The Koch-funded ?ClimateGate? Echo Chamber

The emails spanned 13 years of correspondence and a handful of selected emails were taken out of context by a number of climate-denier organizations. These organizations, many part of the Koch Web, claim the emails prove a “conspiracy” of scientists and cast doubt on the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.

This incident, dubbed “ClimateGate” by climate-denier groups, has been distorted and repeated many times by conservative media and blogs since late November 2009. Twenty organizations, roughly half of the Koch-funded groups profiled in this report, have contributed to the “ClimateGate” echo chamber. Among the most vocal groups are organizations that received over $1,000,000 from Koch foundations since 2005, including Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute.

Americans For Prosperity (received over $5 million from Koch since 2005) hosted a live webcast from Copenhagen on Dec 9th as part of their “Hot Air Tour,” using the “ClimateGate” emails as a reason to prevent passage of any progressive global warming policy. During the webcast, Steve Lonegan, AFP’s New Jersey Director, said “ClimateGate” could have uncovered “the biggest hoax our world has ever seen” and vows not to allow any climate bill to pass the US Senate. Several members of the Copenhagen youth delegation crashed the AFP event and were angrily called “Hitler Youth” by AFP guest speaker and well known climate denier Lord Christopher Monckton. In addition to the Copenhagen webcast, AFP mentions “ClimateGate” in many blog posts, including in their protest of the EPA CO2 endangerment finding.

The Heritage Foundation (received over $1 million from Koch since 2005) has posted several articles on its website regarding “ClimateGate.” The blogs run the gamut of possible climate-denier angles on the incident, ranging from conspiracy accusations , to a history of imagined climate scandals, to effects on world politics, to supposed economic consequences from climate legislation.

. The Cato Institute (received over $1 million in grants from Koch since 2005) is the front-group for climate-denier Patrick Michaels, who has been a vocal spokesperson regarding “ClimateGate”. Within two weeks following the email breach at East Anglia University, Patrick Michaels had appeared in over twenty media interviews on shows including CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, NBC’s Nightly News, FOX’s Fox & Friends, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, and BBC’s Have Your Say. Michaels, taking one line of an illegally-obtained email out of context, has claimed the scientists have committed a “capital crime” and their actions are “akin to filtering what goes in the bible.”

In addition to AFP, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute, about half of the Koch-funded climate denial groups detailed in this report contributed to the “ClimateGate” misinformation echo chamber, including:

American Enterprise Institute
Americans for Tax Reform
Capital Research Center
Fraser Institute
George C Marshall Institute
Goldwater Institute
Independent Women’s Forum
John Locke Foundation
Mackinac Center
Media Research Center
Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy
Reason Foundation
State Policy Network
Texas Public Policy Foundation
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Heartland Institute

Polar Bear Junk Science and Koch Industries

In 2007, several prominent climate denial scientists published a non-peer reviewed article (Dyck, Soon et al, 2007 “Polar bears of western Hudson Bay and climate change: Are warming spring air temperatures the "ultimate" survival control factor?”), concluding that polar bears are not being threatened by anthropogenic global warming. One of the paper’s authors, Dr. Willie Soon, disclosed in the acknowledgments section that he had received direct corporate funding for the work, stating “W. Soon’s effort for the completion of this paper was partially supported by grants from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, American Petroleum Institute, and Exxon-Mobil Corporation.” (Exxon grants to Soon’s organization are detailed below. The exact amount received from the Koch foundation was not found on its 990 forms. The American Petroleum Institute does not disclose the multiple grants it has made to such climate denial organizations over the years.)
The paper, which did not include any new scientific research, but drew from other published work, appeared in the journal Ecological Complexity as a “Viewpoint” piece. This article declared Arctic sea ice decline was less severe than recent well-founded conclusions in peer-reviewed literature. The authors question the climate science of Arctic warming and the scientific modeling that indicates climate change as a threat to polar bear populations. Leading polar bear and Arctic ice scientists criticized the article for containing “no new research” and drawing erroneous conclusions from existing research.

Two polar bear experts, Dr. Ian Stirling and Dr. Andrew Derocher, published a response to the paper, stating that the 2007 article did not adequately support the claim that non-climate factors were causing the polar bear population decline. Stirling and Deroucher wrote, “[The article’s authors] …suggest that factors other than climate warming are responsible for a decline in the polar bear population of Western Hudson Bay… In our examination of their alternative explanations, and the data available to evaluate each, we found little support for any.”

Oil interests and their allies likely realize that polar bear protections might hinder oil exploration in the Arctic. In addition, because polar bear decline is an iconic symbol of the climate crisis, undermining the scientific proof of polar bears in peril would potentially delay overall climate policy measures that will reduce oil consumption.

The co-authors of the paper include long time climate deniers: Sallie Baliunas, David Legates and Tim Ball. Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas have a documented history of receiving money from oil interests. ExxonMobil Foundation tax records and company documents confirm a series of grants to the Center for Astrophysics, which employs both Soon and Baliunas. In 2008, ExxonMobil contributed $76,106 to Soon and Baliunas’ institute, the Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory, with funding totaling over $340,000 in four grants since 2005.

Soon and Baliunas were the authors of another controversial climate “junk science” report in 2003, funded by the American Petroleum Institute. The paper, “Lessons & Limits of Climate History: Was the 20th Century Climate Unusual?”, published by another industry-funded think tank, the George Marshall Institute, attacked the research of climate scientist Michael Mann, who has also been a prominent target in the “Climategate” controversy detailed above. Soon, Baliunas and Legates teamed up on a version of the same paper, published in a small journal Climate Research, which generated such an uproar that the Editor in Chief and several others resigned in protest. Both Soon and Baliunas have been associated as spokespeople, advisors and board members of multiple Koch-funded climate denial groups over the past decade.

The 2007 polar bear junk science paper prompted a letter to ExxonMobil from North Carolina Representative Brad Miller, Chair of the US House Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, which raised a key question about Exxon’s funding, which could well have been asked of Koch and API:

“To people outside the scientific community, one PhD may seem like another. Certainly Exxon knows better, however. Yet according to Dr Soon, an astrophysicist by profession, ExxonMobil funded the development of his “opinions” on global warming and its potential impact on polar bear populations…The Congress and the Public have a right to know why ExxonMobil is funding a scientist whose writing is outside his area of expertise to create the impression that expert scientists have conducted vigorous, peer reviewed work that says the problems with polar bears [and climate change] are unproven or unserious.”

Exxon responded, denying responsibility for Soon’s research and claiming that the paper had undergone a “lengthy peer review process.”

The Koch-funded climate denial groups kicked into gear before the paper was published. Regardless of the non-peer reviewed status of the Ecological Complexity paper, it gave the appearance of a peer reviewed paper. Multiple Koch- and Exxon-funded groups rebroadcast the story through their websites and other media outlets, emphasizing the paper and its ‘findings’ that polar bears are not endangered by climate change. When the Bush Administration was forced to consider listing the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act (by a lawsuit brought by Greenpeace and other environmental groups), Sarah Palin and her officers in the Alaskan government referenced the 2007 Dyck, Soon et al. polar bear paper in its formal protest of government action to protect the polar bear, before the paper was even published.

Additional Koch-funded groups and industry groups threatened to sue the Federal government for listing the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and National Association of Manufacturers.

Koch Organizations Instrumental in Dissemination of ACCF/NAM Claims

The Koch web is playing a role in promoting studies that exaggerate the costs of climate policy. In 2008, the Koch-web-funded American Council on Capital Formation (ACCF) teamed up with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) to sponsor and disseminate a study of the economic impact of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. Every step of the way, Koch-funded anti-clean energy groups played a key role in moving the NAM/ACCF study in the media and at the grassroots level.

* ACCF funded and co-released the study with NAM.
* ACCF disseminated the results in presentations at over a dozen “Climate Dialogues” organized by the U.S. Chamber’s Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth (AEEG).
* The AEEG “climate dialogues” involved other organizations funded through the Koch web, including:
* The Heritage Foundation which provided speakers for some events; 
* Frontiers of Freedom staff and scholars participated in some of the dialogues.

Key Front Groups Taking Koch Money And Doing Their Dirty Work

From 1997 to 2008, the Kochs funneled more than $48.5 million to organizations who are working in lockstep with the Kochs’ agenda while presenting themselves as experts. Some top recipients of Koch money 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]
* 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]