Koch Brothers Political Empire Holds Action on Climate Change Hostage
This article was published in partnership with GlobalPossibilities.org.
“Warning signs are all around us,” were the admonishing words of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon urging national negotiators meeting several weeks ago in Doha, Qatar, to forge an ambitious new global agreement to counter climate change.
While a pathetically weak deal was approved to keep hope alive, the main elements of any meaningful multilateral accord to protect our planet remain deadlocked due to America’s crippling ‘Koch problem.’
That is, the world is held hostage by the deepening political polarization among policymakers due to a dangerous dependence of an extremist conservative faction on the dark and dirty money of carbon billionaires Charles and David Koch (pronounced, Coke).
As the U.S. Senate scrambled to cover $80 billion in clean up costs from Superstorm Sandy, and the body count approached 1,000 from another extreme weather event in the Philippines, Charles and David Kochs’ combined net worth ($80.2B) surpassed that of the world’s wealthiest main, Carlos Slim ($71.8B), allowing them to outspend all other oil companies, even Exxon, to prevent the phase out of fossil fuels.
A new report from the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) sheds light on how Koch funds buy votes and the right to continue polluting for a profit. Since 1998, the Koch brothers have spent more than half a billion dollarsinfluencing politics, policy, and public opinion.
Through their web of spending, the Kochs and their related organizations have spent a staggering amount of money influencing politics including; $12.6 million on campaign contributions, $6 million to congress, $60 million to groups denying climate change, $69 million in lobbying efforts, and organizing over $400 million for the 2012 election cycle. They also fund or donate to a host of think tanks, artificial grass roots groups like Americans for Prosperity (which boasts of giving rise to the Tea Party), and host political and media retreats wherein top conservative media outlets and politicians are invited.
The Koch’s vast wealth based in fossil fuels was largely amassed following the creation of unregulated oil derivatives markets. It is no coincidence that the world’s wealthiest men also have its largest carbon footprint.
Possible future boons to profits include the Keystone XL pipeline and shale processing, while any move to halt these controversial pollution intensive projects or any discussion of EPA regulation of carbon would mean they must innovate or lose some of their windfall profits. That’s why they have initiated an extremist campaign that equates ‘economic freedom’ with the right to pollute, and advances the myth that an economy of endless material expansion is possible on planet that has already gone beyond its ecological limits.
The science surrounding anthropomorphic climate change is overwhelming. Even Koch-funded climate skeptics have changed their tune after finding conclusive evidence that human-caused greenhouse gasses are indeed warming the Earth.
The World Bank announced in a report this year that not only is the proof for anthropomorphic climate change undeniable, but that we also know the measures to take in order to ensure that we hold the temperature raise at 2°C, rather than the disastrous 4-7°C raise that we are currently heading for.
There is little debate among American citizens; they overwhelmingly want some kind of definitive action to address the threats of climate change.
Given the rising consensus of scientific study combined with numerous ‘once in a lifetime’ weather events like Superstorm Sandy, the droughts in the US and Russia, or spiking food prices, one might think that climate change would be near the top of all politician’s priorities.
What we have instead is a nation and world whose calls for action on climate change are being drowned out by the voices of those who stand to gain most from maintaining the status quo.
The Koch brothers have now embedded themselves in the political world to a point where they can dictate GOP politics. They have buffaloed themselves into a place of influence with such cunning that even pretending to be a Koch gets you a direct line to a GOP governor to chat about union busting.
These two men spend their immense wealth behind a smoggy haze of super-PACs, engineered grass roots organizations, political donations and favors, think tanks and the list goes on.
Americans have experienced in recent elections the obfuscation that oligarchs’ money can cause, and the effects of a warming planet are increasing with acuity. Climate disruptions are no longer clouds on the horizon; we can’t afford to allow the personal agendas of billionaires to blind us to the real dangers that our planet now faces.
If the international climate negotiations are to progress, U.S. political dynamics need to change. In the U.S. money is power, and after the Citizens United v. FECdecision, money equals more forms of political speech as well.
Individuals with undue influence on our democracy, such as the Kochs and the politicians they help elect must be rigorously investigated, called out publicly, and isolated politically. If America cannot fix our own ‘Koch problem,’ then the U.S., as well as the entire Earth, are in a heap of trouble.
Michael Pineschi is a consultant for the International Forum on Globalization and co-author of a new report on how the energy billionaire Koch brothers have created a political empire that prevents progress on climate change.