Tea party pollutocrat David Koch denies climate change, shrugs off his carbon pollution

The Koch family put together the Tea Party movement and has surpassed Exxon Mobil in funding climate science disinformation and clean energy opposition.

This Think Progress cross-post is Part 2 of Lee Fang’s amazing interview with David Koch.

This week, ThinkProgress conducted an impromptu interview with David Koch “” one of the richest men in America, co-owner of the conglomerate Koch Industries, and a top financier of right-wing front groups “” after we found him leaving the swearing-in ceremony for Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). In the first part of the interview, Koch said that he “admire[s]” the Tea Party movement, and that “the rank and file are just normal people like us.” As ThinkProgress has detailed, Koch operatives orchestrated the first anti-Obama Tea Party protests, channeled Tea Party groups into increasing the Koch’s personal wealth, and organized Tea Parties for Republican campaigns and lobbying drives.

When we tried to speak to Koch “” who never said he did not want to talk to us “” his employee Tim Phillips, president of Koch’s Americans for Prosperity, tried to push ThinkProgress’ Scott Keyes away and yelled into the camera Keyes was holding. Phillips is a prolific “astroturf” lobbyist who has worked for Jack Abramoff’s forced-abortion sweatshop clients, Enron, and had a hand in an anti-Semitic campaign against Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) first bid for Congress. Despite Phillips’ distractions, Koch answered several of our questions about climate science and global warming.

Asked why Koch’s Americans for Prosperity focuses so much on denying climate change, Koch said it was because “regulating CO2 excessively “¦ really damage[s] the economy.” Koch however was hesitant to answer if he himself believes in climate change. He eventually denied anthropogenic global warming by giving a standard climate denier response: “Climate does fluctuate. It goes from hot to cold. We have ice ages.” However, he simply shrugged when asked if carbon pollution “” like the carbon pollution Koch Industries heavily contributes to “” affects climate change:

FANG: Why does Americans for Prosperity focus so much on the science of climate change? I’m just curious why they spread so much information that denies the existence of climate, of global warming?

KOCH: Well”¦ I think it’s uh, regulating CO2 excessively is going to put “” uh really damage the economy.

FANG: Do you believe in climate change yourself? […] Do you believe in climate change yourself, Mr. Koch?

KOCH: Climate does fluctuate. It goes from hot to cold. We have ice ages.

FANG: But do you believe carbon pollution affects climate change? [Koch shrugs]

Watch it:

It is doubtful that Koch, who was educated at MIT, seriously believes that climate simply “fluctuate[s]” from “hot to cold” (although the exhibit Koch funded at the Smithsonian perpetuates this lie). Rather, Koch understands that his entire business model depends on denying the greatest threat facing the planet.

Koch Industries “” the largest private corporation in America “” thrives on emitting carbon pollution and other forms of pollution for free. Much of Koch Industries’ $120 billion-a-year revenues are derived from burning fossil fuels: oil refineries and pipelines, chemical plants, fertilizer plants, manufacturing factories, and the shipping of coal. Moreover, Koch Industries owns Georgia Pacific, one of the largest timber companies, so Koch also contributes to global warming by decreasing the world’s carbon sink capacity. The National Academy of Sciences, the US Global Change Research Program, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have all come to the same conclusion: “that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use and the loss of carbon-sink capacity in heavily timbered forests are increasing temperatures and making oceans more acidic.” Corporate documents revealed by ThinkProgress show that Koch Industries explicitly targeted laws to reduce carbon emissions as a threat to Koch’s bottom line.

To boost their profits, Koch is the largest funder of climate change denying organizations and media outlets in the world. For example, Koch bankrolls denier groups like the CATO Institute, Fraser Institute, Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment, the Manhattan Institute, the Marshall Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the State Policy Network, and dozens of others. Not only have Koch fronts instructed Tea Party groups to kill national legislation to address climate change, but Koch groups have been instrumental in pushing climate change-believers out of the Republican Party. As the Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has detailed, the vast majority of new Republicans in Congress are “climate zombies.” Koch Industries is so fervently anti-climate science that it recently filed a lawsuit claiming that a belief in global warming damages its reputation.

Koch’s active role in Republican politics and multifaceted propaganda campaigns are almost always tied to Koch Industries’ business interests. Koch’s assistance to then-Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) resulted in special legislation to exempt Koch from prosecution regarding an oil spill, and Koch’s efforts to elect President Bush were rewarded with a virtual pardon of charges related to Koch’s release of carcinogenic chemicals in Texas. Koch groups also worked to derail international climate negotiations in Copenhagen, and Koch-funded groups helped spread the myth that hacked e-mails from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit somehow disputed the scientific consensus on climate change.

Of course, Koch’s current war on climate science is not new. As we first reported, Koch’s current campaign to distort the public’s understanding of global warming is a continuation of its campaign in 1990 to spread skepticism about acid rain. However, Koch’s hidden role in the climate denying machine is beginning to unravel.

Lee Fang, in a Think Progress cross-posted.

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13 Responses to Tea party pollutocrat David Koch denies climate change, shrugs off his carbon pollution

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    Omg, how often did he said his name?

    So this is how the ruler himself engages in public chit chat …

    Could Mr Koch now please STFU and leave the science to science! Actually he should start investing into clean tech now! To undo some of the damage this guy shouldered on coming generations. Beside everything else, clean tech investments are the winner of 2011!

  2. Tom Mallard says:

    Just shows how you don’t have be knowledgeable in astrophysics to have money and power, nothing new, yawn, oh, does he deny that sea-level is intimately tied to the atmosphere to make his “theory” work?

    Whatever, having grown up in geology from “Continental Drift” to the physics of plate tectonics, the dude is a loser and can’t pass a test on ice-ages, a feature of the Pleistocene well studied and documented, so, go ahead and believe him fools, he’s got money and went to MIT … golly gee am I impressed with that!

  3. Wit's End says:

    It’s pathetic how he hides behind his cell phone! Really quite comical. How are all the trees dying from ozone pollution not to mention extreme droughts acid rain and going to fit into the Georgia Pacific business model in the future??

  4. David Smith says:

    Its interesting that a guy of some intelligence, (MIT grad) answers questions at a 2nd grade level of sophistication, even though he knows he is talking to someone with considerable climate change knowledge. His public face on this issue is not even 2nd grade. [snip] A normal response from a reasonably intelligent person would have involved some technical, scientific justification for his answer.

    We have the issue all wrong. This debate should be about how far an individual and a corporation can go in the support of their own interests before they are called to account for the damage those interests cause.

    There is no way this man, a graduate of one of our premier science and technology institutions, and a head of a company that utilizes the most advanced of the same, does not have a full understanding of AGW. It’s not possible. (conspiracy to commit fraud (illegal))

  5. Anne says:

    The uber creative activist team, the YES MEN, recently pulled off one of their signature spoofs, issuing a fake press release on a very real looking Koch industries website, announcing that Koch Industries had reexamined its practice of funding denialist groups and decided the “best course forward includes a discontinuation of funding for these organizations, and organizations like them, whose positions on climate change could jeopardize America’s continued global competitiveness in the energy and chemical sectors and Koch Industries’ ability to provide high-quality products and services to the American people.” The press release, naturally, triggered a high volume of inquiries. Unlike other YES MEN spoofs, however, this one was outed early in the game, and the press picked up on the joke in short order. Nonetheless, the Koch brothers are pissed off about it, so much so that they’ve decided to file suit. Kate Sheppard covers it here —
    She also notes that David Koch was recently spotted in our nation’s capitol having breakfast with GOP spinmeister Frank Luntz. Now that’s a dangerous liaison if I ever saw one.

  6. Paulm says:

    Sad. Hope he sees the light.

  7. Mike Roddy says:

    Lee Fang, thanks for mentioning the destruction of carbon sinks. Even climate blogs overlook this, and CP needs to do forest posts.

    Koch probably knows that our emissions are baking us, but he doesn’t care. The kind of person who decides that a couple of billion dollars is not enough for him, and that he needs a lot more, cares about one thing only: money.

    The Kochs won’t go down, because even the Democrats think that if you’re a billionaire your shit doesn’t stink.

  8. KOCH: Well… I think […] regulating CO2 excessively is going to […] really damage the economy.

    This reminds me of a very recent Heartland Institute blog entry on how the deep sea oil drilling moratorium was hurting “productive people” by forcing them to “file for unemployment”. Heartland totally omitted to mention that the moratorium was imposed in the wake of the Gulf Oil disaster which killed 11 people.

    Do I see — in both cases — a sort of crazed concern for JOBS JOBS JOBS!!!! above all else, including safety and health and human life itself? Unfortunately, I’m sure there are some ‘normal’ people who also think like that.


  9. Joan Savage says:

    Koch did not commit to making a personal patriotic sacrifice for the good of the country. He seems insulated from the foresight that the economy will be hugely damaged if adequate measures are NOT taken to reduce carbon emissions. He hedged with the word, “excessive,” so that’s a glimmer.

    I don’t know if Koch Industries carries insurance on their businesses, but I expect that they do. Perhaps their insurance carrier can explain the forthcoming risks to them in ways that are more persuasive than public comment.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    frank#8, Chomsky stated it beautifully years ago when he noted that when the parasite class bleats, ‘Jobs!’ what they really mean is ‘Profits!’ Given any opportunity they destroy jobs by outsourcing to cheap labour regimes, or by introducing job destroying technology. And of course they have undermined wages and conditions by destroying trade unions, with the result that median wages in the US have stagnated for decades.
    What the Kochtopus tells us is, I believe, that market capitalism is inherently immoral. By placing profit maximisation above everything else, including, quite unbelievably,the continuance of human life on the planet, it has revealed itself to be the most evil ideology ever, indeed the most wicked conceivable. It behaves in Darwinian fashion, through a process of unnatural selection that promotes the worst and least scrupulous, and actively harms the best. Centuries of these selective pressures have produced a Homo capitalensis, of which the Kochs are simply a typical example, which is morally, intellectually and spiritually incapable of any actions that nurture life, and instead they live to accumulate wealth stolen from others and the natural world and to dominate and impose their will on others. To act in this manner requires only marginal intelligence, but great egotism and contempt, even hatred, for all that is other to the hypertrophied sense of self-importance that simply oozes out of all these bullies. The central problem that must be remedied if humanity is to survive is how do we remove this type from power, and how do we replace the neoplastic, infinitely destructive, life-destroying market capitalist system with one where the central requirement is not sating the insatiable greed of a tiny elite, but the maintenance and sustenance of life in all its diversity.

  11. Lionel A says:

    Next time you come across D Koch and Phillips together on an interview for goodness sake have a roll of gaffer tape handy for Tim’s mouth. What an odious pair of criminals, yes criminals for perpetrating crimes against humanity.

    Cry for America whilst these types are not properly called to account.

  12. Bob Doublin says:

    Poor Hannah, I don’t think she was quite prepared to take in the extremes to which her phrase “the banality of evil” has been taken.My spirit feels sullied just looking at a picture of this man.

  13. sailrick says:

    Another aspect of Koch ownership of Georgia Pacific lumber company is thay they promote denial of the science showing formaldahyde to be a carcinogen.

    @10 Mulga Mumblebrain

    The remedy for this type of corporate abuse of power is to end the “person” status of corporations, and reverse the recent Supreme Court decision on their political funding.

    My logic for making these changes is as follows.
    Democratic society and its political institutions are based on a shared set of human values.
    Corporations have zero values. No hopes, fears, love, children, parents, dreams, morals etc.

    From Teddy Roosevelt’s 1910 New Nationalism speech:

    “At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress. In our day it appears as the struggle of freemen to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will. At every stage, and under all circumstances, the essence of the struggle is to equalize opportunity, destroy privilege, and give to the life and citizenship of every individual the highest possible value both to himself and to the commonwealth.”

    “Now, this means that our government, National and State, must be freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests. Exactly as the special interests of cotton and slavery threatened our political integrity before the Civil War, so now the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit.”

    “”There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains…….”

    I heard Randi Rhodes reading from this speech on her radio show, and subsequently found it on the internet. It’s worth reading in it’s entirety.