Written by Rachel Rye Butler, crossposted from Greenpeace.
News leaked this week that the Koch brothers’ billionaire network plans to spend nearly $900 million in fossil fuel and other corporate money to try to get their way in the 2016 election-- in other words, the Kochs and their cronies are planning to spend astronomically to prevent action on climate (as well as income inequality, voting rights, affordable healthcare, and many other issues of importance to the 99%).
The $889 million the Kochs plan to spend is more than the 2012 campaign budget for either the Democratic or the Republican party, and more than the Obama campaign spent in 2008, marking a shift in US politics that’s been underway since Citizens United.
Welcome to the Koch Primary
Candidates who want access to this giant hoard of campaign cash have to line up to protect the Kochs’ fossil fuel interests and prevent action on climate change. Some are calling this the Koch Primary, where candidates compete to show that the interests of the fossil fuel billionaires are at the top of their agenda.
Last weekend, the Kochs hosted the first of their twice-yearly secretive meetings for their corporate billionaire friends, during which they shared their $889 million election plans. A number of Republican presidential hopefuls-- Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Scott Walker-- attended the conference.
Hedging their bets against action on climate
So why would the Kochs and their network be motivated to spend so heavily in 2016?
Despite the fact that the Kochs are certainly a key piece of the Republican machine, helping the party elect candidates across the country, the Kochs aren't actually motivated by the interests of the Republican Party or any party. They are motivated by protecting their oil and chemical empire from regulation, no matter what.
When a supermajority of the public wants action on climate, it’s worth it for the Kochs to buy the allegiance of candidates who will walk the climate denial line, work to protect fossil fuel subsidies, and rubber stamp pet fossil fuel projects like the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
In outspending the party machinery, the Koch network is hedging their bets against the fact that the public wants action on climate while providing a major incentive to candidates and congressional allies to not only hold the line on climate denial but hamper any actions or proposals coming out of the EPA or the White House.
Meanwhile, the Republican party and fossil-backed Democrats will struggle to both please their super-rich donors and appeal to voters who aren’t buying the “I’m not a scientist” climate denial dodge.
The Koch strategy to destroy democracy
Looking beyond the headlines, the Koch Primary and their $889 million campaign budget is the result of the Koch strategy at work.
To protect their fossil fuel interests, which are at odds with the public’s desire for a safe climate, clean water, and healthy air to breathe, the Kochs have spent the last several decades radically changing the face of American democracy, and investing major amounts of money in think tanks and other outlets involved in climate denial.
They’ve also worked long and hard to tear down laws and protections that limit corporate control of our elected officials, dumping ever more money in politics, along with campaigns and strategic litigation designed to suppress or disenfranchise key groups of voters, especially low-income and people of color. The goal is a world where candidates serve the interests of oily billionaires and their super-rich friends rather than those of the people.
In the Koch strategy to protect their fossil fuel interests, democracy has to go, and what’s at stake is our climate, and our very ability to survive on this planet.
We the People
The people, however, know what’s going on. They know that Koch and other fossil fuel money are behind Congress’s votes to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and protect tax breaks for polluters. They can hear the “ch-ching!” of fossil fuel cash every time a candidate says the words, “I’m not a scientist,” or “Climate change is a hoax.”
The Kochs are hoping that the people won’t believe that it’s possible to take back our democracy from the super-rich and will simply give up. They’re hoping that the people won’t turn out to vote while at the same time they’re working to make it harder to do so (check out voter ID laws and other dirty tricks.)
They’re hoping that people will just accept this brave new world-- and this is where they’re wrong. Literally millions of people across the US are fed up with corporate control and are calling for our democracy to be returned to the people. Four hundred thousand marched at at the People’s Climate March in September 2014. Five million plus have called for Citizens United to be overturned. Organizations representing millions of members from environmental, civil rights, labor, and other organizations are banding together in a new coalition to take back our democracy. And we also know that to take back our democracy, we need all of us. (One way to start is to add your name to the 5 million calling for an overturn of Citizens United.)
The overwhelmingly majority of Americans don't accept the Koch takeover of democracy. The Kochs have a lot to lose, or they wouldn’t be spending so much to keep their candidates in line. Because for the Kochs, what would happen if millions of people got together to ask the question, “Who do you really represent?”
We might get the democracy-- and the climate action-- we deserve.
Last week, six Greenpeace activists attended a U.S. House Energy & Power Subcommittee hearing on President Obama's climate change action plan. We stood out--we wore tin foil hats to highlight the insanity of denying global warming, as some members of Congress continue to do here in 2013.
Last night, Rachel Maddow asked U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy about the tin hats and the significance of policymakers that deny a top priority problem for the EPA:
Here's the teaser that led into that clip:
The U.S. public is increasingly wising up to the reality of global warming. We're being hit by more and more multi-billion dollar climate & weather disasters like hurricane Sandy, the recent Great Plains heat waves and (most likely) ongoing "unprecedented" flooding in Colorado--disasters pushed beyond their natural variability by the changing conditions of our new climate. The latest science tells us to expect more of this, and to expect things to get worse.
The people who are paid to professionally deny climate change need to be continually exposed. The politicians who prioritize their fossil fuel donors over their constitutents need to be exposed.
The tin foil hats were one portion of Greenpeace's ongoing effort to hold climate deniers accountable for their wildly irresponsible behavior. Stay tuned for more.
Written by Greenpeace's Bonnie Barclay with input from Connor Gibson.
It might surprise quite a few who know me, but I'm actually quite a shy and introverted person. So what exactly moved me to show up at a Congressional hearing and put on a tin foil hat? Two words: Climate Deniers.
Denying climate change is as bizarre and out-of-touch as tin foil hat conspiracies. Congressional climate deniers need to accept the science and bolster the President's actions with a tax on carbon pollution. That's why we brought our tin foil hats to yesterday's hearing, called together by the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Power subcommittee chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY). It focused on the Obama Administration’s Climate Action Plan, with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Earnest Moniz testifying.
Whenever the members of Congress started saying false things about climate change, we tossed on the tin foil hats. By the end of the three-hour hearing, the silly tin hats were on our heads for almost half of the entire event.
Of all the politicians in yesterday's hearing who are known climate change deniers, West Virginia Rep. David McKinley gets the tin foil hat award for his completely false assertions about climate change science. Check out this CSPAN clip, starting at 2:01:26.
First, Rep. McKinley said, "Over the last forty years, there's been almost no increase in temperature." He was attempting to undermine the reliability of climate models, which in reality have underestimated climate change.
Worse, my jaw dropped when I heard Rep. McKinley claim that Arctic sea ice increased by 60% from last year to this year, a false figure he apparently got from a typo in a bad newspaper article! H/T @RLMiller--see NASA for the facts on how consistently and rapidly the ice cap has melted in recent years.
Finally, McKinley completely misrepresented the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), saying, "Most experts believe by 2083--in 70 years--the benefits of climate change could outweigh will still outweigh the harm."
Ummm...that is completely wrong. The IPCC has made it crystal clear that global warming is a very serious problem that demands immediate policy action if we have any chance of solving it. Perhaps the $391,000 McKinley has received from the coal industry explains some of his scientifically-irrelevant opinions--McKinley wrapped his speech up by promoting the coal industry.
My first Congressional hearing....
- Climate deniers in Congress make their points not by stating factual information from peer-reviewed studies, but by quoting newspaper headlines. I'm pretty sure those were meant to sell newspapers, not settle a debate.
- The hearing was packed. People do care about what Congress is OR isn't doing on climate change.
- It's actually not the "do-nothing Congress," as Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) pointed out, it's much worse! "On Climate we're doing worse than nothing--we are affirmatively obstructing progress." [CSPAN, 38:25].
Luckily there were a few members of Congress who seem to get it, including these three:
Representative Waxman called out his elected peers for their obstruction and no serious proposals to solve the problems posed by global warming:
- "What's your plan? It's easy to criticize other people's solutions, but if all you did is criticize you're either a climate denier because you don't think anything needs to be done--'the science doesn't warrent it, it's not happening'--or, they're [sic] ignoring the warning of scientists." [CSPAN, 42:35]
Representative Eliot Engle (D-NY):
- "It's time for us to act and Congress has been ducking this issue, even going so far as to deny the basic science behind climate change. I've seen the devastating effects right in my area when hurricane Sandy hit New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. My district suffered huge devastation. Rising seas, stronger storms and flooding will only increase if we choose to do nothing[...]." [CSPAN, 2:55:35]
Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) pointed out the key logical disconnect with the naysayers who try to scare us into inaction:
- "My Republican colleagues are quick to argue that tackling climate change will hurt the economy. But in reality, climate change itself poses an enormous economic risk and failure to address it could be disaster to the global economy." [CSPAN, 1:59:43]
Climate Change Denial and Extreme Weather
In a week where we're seeing people's lives lost and communities devastated in Colorado by extreme flooding, the type of disaster we can expect more frequently thanks to climate change, one would think the urgency to act to avoid future economic devastation and loss of life would become crystal clear to those who we elected to represent us. Unfortunately, nothing seems to cause Congress to take action. It's like they missed the last year of weather events!
You can see the distortion of climate denial in Greenpeace's recent report, "Dealing in Doubt", which summarized how industrialists like the Koch brothers have funding fake science and sheer misinformation to make us question the hard truth about climate change. So it comes as no surprise that Koch Industries is the second highest donor this election cycle to the chairman of yesterday's hearing, Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), as well as other Representatives on the subcommittee, like Koch's hometown favorite Mike Pompeo, and Texas politicians Joe Barton and Pete Olson.
I'm tired of seeing members of Congress put their head in the sand and deny climate change. It's an appalling manipulation of our future potential by people who are meant to represent us and do the right thing.
So why'd I show up for the hearing yesterday? People's lives and livelihoods are on the line. The strength and future resilience of our country and our communities and all we've built as a nation are at risk if we don't do anything. We're not do-nothing people. We're Americans. We lead. We work. We improve. We build. We innovate.
This email fundraiser was sent by James Inhofe one day after Google held a fundraiser for him in Washington DC. The Google fundraiser was protested by groups concerned with Senator Inhofe's attacks on climate scientists.
Chris Stewart, head of congressional commitee on climate change, confronted about his climate science denial
Representative Chris Stewart (R-UT) is the chair of the subcommittee on the environment, the congressional group in charge of the EPA, climate change research, and “all activities related to climate.” It is therefore extremely troubling that Stewart denies the basic findings of climate science. Stewart has said that he is “not convinced” that climate change is a threat, despite the fact that the EPA, NOAA, and all of the climate science and scientists that he now oversees, disagree with him. In fact 98% of actual climate scientists disagree with his views on climate science.
At a recent town hall meeting, a group of activists confronted Stewart on his ill-informed views on climate science. The activists, working with the group Forecast the Facts, presented Stewart with a 17,000 signature petition demanding “the Chairman of the Science Committee's Subcommittee on Environment stop using his seat to promote climate denialism.” They also held up banners reading “Believe It Or Not Climate Change Is Not Going Away,” “97% of Say Climate Change is Human Caused. We Trust Them,” and “Stewart Denies While Utah Burns."
The group of activists included high school student Sara Ma. "Many people think climate change is a future problem for my generation to solve later, but it’s not. The data shows that it is here, it's happening and it has a cost," said Ma, a 17-year-old senior at West High School. Utahns are particularly upset by Stewart’s ignorance on climate issues due to the record wildfire season they endured last year. Wildfires did over $50 million dollars in damage to Utah in 2012.
Stewart's climate denial is made more suspicious by his close ties to carbon polluting industries. His brother and campaign manager, Tim Stewart, is a Washington, DC lobbyist for fossil fuel corporations. In addition, he has received more campaign donations from oil and gas companies than any other single source.
See more pictures from the confrontation with climate science denier Chris Stewart
This is a guest blog from Jane Bright of Healthlink, a local environmental health citizens group in Salem, Massachusetts. Crossposted from Greenpeace Blogs.
Have you seen Romney’s 50 page “Climate Protection Plan”? No? Well there’s a reason for that: He doesn’t have one and he is hiding from the issue on the campaign trail. Romney mocked climate change at the Republican National Convention in August and his campaign website reads:
“Mitt Romney will eliminate the regulations promulgated in pursuit of the Obama administration’s costly and ineffective anti-carbon agenda.”
So Romney’s only current "climate plan” is to attack the Obama EPA and its efforts to cut global warming pollution from power plants and other sources. Just eight years ago, in 2004, Romney was so concerned about climate change that he implemented a comprehensive “Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan”.
Then-Governor Romney summarized the issue as effectively as any statement I’ve read, evoking stewardship, science and risk.
“The world’s dramatically shifting weather patterns are in part attributable to the often-heedless development patterns of the past. Our houses, schools, shops, industry, cars and transit vehicles all consume energy and generate emissions, which too often have taken a disturbing cumulative toll on our fragile and finite natural resources.”
What the heck happened? He was threatened by the hard right. Rush Limbaugh and others said he was 'unelectable' if he was a climate change believer. In fact, after Romney addressed global warming as a reality in 2011, Rush said "bye bye nomination."
For people in Massachusetts and other states this is serious. Superstorms like Hurricane Sandy, sea-level rise and other climate impacts have great consequences for the state.
For me, this is very personal. My picture and story were included in the state published report that launched the Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan.
During Romney’s governorship, I was recognized by the state for my volunteer work to reduce air pollution in Massachusetts battling a coal fired power plant in Salem. Our effort supported an aggressive statewide commitment to address climate change and was part of a successful regional multi-state program using financial incentives to help power plants cut carbon emissions, a strong model for national climate protection strategies during the Bush years.
As soon as Romney decided to run for president, even while he was still Governor, he stopped supporting carbon pollution reductions and started ridiculing climate change as an issue. Climate Romesia?
Those of us who have watched him over the decades don’t know who he is or what he stands for anymore. He clearly is not the 2004 version of Mitt Romney.
I suspect Michelle Obama is right: “The presidency doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are.”
What would a Romney presidency reveal? No one, probably including Romney, knows where he would stand on too many issues critical to the American economy, our environment and our safety. Those of us in Massachusetts concerned about the environment are shaking our heads. We only hope the rest of the nation is paying attention, too.
Jane Bright is on the board of HealthLink, a grassroots citizen group dedicated to improving health by reducing or eliminating toxins and pollutants from our environment through research, education and community action. She partnered with Governor Romney’s administration to toughen emissions regulations in Massachusetts.
At a campaign event today in Etna, Ohio, Governor Romney was asked, "Do you still think the rising of the seas is funny?" Romney responded, "I never imagined such a thing is funny," despite using rising sea levels as a punchline in his speech to the Republican National Convention.
Woman: "Do you still think the rising of the seas is funny?"
Romney: "I never imagined such a thing is funny."
Man: "Is climate change still a joke to you?"
Romney: "As a matter of fact, if you'd like to - I know you're filming - if you'd like to see my view on global warming, I wrote a book, and there's a chapter on global warming and you'll see what I think we can do to deal with it."
Man: "What are you going to do to address global warming?"
This confrontation marks the fifth time in two days that Governor Romney has been questioned about climate change. On Thursday, a protester interrupted Romney during a speech in Virginia Beach, shouting "Romney! What about climate? That’s what caused this monster storm! Climate change!" Also yesterday, student activists asked Romney about his plan to address climate change at three different campaign stops, in Roanoke, Doswell, and Virginia Beach, VA. Romney dodged the question each time, referring the voters to his book.
Despite Governor Romney and President Obama's reluctance to address climate change during the presidential campaign, Hurricane Sandy and Mayor Michael Bloomberg's endorsement of President Obama has renewed attention to the impacts of climate change on the United States, and the candidates' plans to address the crisis.
In addition to a warming atmosphere and oceans that are loading storms with more energy and rainfall, global warming is raising sea levels and increasing the damage from storm surge and coastal flooding. A US Geological Survey report found that sea levels are rising three to four times faster on the Atlantic Coast than globally, putting several major US cities at greater risk.
With the election at hand, Greenpeace has been particularly concerned about the lack of action to address global warming from President Barack Obama as well as his challenger, Governor Mitt Romney. Both candidates have been asked for months to break the climate silence, yet we have heard very little from either candidate even after hurricane Sandy, the "Frankenstorm," wrought havoc on the U.S. east coast (see pictures).
If you missed the first two times Mitt Romney was asked on camera about how he plans to address the global crisis of climate change now that superstorm Sandy has, check out the video in our previous blog. Asked three times about global warming, Governor Romney seems to have deferred to the instructions of his campaign managers and public relations advisers: tell 'em to read your book!
Beyond dodging questions from attendees at his recent campaign events, governor Mitt Romney also bit his tongue during a speech in Virginia Beach yesterday, when a protester holding a "End Climate Silence" banner for CNN's camera's interrupted Romney's speech, asking "Romney! What about climate? That’s what caused this monster storm! Climate change!" That video is available here:
Check out this interactive graph of how both candidates positions and actions have been notably inconsistent on solutions to climate change, or even its scientific basis.
Today, President Obama received the coveted endorsement of New York City’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and the Mayor highlighted climate change as a big reason why Mitt Romney should not get his endorsement.
Let’s be clear though. It took a Superstorm Sandy to force an endorsement of Obama for another term. As Mayor Bloomberg noted, both candidates have run administrations implementing policies to reduce pollution. What damns a Romney endorsement is not Obama’s fantastic record but the fossil industry-crazed climate denialism that has come to rule the Republic platform and Romney’s overt positions.
The climate policy record of Obama’s first term is dismal if you consider the scale of the problem. In the context of international negotiations, other governments have asked the Obama government to describe emissions reduction policies as a percentage of the country’s pollution, but the Obama negotiators have no number to provide. The only policies implemented in the last four years to make a significant dent economy-wide are the new car standards, which, optimistically, reduce pollution by a few percent.
If we are going to have any hope of avoiding runaway climate change, developed countries must cut about a third of greenhouse gas emissions in less than a decade.
The US federal government should be leading at home, and advocating strongly that other countries do the same. Far from being a climate leader, the Obama administration has dragged its feet on all fronts. We have no limits yet on current stationary sources of pollution, such as coal-fired power plants. We have no limits on climate pollution from aviation, which Obama has been fighting internationally. We have no limits on climate pollution from agriculture. And Obama’s team in the international climate talks has continuously attempted to stall and confuse the negotiations. The President has ceded political debate on climate to Fox News and friends, which has made climate politics in America even more backward.
There is little doubt that President Obama wants to deal with climate change, but so far that has not translated into him making it a priority for the country. Quite the contrary, the President has gone out of his way to please the fossil fuel industry. This pandering has been painfully obvious in the recent presidential campaigns, but the Obama administration has also been a fossil friend of substance.
The Department of Interior has energetically scaled up fire sales of publicly-owned coal. This coal is sold under the auspices of satisfying domestic demand, although it is often to foreign buyers who fully intend to export. The climate doesn’t know the difference. Despite one of the worst human-caused environmental disasters ever, the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration opened up new areas to dangerous ultra-deepwater drilling on the outercontinental shelf and signed an historic agreement with Mexico to drill the deepest wells ever even further offshore. The administration hasn’t ruled out the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and continues to move forward with drilling in the fragile Arctic Ocean. Leaving unanswered a letter from 68 organizations calling on Obama to stop fracking in the absence of regulations and adequate knowledge of impacts, the administration seems intent to both allow fracking on public lands and to possibly approve exports of high carbon-footprint fracked gas.
In effect, the Obama administration is actively increasing supply of carbon polluting sources of energy, while dillydallying on policies and advocacy to reduce carbon pollution.
Mayor Bloomberg also criticized both candidates for failing to cite the “hard decisions” they would take to get the economy back on track. We should be asking the same regarding runaway climate disruption. The problem with endorsing Obama for his overt position on climate is that just as many, if not more, of his hard decisions have benefited climate polluters.