt the encroachment of government." With generous support from the multibillionaire owners of Koch Industries, AFP claims that actions to address climate change are based on "global warming alarmism" and will wreck the economy. "Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant," says Peggy Venable, AFP's State Director for Texas. "On the contrary it makes crops and forests grow faster. We exhale carbon dioxide."
Americans for Prosperity: Distorting climate change science and economics in well-funded campaign
Climate Science Watch, March 18, 2010
Next week (on March 22) in Arkansas, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) will kick off a nationwide “Regulation Reality Tour” to block U.S. efforts under the Clean Air Act to protect the health and welfare of Americans by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. AFP describes itself as "an organization of grassroots leaders who engage citizens in the name of limited government and free markets on the local, state and federal levels." Its tax-exempt, nonprofit arm Americans for Prosperity Foundation is "committed to educating citizens about economic policy and a return of the federal government to its Constitutional limits." With strong and generous support from Charles and David Koch, the billionaire owners of Koch Industries (see box), AFP claims that actions to address climate change are based on "global warming alarmism" and will wreck the economy. AFP is part of larger network of libertarian organizations with close ties to the Koch brothers that distort climate change science and economics to undermine public support for government action to address the problem.
AFP generally says very little specifically about the science of climate change beyond repeatedly stating that regulatory steps by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and legislation being considered by Congress are based on "global warming alarmism" -- weasel wording used to dismiss the scientific basis for action with few specific details on what AFP believes or doesn't believe about climate change. AFP says the "costly so-called `solutions' to global warming" being considered by government would "have only a miniscule impact on global temperature and would not be detectable against the background of natural variation."
Peggy Venable, AFP's State Director for Texas, is less restrained. In an opinion piece titled “The Feds are Messing with Texas” in The Lone Star Report (29 January 2009), she says: "The scientific establishment has dropped the ball. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. On the contrary it makes crops and forests grow faster. We exhale carbon dioxide." She goes on to discuss the science-based finding by the EPA that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare (its "endangerment" finding). Specifically, she praised a response to EPA's endangerment finding that was being contemplated by the state of Texas and suggested by an AFP ally "who proposes attacking the EPA as a purveyor of bad science under federal statutes that prohibit junk science by agencies."
When the State of Texas announced a year later that it was taking legal action against EPA over the endangerment finding, Venable wrote, "Hats off to Gov. Rick Perry" along with the state attorney general and the agriculture commissioner. According to a press release from the Texas Governor's Office posted on the AFB Texas site:
“`With billions of dollars at stake, EPA outsourced the scientific basis for its greenhouse gas regulation to a scandal-plagued international organization that cannot be considered objective or trustworthy,' Attorney General Abbott said. `Prominent climate scientists associated with the IPCC were engaged in an ongoing, orchestrated effort to violate freedom of information laws, exclude scientific research, and manipulate temperature data. In light of the parade of controversies and improper conduct that has been uncovered, we know that the IPCC cannot be relied upon for objective, unbiased science – so EPA should not rely upon it to reach a decision that will hurt small businesses, farmers, ranchers, and the larger Texas economy.'”
On 15 April 2009, AFP joined with other conservative groups in a letter challenging the EPA’s endangerment finding, claiming:
"Significant uncertainty persists with regard to climate sensitivity—the core scientific issue. Despite the ongoing increase in air’s CO2 content, various measures of public health and welfare—life-expectancy, heat-related mortality, weather-related mortality, air quality, agricultural productivity—continue to improve. Endangerment of public health and welfare is not `reasonably anticipated.'"
Despite decades of research and thousands of peer-reviewed publications to the contrary, AFP rigidly adheres to the denialist arguments that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities pose no significant danger to Americans -- or the rest of the planet.
Alongside its dismissive position on the science, AFP mischaracterizes the economics of action on climate change. The largest economic consequences of unrestrained growth in emissions are related to the impacts of climate change, the costs of which are growing and will be catastrophic for the U.S. and world economies later in the century if emissions are not dramatically reduced. AFP ignores those costs. It focuses instead exclusively on the costs of reducing emissions, which are likely to be far less over time than the costly consequences of inaction. Furthermore, AFP exaggerates the costs of reducing emissions, cherry-picking analyses that suggest the largest negative economic consequences.
Finally, AFP argues that other major emitting countries will do little or nothing to effectively reduce emissions. This argument contradicts evidence that governments of other countries are growing increasingly concerned about the economic, social and political disruption that will occur as climate rapidly changes. They in fact are taking steps to prepare for the impacts of climate change and to curb emissions, and in many instances are well ahead of the U.S. on the issue.
According to a report released by Greenpeace, US, in March of 2010 titled:
Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine:
Most Americans have never heard of Koch Industries, one of the largest private corporations in the country, because it has no Koch-branded consumer products, sells no shares on the stock market and has few of the disclosure requirements of a public company. Although Koch intentionally stays out of the public eye, it is now playing a quiet but dominant role in a high-profile national policy debate on global warming. Koch Industries has become a financial kingpin of climate science denial and clean energy opposition. This private, out-of-sight corporation is now a partner to ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and other donors that support organizations and front-groups opposing progressive clean energy and climate policy. In fact, Koch has out-spent ExxonMobil in funding these groups in recent years. From 2005 to 2008, ExxonMobil spent $8.9 million while the Koch Industries controlled foundations contributed $24.9 million in funding to organizations of the ‘climate denial machine’.
The company’s tight knit network of lobbyists, former executives and organizations has created a forceful stream of misinformation that Koch-funded entities produce and disseminate. This campaign propaganda is then replicated, repackaged and echoed many times throughout the Koch-funded web of political front groups and think tanks.
On repeated occasions documented below, organizations funded by Koch foundations have led the assault on climate science and scientists, “green jobs,” renewable energy and climate policy progress.
This report focuses on activities by Koch Industries and its affiliates, as well as the family—and company—controlled foundations which fund organizations that spread inaccurate and misleading information about climate science and clean energy policies. Included is research on the company and the Koch brothers, two of the top ten richest people in the United States. The Koch brothers own the corporation and control its political spending. Also included are newly compiled funding connections from Koch foundations to a vast array of conservative and libertarian organizations and front groups. The report documents the Koch-funded funded groups’ actions and the Koch legacy of climate denial and
obstruction of environmental policy. Case studies contained
• ClimateGate Echo Chamber—At least twenty Koch-funded organizations have repeatedly rebroadcast, referenced and appeared as media spokespeople in the story, dubbed “ClimateGate,” of supposed malfeasance by climate scientists gleaned from a cache of stolen emails from the University of East Anglia in November 2009. These organizations claim the emails prove a “conspiracy” of scientists and casts doubt on the scientific consensus regarding climate change.
• Polar Bear Junk Science—In a 2007 published ‘junk science’ article on polar bears and Arctic climate impacts, the author acknowledged receiving research funding from ExxonMobil, American Petroleum Institute and the Charles G. Koch foundation. The paper, which appeared in the journal Ecological Complexity, was published as a “Viewpoint” piece, rather than new scientific research. It was not peer-reviewed and was criticized by leading polar bear and Arctic ice scientists for containing “no new research” and drawing unfounded conclusions. Regardless, multiple Koch and Exxon-funded groups rebroadcast the article’s conclusions that polar bears were not endangered by climate change,
through their websites and other media outlets. Additional Koch-funded groups and industry groups threatened to sue the Federal government for listing the polar bear.
For years, both openly and behind the scenes, ExxonMobil dominated the voice of climate science denial in the national global warming dialogue. However, after a decade of reputation-damaging public disclosures, as well as pressure from scientific organizations, shareholders and senators, ExxonMobil implemented a new public relations strategy under a new CEO, and has begun to moderate its public
statements on climate change. ExxonMobil’s website declares: 1 “We have discontinued contributions to several public policy research groups whose position on climate change diverted attention from the important discussion on how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.”
In spite of publishing this statement and reducing funding to a number of prominent climate denial organizations over the past few years, ExxonMobil continues to support dozens of organizations who are part of the climate denial movement with millions of dollars in annual funding.2 ExxonMobil has responded to public scrutiny by slightly reducing their support of climate denial, and Koch Industries is outpacing
ExxonMobil’s funding activities while drawing very little public attention. As ExxonMobil’s silent partner in funding the climate-denial machine, Koch Industries often uses similar and sometimes more aggressive tactics.
Kansas-based Koch Industries is a conglomerate dominated by petroleum and chemical interests with approximately $100 billion in annual sales, operations in nearly 60 countries and 70,000 employees. Most of Koch’s operations are invisible to the public, with the exception of a handful of retail brands such as Brawny® paper towels and Dixie® cups, produced by its subsidiary Georgia-Pacific Corporation. Koch Industries has been ranked as the first- or second-largest privately-held company in the United States in recent years, currently ranked second behind Cargill corporation.
Two brothers, Charles and David Koch, each own 42 percent of the company. Part of Koch Industries’ influence is channeled through three foundations, also controlled by the two brothers. This report documents roughly 40 climate denial and opposition organizations receiving Koch foundation grants in recent years, including:
• More than $5 million to Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP) for its nationwide “Hot Air Tour”3 campaign to spreading misinformation about climate science and opposing clean energy and climate legislation.
• More than $1 million to the Heritage Foundation, a mainstay of misinformation on climate and environmental policy issues.
• Over $1 million to the Cato Institute, which disputes the scientific evidence behind global warming, questions the rationale for taking climate action, and has been heavily involved in spinning the recent ClimateGate story.
• $800,000 to the Manhattan Institute, which has hosted Bjorn Lomborg twice in the last two years. Lomborg is a prominent media spokesperson who challenges and attacks policy measures to address climate change.
• $365,000 to Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) which advocates against taking action on climate change because warming is “inevitable” and expensive to address.
• $360,000 to Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy (PRIPP) which supported and funded An Inconvenient Truth…or Convenient Fiction,4 a film attacking the science of global warming and intended as a rebuttal to former Vice-President Al Gore’s documentary. PRIPP also threatened to sue the US Government for listing the polar bear as an endangered species.
• $325,000 to the Tax Foundation, which issued a misleading study on the costs of proposed climate legislation.
This is only part of the picture, because the full scope of direct contributions to organizations is not disclosed by individual Koch family members, executives, or from the company itself. Contributions through Koch’s political action committee (PAC) are a matter of public record. Since the beginning of the 2006 election cycle, Koch’s PAC spent more on contributions to federal candidates5 than any other oil-and-gas sector PAC. For that period, Koch Industries and its executives spent $2.51 million compared to next three biggest contributors: Exxon ($1.71 million), Valero ($1.68 million), and Chevron ($1.22 million).
Koch executives and their families wield political influence in other ways too, including direct federal lobbying and campaign contributions.
(For the full report, see: