Greenpeace is accusing one of the nation's largest conglomerates of sowing confusion around scientific assertions behind climate change, a broadside that comes amid waning public engagement on human-caused emissions.
Koch Industries, a sprawling private corporation based in Wichita, Kan., and run by two brothers, is the primary sponsor of the "climate denial machine," the environmental group asserts in a 44-page report.
A company spokeswoman said Greenpeace is mischaracterizing Koch's efforts to facilitate "an open and honest airing of all sides" on the climate debate.
Koch subsidiaries own refineries, oil pipelines, fertilizer facilities, coal and cement transportation systems, and other industrial operations. The company also has several foundations through which it gave $24.9 million to conservative groups between 2005 and 2008, the report says.
"The combination of foundation-funded front-groups, big lobbying budgets, [political action committee] donations, and direct campaign contributions makes Koch Industries and the Koch brothers among the most formidable obstacles to advancing clean energy and climate policy in the U.S.," Greenpeace says.
The group calls Koch the "financial kingpin of climate science denial," saying the brothers, Charles and David Koch, who jointly own 84 percent of the company, have replaced Exxon Mobil Corp. as the leader in stirring controversy around climate conclusions.
Greenpeace portrays the company's efforts as a secret campaign to keep climate doubts pinging around an "echo chamber" that includes groups like the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute.
Koch-funded groups have developed "junk science" asserting that polar bears are not threatened by climate-induced melting of Arctic sea ice, promoted the notion that climate scientists are suppressing alternative findings, and financed studies that misinform the public on renewable energy benefits, Greenpeace says.
Company embraces 'sound science'
The company appears willing to embrace its controversial viewpoints. It notes on its Web site that several theories exist in the debate around climate change, including the idea that Earth is "entering a cooling period."
"We believe the political response to climate issues should be based on sound science," the company spokeswoman, Melissa Cohlmia, responded by e-mail. "Both a free society and the scientific method require an open and honest airing of all sides, not demonizing and silencing those with whom you disagree. We've strived to encourage an intellectually honest debate on the scientific basis for claims of harm from greenhouse gases."
The company is taking its message to Congress. Oil and gas sector lobbying has more than tripled since 2004, reaching $168.3 million last year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Koch spent $12.3 million on lobbyists in 2009, ranking it fifth behind Exxon, Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co. and BP PLC.
Environmentalists, meanwhile, have increased their lobbying expenditures fourfold during that same period, spending $22.5 million last year. Greenpeace spent $46,291 on lobbyists in 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The Koch brothers are devoted to "free market" solutions, and they've been deeply involved in the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, which received more than $1 million from Koch Industries since 2005, according to Greenpeace.
Cato's ecological climatologist, Patrick Michaels, a critic of mainstream assertions around global warming, appeared in more than 20 media interviews within two weeks of the "Climategate" e-mail breach at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, the report says. Michaels has called the CRU scientists a "mob" that has worked to bias climate science to support warming conclusions.
Cato founder and President Edward Crane said in a statement that "no funds from the Kochs have ever been designated for a specific project."
"I'm concerned that Greenpeace appears to be more interested in our funding sources than in the accuracy of the research that is being funded," he added. "Climategate (not to mention peer-reviewed publications) would vindicate that accuracy."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC, www.eenews.net, (202) 628-6500