A Letter To Charles Koch: Do You Consider Climate Science To Be On A ‘Solid, Firm Foundation’ As Richard Muller Does?

When infamous industrial billionaire Charles Koch funded a study to review the science of global warming, it’s very likely he didn’t expect the chief scientist, Richard Muller, to conclude that humans are almost entirely the cause” of an accelerating warming trend.

So will Charles Koch ignore the study he supported? Greenpeace’s Executive Director Phillip Radford sent a letter to Charles Koch yesterday, asking him if the science he funded is enough to convince him of the urgency of climate change. Here’s the letter in full:

As you know, one of your grant recipients – Dr. Richard Muller of University of California Berkeley – recently published an op-ed in the New York Times about his “total turnaround” from climate skepticism based on the results of his latest study. The Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation granted at least $150,000 to Dr. Muller’s Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) study. Dr. Muller’s results are consistent with decades of scientific evidence, fully convincing him that global warming is happening and “humans are almost entirely the cause.”

Based on Dr. Muller’s evidence and the views of virtually all climate scientists, I am writing to inquire about the influence of these findings on your previously expressed skepticism about climate change.

Dr. Muller explained in a recent Greenpeace Radio interview that he spoke directly with you about the BEST project and your personal interest in his analysis:

“I did talk to Charles Koch. He emphasized from the beginning that he was concerned about valid issues in the science. He wanted us to straighten out those issues. He didn’t know what answer we would get. He just wanted it to be put on a solid, firm foundation. That’s what we’ve done.”

For years, you and your brother, David Koch, have directly provided over $61 million to organizations that deny science and cast doubt on global climate change, in addition to millions more in hidden funding through your “Knowledge and Progress Fund.” This includes support for the Heartland Institute, which is currently supporting a project run by the retired TV weatherman Anthony Watts in attempts to discredit the results of the BEST study. You may recall that the Heartland Institute ran the infamous billboard comparing the Unabomber with those who acknowledge the existence of global warming.

Organizations you finance continue to delay action to curb global warming even as the United States is experiencing unprecedented heat records, drought, wildfires, and violent storms. Your own home state of Kansas is at the center of the summer’s extreme drought, which has led to prairie fires and forced ranchers to sell their cattle due to lack of grass and water. Your oil and gas business activities, not to mention the political funding you can afford, have helped ensure that these all-too-real disasters will become more frequent as the global climate continues to warm.

Our country desperately needs to reduce carbon pollution in order to take a lead on the global stage, and you have an opportunity here to stop obstructing such leadership. Please tell us, Mr. Koch: do you now consider anthropogenic global warming to be on a “solid, firm foundation” as Dr. Muller does? Will groups that deny climate science continue to receive support from Koch Industries and its associated foundations? If so, will you urge them to discontinue such unscientific and unproductive interference in policy-making focused on addressing climate change?

We look forward to your response and urge you to take this inquiry seriously. Too much is at stake to continue delaying solutions to civilization’s largest challenge.

Meanwhile, Charles and his brother David say they plan to raise and spend nearly $400 million this election season — with most of those millions going toward ads designed to cut down the clean energy industry.

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23 Responses to A Letter To Charles Koch: Do You Consider Climate Science To Be On A ‘Solid, Firm Foundation’ As Richard Muller Does?

  1. That was almost a really strong letter, with a potential to communicate.

    But sliding into relatively personal attacks that imply a lack of integrity is most likely to get anyone’s back up. However true the accusations are, of course does not matter in terms of triggering a psychological defense.

    So it ends up being unclear whether Phillip Radford was really trying to communicate to Charles Koch, or if this was an attempt to communicate with the public in the guise of communicating with Charles Koch.

    Anyway, it would be terrific if Charles Koch actually hears what Dr. Richard Muller concluded.

    Appealing to honor actually works sometimes, especially with proud, self-confident people. And the biosphere could afford to catch a few lucky breaks about now.

  2. SecularAnimist says:

    Great joke — pretending that the Koch Brothers care about the science and might even end their ruthless, relentless and rapacious obstruction of the urgently needed phase-out of the fossil fuels on which their ever-increasing wealth and power depend.

    This is a really hilarious satire!

  3. John McCormick says:


    It is like asking Assad to call in his murdering army and host a barbeque for the press corps.

  4. Andy Olsen says:

    I don’t see how that letter engages in personal attacks. It lays out Koch’s record and the facts that they have been the top funder of misinformation on global warming.

    It does that while also laying out that Koch claimed (a lie in my opinion) that he would listen to the results.

    The thing is, the Koch Brothers do not interact with the rest of us beyond their army of think tanks, political attack dogs and the like. They are famously secretive and will not engage public debate. They do not talk to the press.

    It would be great if they addressed this publicly but it would be very surprising if they do.

  5. Andy Olsen says:

    For people who want to control our public institutions, the Kochs really should be more open to public discussion and debate.

    But they refuse to engage the rest of us respectfully and, instead, fund campaigns of lies and propaganda. Clearly, they do not believe in the American system of government.

  6. Cary Broder says:

    This letter is well written but will may do more harm than good, unless the intention is to educate the public under the guise of writing the letter.

    I like the idea of putting the fratelli Koch on the spot-but it’s naive to think the Koch brothers will publicly admit anything. The Assad comparison is apt.

  7. Gingerbaker says:

    I have a different question for Mr Koch:

    “Please explain to me why you should not be frog marched to The Hague and prosecuted for crimes against humanity?”

  8. Mike Roddy says:

    You’re right, of course. Koch is evil, and crazy, too. He not only won’t respond, he will continue to fund anti clean energy campaigns.

    The quoted conversation with Muller was just for drill, since he would only like the result if it makes him money.

    You do something about evil by fighting it. The Kochs will never be persuaded.

  9. Adam Felton says:

    I can’t help but wonder if this is just climate denialism shifting in third gear. First deny the climate is changing for as long as feasibly possible. Then deny we’re responsible for as long as feasibly possible. Perhaps now the focus will be on denying that the repercussions are of concern, before finally telling us in 2015 that it’s now too late to do anything anyways…All set against the never changing backdrop of “Drill baby drill”.

  10. Lore says:

    The current administration has thrown in the towel and you think a letter to Charles Koch that begs surrender to reason is going to make him grab defeat from victory? I have a big, body size, paper bag for you to fit into.

  11. Joan Savage says:

    It’s more ambiguous than that. The Kochs are MIT-trained engineers, sons of an engineer, and most of their Koch Industries provide technical chemical products and services. They aren’t completely opposed to science, far from it.
    I see the Kochs instead as pragmatists who when presented with the BEST results might measure the implications in relatively short-term consequences to their interests. As I wrote before, it is to their advantage that the BEST results lengthened the climate change time line to decades before their corporate culpability.

  12. Joan Savage says:

    Steven, the last sentence may mislead.

    The link says the Kochs committed to raising $400 million, but the link does not quote the Kochs on how it would be spent, other than, “.. steering funding to build sophisticated, county-by-county operations in key states.”

    Read more:

    You inferred that “most of those millions [are] going toward ads designed to cut down the clean energy industry,” but we don’t have proof of such an overt directive.

    Time will tell, of course!

  13. Mike Roddy says:

    Great question!

  14. John McCormick says:


    the kock father is the founder of the John Birch Society. Does that give you a clue as to their motivations and predilections?

  15. John McCormick says:

    Well, does it?

  16. Peter Capen says:

    Do you really think that Charles Koch cares at all about what the Muller funded study’s conclusions were? That he funded such a study is meaningless if it does not lead to a change in his position on global warming and the role of fossil fuel burning plays in it. Like most corporate executives, it is his “bottom line” that is of primary concern to the Kochs. This study is a clear example of “paralysis by analysis.” If you don’t want any action taken, you fund a study of the problem. Until the Koch brothers use their vast wealth to help find actual solutions to confronting global warming, rather than confusing the issue though ads and by helping to elect those who are deniers, nothing will be done. Ultimately until Americans get “big money” out of politics, our political system will continue to be corruped by it. The Koch brothers and their enormous wealth and determination to use it to achieve their political and economic ends are a symptom of a cancer steadily eating away at American democracy and our ability to confront such dire issues as global warming.

  17. Zimzone says:

    Romney & the Kochs were all born into wealth.

    Silver spoons, golden cadillacs & platinum porches with car elevators.

    Does anyone here really belive a leopard is going to change it’s spots?

  18. Mark Shapiro says:

    “Appealing to honor actually works sometimes . . . ”

    whether it appeals to the Kochs or not, an appeal to honor — to doing the right thing — might appeal to fence sitters and undecideds. It is important to leave other readers a way out.

    Also, appeal to their cheapness: “Don’t pour money down a dry hole — skeptics are a waste of your precious money.”

  19. Merrelyn Emery says:

    There is something distinctly sureal about this letter. Yesterday after years of obstruction, the USA announces it is reneging on the 2C agreement. Today we have Obama complaining about Romney not being sufficiently pro-coal. And Radford wants to reduce emissions, not to help save the biosphere or humanity but to ‘lead’ the world? If it wasn’t so serious, I’d be dying laughing, ME

  20. prokaryotes says:


    The Koch Brothers Go After Zach Galifianakis and ‘The Campaign’

  21. Gasman says:

    I have to wonder if Joan Savage is right. I would not be surprised if they do have a genuine interest in science.The Koch bros are engineers, so they have a back ground in science. Also I have been perplexed by the paradox that if they are so apparently anti science( clearly anti climate science) how can they be major sponsors of Nova? Nova is arguably the best science based program on TV IMHO. Are they not large donors to the Smithsonian? Now was that Just to create an exhibit casting doubt on climate science?
    I don’t support their activities. They have done more harm then anyone I am aware of. from funding anti climate science, working to create the Tea party and sending the US political system so far to the right that our government is paralyzed at the time we need them most to act.
    Dont get me wrong, I think we won’t see any response to Radford’s letter. But I think Muller’s results, and about face, possibly could in a small way start to sway Koch’s opinion if he trusts Muller, and Koch has a shred of belief in science. But more likely his libertarian ideology will allow some way to discount the BEST findings.

  22. Joan Savage says:

    They don’t strike me as ideologues. Their funding of the Tea Party can be seen as a pragmatic move to gain control of Congress. They leave the ranting and stump speeches to others.

  23. Rob says:

    The sad thing is that a large number of the right wing will still refuse to believe, or claim to not believe, this study, as it interfears with their ability to maximize profits without responsible corporate behavior. They’d perfer to completely deplete the environment to maximize profits.