richard muller

Charles Koch: CO2 Causes Climate Change...and I Don't Care

  • Posted on: 30 April 2015
  • By: Connor Gibson

Charles Koch, chosing Tobasco over Sriracha at the Koch Industries cafeteria.
Photo: USA Today

As the nation warily watches every Republican presidential candidate kiss the ring of billionaire donor Charles Koch for a shot at his network's $300,000,000 pool of presidential cash, Charles Koch did something unusual. Last week's USA Today interview with Charles Koch noted his shifting opinion on what he calls climate change "hysteria:"

For the record, Koch says this of climate change: "You can plausibly say that CO2 has contributed" to the planet's warming, but he sees "no evidence" to support "this theory that it's going to be catastrophic."

Wait...Charles Koch just accepted that the planet is warming? Hold your applause. Clearly, Mr. Koch still denies that there's a problem - which means he's missing the entire point of discussing climate change. But any movement from Charles on the 5 Stages of Climate Denial--from #1 down to #3--is a big deal. This is the same guy who has poured $80 million into organizations that have misrepresented climate change science to the public and advocated against any viable solutions to the problem.

Koch's Right-Hand-Man: "Charles is ahead of me on this."

Last June, leaked recordings surfaced from Koch's regular meeting of millionaires and billionaires who are coordinating $889 million in spending around the 2016 election. Charles's Koch top strategist Richard Fink indicated that we may see a shift in Koch's rhetoric on climate change. Fink, aka "Charles Koch's Brain," told attending prospective donors what they wanted to hear: donate to us, and we'll fight the crazy commie hippies and their pesky science. From the Undercurrent:

“The environmental movement. Occupy Wall Street. These kids are searching for meaning. They're protesting the 1 percent. They are the 1 percent, but they're protesting the 1 percent. The environmental movement and climate change. It's not about climate change. I studied climate change for six years. I can't figure it out, quite frankly. Charles is ahead of me on this. I'm not a climatologist, but I'm not completely stupid. I can tell you I meet with people, particularly in California, that are convinced the world is going to burn up in you know, a year or two. They don't know the answer -- they don't even know the question, because it's not about climate change. It's about a cause. It gives their life meaning.”

For context, you should probably know that Fink told the room's billionaires that the minimum wage would lead to fascism, comparing today's low-income Americans to pre-Nazi Germany citizenry. Not exactly a room full of academics. And since one of the people that Mr. Fink 'meets with' was a scientist that he funded to study global temperature data, you have to wonder how much experience Rich Fink has with willful ignorance.

When Charles Koch Accidentally Proved Global Warming

Charles Koch cannot deny is that he's seen the global temperature record data. In 2011, through the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF), CKF president Richard Fink funded a high-profile study on global surface temperature data. This dataset, which was an unnecessarily redundant reproduction of several other similar studies, was constructed by a scientist who at the time was a climate change denier.

BEST data compared with previous reconstructions of global surface temperature data.

Dr. Richard Muller's Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study (BEST) made headlines when he announced his acceptance of what climate scientists had already been saying for over 15 years--yes, people are responsible for unnatural climate variability that scientists have documented--and surprised the country by becoming an advocate for solutions to global warming.

This put Mr. Koch in an awkward spot. Koch's $150,000 grant to Dr. Muller made him the project's top single donor, and Muller was a celebrated skeptic before his dramatic change-of-heart.

Add to that Mr. Koch's background in science--a chemical engineering degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For such an educated, celebrated albeit controversial high-society businessman, the refusal to acknowledge science that is understood by middle schoolers guaranteed to undermine the sensible reputation that Koch Industries has spent a lot of money to put out there.

But Charles gets no credit here. Dumping almost $80 million into organizations that have attacked the scientists who study climate change and interfered with virtually every proposed policy and regulation to solve global warming isn't being a science-savy CEO. It's being a denier, and especially in the context of a self-serving petrochemical billionaire, that's pretty offensive to the rest of us.

We define climate change denial as "anyone who is obstructing, delaying or trying to derail policy steps that are in line with the scientific consensus that says we need to take rapid steps to decarbonize the economy." Mr. Koch remains a staunch denier in that regard.

The Koch brothers continue to finance campaigns to make Americans doubt the seriousness of global warming, increasingly hiding money through nonprofits like DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund.

Why focus on Charles Koch and David Koch? Many large foundations associated with corporate fortunes are active in financing climate denial groups - Anschutz, Bradley, Coors, DeVos, Dunn, Howard, Pope, Scaife, Searle, and Seid, to name a few. Unlike Koch, most of those fortunes did not come from owning a corporation like Koch Industries, historically rooted in fossil fuel operations. And none come as close as the Kochs in terms of decades-long focus on actively building a political influence network and coordinating other wealthy executives, corporations and families to dump amounts money into politics that not even the Koch brothers could afford.

Check out Greenpeace.org for more research on the Koch brothers crusade against climate science.

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Urban Heat Island – Favorite Skeptic Myth Debunked Again, This Time By Koch-Funded Science

  • Posted on: 22 October 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

This guest post was written by Brendan DeMelle, crossposted from DeSmogBlog.

Climate skeptics are once again proven wrong, and this time even Koch money can't skew the facts.

Have you heard the one from climate deniers that the “Urban Heat Island” effect has ruined all the weather stations and made the data they collect completely useless? The deniers claim any warming trend seen from these temperature recordings is from concrete buildings and asphalt roads – and that climate change is therefore a myth?

That would be false. Says whom, you ask?  How about a new Koch-funded scientific study?

An investigation by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project released yesterday once again thoroughly dispatches the skeptic myth about the “Urban Heat Island” (UHI) effect.

Many global warming skeptics have long claimed that the urban heat island effect is so strong that it has skewed temperature measurements indicating that global warming is happening. The skeptics argue that efforts to curb global warming pollution are therefore unnecessary, citing their pet theory that surface temperature stations were swallowed by, or moved closer to, cities, thus skewing surface temperature records on the whole.

The BEST papers – which still must go through rigorous peer review – confirm what climate scientists have correctly stated previously, demonstrating without doubt that “very rural” temperature stations miles from any new “UHI” towns or cities have also recorded warming at 0.9 degrees Celsius over the last century. 



To put it plainly, even the Kochtopus denial machine will have a tough time trying to twist this Koch-funded project’s findings. It looks like the Kochs backed the wrong horse here - one wonders whether they thought Hadley CRU would be proven wrong?


Notable skeptics like Anthony Watts have long pushed this bogus UHI theory. In fact, Watts admits that he basically became a climate skeptic when he heard that urban heat islands (UHI) had distorted the global temperature record. In November, Watts wrote on Watts Up With That: “UHI is easily observable. I’ve been telling readers about UHI since this blog started…” 

Mr. Watts isn’t quitting his fight just yet, complaining yesterday on his blog that the BEST studies must first clear peer review. Fair enough, sir, but in the meantime you might want to sharpen your flatware in preparation to dine on crow

After all, Watts said in March: “I’m prepared to accept whatever result they produce, even if it proves my premise wrong.”

Brian Angliss over at Scholars & Rogues notes the sheer hypocrisy of Anthony Watts whining about BEST publishing the findings prior to peer-review, a sin Watts himself is guilty of:

This is the same Anthony Watts who published a paper with Joe D’Aleo titled “Is The US Temperature Record Reliable?” two full years before he published the associated peer reviewed paper. Oh, and the peer-reviewed paper came to the opposite conclusion of the Heartland paper.

And the BEST papers? Pre-release versions of the papers they’ll be submitting shortly for peer-review at real scientific journals. The Watts/D’Aleo paper? Published by the climate disruption denying Heartland Institute.

Watts has so much invested in the US surface station temperature record being wrong that he can’t seem to admit that his own research proved it was right, never mind accept that anyone else’s analyses might show the same.

Watts is by no means alone in embracing the Urban Heat Island theory to downplay global warming science.  John Christy, Roy Spencer, S. Fred Singer, Tim Ball and his “Friends of Science”, Ross McKitrick and Pat Michaels - to name a few - have all been proponents of the Urban Heat Island theory to explain away global warming data. Many of them excitedly praised the BEST study when it was first announced, apparently confident that it would confirm their theory.  

They should also sharpen their flatware for a feast of crow and humble pie.

Richard Muller and Judith Curry, the ringleaders of the BEST effort, have each received a significant amount of criticism for their own attacks on climate science, including on DeSmogBlog, and the lashings from Joe Romm at Climate Progress.  (Romm broke this story back in March, in fact, but now we have the full papers from Muller’s team to back up the claims.)

It now appears that the BEST effort confirms again what the, ahem, best climate scientists have told us repeatedly in the peer-reviewed science published on this issue over the past 20 years - that UHI is negligible and certainly doesn’t skew the conclusion that surface temperatures are rising.  In fact, a 2010 study indicated that stations identified by Watts and others as exaggerating warming actually indicated a cooling trend on closer examination. Oops.

Yes, the favorite arguments from skeptics griping about temperature station quality, selection bias and data correction all appear to be falling apart, thanks in part to $150,000 of their sugar daddy Charles Koch’s coin, no less.

Remember Climategate? Recall how Phil Jones was dragged through the mud chiefly due to the allegation that his landmark 1990 study on UHI - later cited by the International Panel on Climate Change – was allegedly plagued by flawed temperature data?

As it turns out, Jones and his colleagues at the Hadley Centre, who compile the HadCRU global temperature record are enjoying yet another exoneration today, since BEST data confirms the premise that the Urban Heat Island effect is not responsible for the extent of recorded global temperature rises.

But there’s little cause for celebration.  What the BEST papers clearly confirm (once again) is that global warming is real, and temperatures are rising quickly.

As Richard Muller writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece today:

When we began our study, we felt that skeptics had raised legitimate issues, and we didn’t know what we’d find. Our results turned out to be close to those published by prior groups. We think that means that those groups had truly been very careful in their work, despite their inability to convince some skeptics of that. They managed to avoid bias in their data selection, homogenization and other corrections.

Global warming is real. Perhaps our results will help cool this portion of the climate debate. How much of the warming is due to humans and what will be the likely effects? We made no independent assessment of that.”

The hardened deniers will surely find something else to complain about now, as their attempts to paint man-made climate change as a myth grown increasingly desperate. But anyone who could be described as a “reasonable skeptic” must recognize this plain fact and stop misleading the public on this issue.  To do otherwise is dishonest and frankly unethical.

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Anthony Watts

 

For more of Greenpeace's work on being transparency to the climate denial machine, check out ExxonSecrets and our ongoing case studies of Koch Industries.

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