Saturday, April 3, 2010

Exposing Koch Industries' web of climate denial

A new Greenpeace report uncovers the multimillion dollar funding and intense lobbying against climate science and climate action by Koch Industries, that eclipses the traditional funding for climate deniers from ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies.

Greenpeace Reports: Koch Industries: secretly funding the climate denial machine | Dealing in Doubt: A Brief History of Attacks on Climate Science, Climate Scientists and the IPCC

Climate criminals come in many shapes and forms including many corporate executives and politicians who fail to take meaningful action to reduce carbon emissions or other climate mitigation action despite being aware of the climate science.

But a step above the many who fail to take action, are the few who actively engage in the concerted campaign against climate scientists, climate science and intensively lobby against emissions reduction or mitigation action on climate change. The executives of Exxon-Mobil are part of this elite criminal fraternity, but eclipsing even them are Charles and David Koch, the principal owners of Koch Industries, the second largest privately-held company in the USA.

You haven't heard of them? They like it that way. They have until now been operating under the radar of public scrutiny. But now Greenpeace have published a report on their climate denial funding activities, gleaned from public sources. Koch Industries: secretly funding the climate denial machine

Koch Industries funding climate denial


Koch Industries is a conglomerate of more than twenty companies with $100 billion in annual sales, operations in nearly 60 countries (including Australia) and 70,000 employees. Koch’s industry areas span petroleum refining, fuel pipelines, coal supply and trading, oil and gas exploration, chemicals and polymers, fertilizer production, ranching and forestry products. There are few brand names in their portfolio.

Their investments include multiple leases on the polluting tar sands of Alberta, Canada since the 1990s and the Koch Pipeline Company operates the pipelines that carry tar sands crude from Canada into Minnesota and Wisconsin where Koch’s Flint Hill Resources owns oil refineries.

The Koch brothers and other executives in the company work behind the scenes against climate action by contributing to a combination of foundation-funded front-groups, big lobbying budgets, Political Action Committee (PAC) donations, and direct campaign contributions overwhelmingly favouring Republican candidates at both State and Federal level in the US.

Koch foundations contributed over $48 million to climate opposition groups in the US from 1997 to 2008. With the debate over climate action heating up since 2005 with increasing calls for Government action on carbon emission control and climate mitigation measures the volume of funding has increased significantly. Over one half of this funding - $24,888,282 - was contributed in the three years between 2005 to 2008.

Koch foundations surpass ExxonMobil and the ExxonMobil Foundation as a funding source to organizations that generate and disseminate misinformation on the science of and solutions to global warming according to Greenpeace. In the same three year period - 2005 to 2008 - ExxonMobil provided about $8.9 million to groups with similar activities.

Charles Koch as well as being Chief Executive Officer, Koch Industries, is ranked as 9th richest American (tied with his brother David). He is a Co-founder of the Cato Institute, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Humane Studies, and Member of the Board of Directors of the Mercatus Center.

David H. Koch is Executive Vice-President, Koch Industries and ranked equal 9th richest American. He is on the Board of Directors of the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

Other key executives in Koch Industries and Foundations include: Koch Industries Executive Vice_president Richard Fink, Logan Moore, Wayne Gable, and Kevin Gentry.

The web of denial of foundations and front groups works like an echo chamber amplifying arguments and counter information for grass roots members to blog or post comments on. In the theft of emails from the University of East Anglia in November 2009, dubbed 'climategate' by sceptics, many of the groups funded by Koch Industries played a major role in Climategate publicising information in the emails as a “conspiracy” of scientists to cast doubt on the scientific consensus on human caused climate change.

Countering climate science with 'Junk' science

The funding works in many ways. Part of it is to fund researchers with some scientific credibility to publish counter research in scientific or related journals regarding climate science.

For example, funding from ExxonMobil and Koch Industries was provided to Dr. Willie Soon for a non-peer reviewed paper on polar bears (“Polar bears of western Hudson Bay and climate change: Are warming spring air temperatures the ‘‘ultimate’’ survival control factor?”) The 2007 paper did not contain original research but was a review of the literature to produce conclusions at odds with researchers studying in the field. The paper was debunked by two polar bear experts, Dr. Ian Stirling and Dr. Andrew Derocher who published a response stating that the article did not adequately support the claim that non-climate factors were causing the polar bear population decline.

Many Koch and Exxon-funded groups published the ‘findings’ from the Soon paper that polar bears are not endangered by climate change, with the Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin using the paper as part of protesting Federal government action to protect the polar bear.

Willie Soon, and fellow author Sally Baliunas are astrophysicists by profession working at Center for Astrophysics. Their institute, the Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory has received funds from ExxonMobil totalling $340,000 in four grants since 2005.

Countering the push for Renewable Energy

In countering the growth of renewables, the Koch web of denial has been an important source of funding and network for dissemination of information from a 2009 Spanish study on Green Jobs and a 2009 Danish Study on Windpower and on the viability of renewable energy.

The Spanish study has been proven unsupportable by the US’s own National Renewable Energy Laboratory as well as being criticised by ministers of the Spanish government and independent experts.

The Danish study, prepared by Danish think-tank CEPOS has been misrepresented and distorted. CEPOS was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, which has given CEPOS “several awards.” The Charles G. Koch Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Foundation both support the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. The Danish paper on wind farms was promoted by The Institute for Energy Research and the Heritage Foundation.

Foundations and Front Groups

Foundations and groups being funded (that Greenpeace have discovered so far) include:

  • Mercatus Center - $9,247,500 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $9,874,500]
  • Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP) - $5,176,500 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [No Koch foundation grants received prior to 2005]
  • Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) - $1,967,000 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $3,923,457]
  • The Heritage Foundation - $1,620,000 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $3,358,000]
  • Cato Institute - $1,028,400 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $5,278,400]
  • The Manhattan Institute - $800,000 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $1,325,000]
  • Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) - $655,000 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $1,255,000]
  • Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies - $542,500 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $1,750,700]
  • Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment - $365,000 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $1,460,000]
  • Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy (PRIPP)
    $360,000 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $1,100,000]
  • Tax Foundation - $325,000 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $525,000]
  • Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) - $290,000 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $335,000]
  • Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) $283,125 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $393,999]
  • American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) - $215,000 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $225,000]
  • George C. Marshall Institute - $210,000 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $240,000]
  • The Reason Foundation - $205,000 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $1,706,200]
  • Institute for Energy Research (IER) - $175,000 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $235,000]
  • Fraser Institute - $175,000 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [No Koch foundation grants received prior to 2005]
  • Frontiers of Freedom - $150,000 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $175,000]
  • National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) - $130,000 received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $570,000]
  • Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) - No grants received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $471,420]
  • Heartland Institute (HI) - No grants received from Koch foundations 2005–2008 [Total Koch foundation grants 1997–2008: $30,000]
  • and others as listed in the Greenpeace report

Koch Industries and the Web of Denial in Australia

According to the company website INVISTA and the Koch Chemical Technology Group operate in Australia. INVISTA was bought by Koch Industries in 2004 from Du Pont and are the creators of Lycra fiber and Stainmaster® carpet. Koch Fertiliser Australia Pty Ltd. has an office in Ringwood, Victoria, and Koch Membrane Systems has offices in Kew, Victoria & in Parramatta, NSW.

In March 2010 Koch Industries leased from GrainCorp a 150,000 tonne storage facility at Geelong for marketing fertiliser across Victoria and the Riverina.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) received funding from Koch foundation grants between 1997 and 2005 totalling $471,420. This organisation has been intent on developing the campaign against climate science in Australia. In August 1997, the CEI and the Frontiers of Freedom front group sponsored a conference in Canberra, with the Australian and New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and the Western Mining Corporation (WMC) in attendance.

A recent Greenpeace report by Cindy Baxter - Dealing in Doubt discusses the history of the climate denial industry and attacks on climate science, climate scientists and the IPCC. The CEI were prominent in getting climate scepticism off the ground in Australia led by Western Mining Corporation, Chambers of Commerce, and prominent politicians in the Liberal and National Parties:

In August 1997, the CEI and the Frontiers of Freedom front group sponsored another conference, this time in Canberra, Australia, along with the Australian and New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and the WMC. Ray Evans and WMC’s Managing Director Hugh Morgan played a significant role at the conference, and attendees included the Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer and Environment Minister Robert Hill. Fisher claimed that tough emission reduction targets could put 90,000 jobs at risk in Australia and cost more than $150 million."

Speakers included American climate sceptic Patrick Michaels, climate sceptic politicians, Rep. John Dingell, Senator Chuck Hagel and Richard Lawson (President and Chief Executive Officer of the US National Mining Association and present at the earlier CEI meeting).

According to RJ Smith from the CEI, the purpose of the Canberra conference was to ‘try and buck [Prime Minister John Howard] up a little more and let him know that there is support of the American people’ for his government's obstructionist stance.

Later that year, an Australian at the CEI, Hugh Morley, noted on the CEI’s website that ‘If Australia sticks to its gun [sic], there might not be a Kyoto treaty after all’.

The Australian denial movement, funded by the WMC and other big business groups, and led by the Institute of Public Affairs, has had a relationship with the US climate sceptics ever since. Meanwhile, Australia has adopted a weak climate policy, only signing the Kyoto treaty after the Howard administration lost power in 2007.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has a history of attacking climate science and the IPCC reports. This year, on 16 February 2010, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, along with Fred Singer, filed a lawsuit to the US demanding that, on the basis of the hacked emails and so called ‘flawed datasets’ of 'Climategate', the EPA drop all its proposed regulation on CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

In 2009 an International investigation by journalists revealed a multinational fossil fuel campaign to undermine Copenhagen talks.

Want to read more?

Visit some of these sites for more information on the sceptic campaign against climate science and climate action:
  • RealClimate blog – a blog by climate scientists discussing science in a very scientific way.
  • Climate progress by Joe Romm
  • Skeptical science: blog by John Cook, that answers the main denier arguments.
  • Deltoid: An Australian blog by scientist Tim Lambert - exposes the scientific holes in denier arguments:
  • Desmogblog – a Canadian blog exposing climate denier junk science and business links http://
  • Hot Topic – New Zealand science writer Gareth Renowden on climate science and denial arguments.
    co.nz
  • Grist ‘How to talk to a climate sceptic
  • Climate Science Watch: Former ‘gagged’ US climate scientist Rick Piltz follows the abuse of climate science

or try these two books:

  • ‘Climate Cover Up’ by James Hoggan, Greystone Books 2009,
  • ‘Science as a Contact Sport’ by Stephen H Schneider (intro by Tim Flannery) – a scientist’s account of years of denier attacks, Random House, 2009.