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NPR Examines Charles Koch’s Influence at Florida State University

3:09 pm in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Just before Memorial Day weekend, NPR’s Morning Edition featured a segment examining the role of Charles Koch at Florida State University (FSU): “NPR: Koch Foundation Criticized Again For Influencing Florida State.”

Charles Koch image: "Your Education, My Legacy"FSU students outline the various ways that Charles Koch’s multimillion dollar grants give his staff subtle control over hiring of economics faculty and de facto influence over what students are, and aren’t, taught. This limitation is a serious violation of academic freedom, as has been repeatedly asserted by the American Association of University Professors, which is dedicated to the protection of academic integrity at US colleges. AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum told NPR’s Greg Allen:

You know, it amounts to the Koch brothers’ foundation basically trying to buy a position on the faculty. And that certainly is a threat to academic freedom.

FSU students and faculty alike have been strongly outspoken against the Koch agreement since 2011, when Charles Koch’s influence was first exposed by two FSU professors writing in the Tallahassee Democrat. This year, FSU has come under renewed criticism for not taking preventative measures to limit the influence of outside interests like Charles Koch, whose multi-million dollar grants are craved by public schools in need of more funding.

This is often because Charles Koch bankrolls political groups working to defund public functions, including decreased higher education funding when corporate taxes are cut.

Charles Koch is the Kansan fossil fuel billionaire known for coordinating with corporate executives to dump hundreds of millions of dollars into election politics, union busting, opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and the privatization of education, among other things. The Koch family is known for spending tens of millions of dollars on politcal groups that deny climate change, which I have asserted is overlapping with the activities of FSU economics professors who are involved with global warming skepticism (well outside of their field of expertise–economics).

The up-bringing of Charles Koch and his three brothers is the subject of a new book by Mother Jones editor Daniel Schulman, titled Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty. The book offers a lot of helpful context how Charles Koch and his brothers have lived their lives out of touch with the vast majority of people, apparently not in small part due to being worked ruthlessly by father Fred Koch, not to mention being born into his vast wealth from the oil company he co-founded.

Charles Koch in particular took his father’s ferocious work ethic to heart, now leveraging his own fortune in combination with that of weathly, politically active friends who work together to bend government into a service for corporate executives rather than prioritizing the needs of people living on the margins.

You can read more from Florida State University students and professors themselves in the Tampa Bay Times, and op-eds written by students and professors for the Tallahassee Democrat. Charles Koch’s influence on higher education was recently examined by Dave Levinthal for the Center for Public Integrity.

Check for more Koch Facts.

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog, the EnvironmentaLIST.

REPORT: Tobacco-style Climate Denial – Greenpeace’s “Dealing in Doubt”

11:08 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Written by Cindy Baxter, crossposted from Greenpeace: Dealing in Doubt.

Who likes being lied to by people paid by the oil industry who pose as “experts” on climate change?

Did you know it’s been going on for 25 years?

In a couple of weeks, the UN’s official advisors on climate change science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will update its global assessment on the issue. Yet in the background, more attacks on the climate science are underway.

For the last quarter century, the climate science denial machine, its cogs oiled by fossil fuel money, has been attacking climate science, climate scientists and every official US report on climate change, along with State and local efforts – with the aim of undermining action on climate change.

Our new report, Dealing in Doubt, sets out the history of these attacks going back to the early 90s. These are attacks based on anti-regulatory, so called “free market” ideology, not legitimate scientific debate, using a wide range of dirty tricks: from faked science, attacks on scientists, fake credentials, cherry-picking scientific conclusions: a campaign based on the old tobacco industry mantra: “doubt is our product”.

We give special attention to perhaps today’s poster child of the climate denial machine’s free market think tanks, the Heartland Institute, which is about to launch a new version of its “NIPCC” or “climate change reconsidered” report next week in Chicago.

Unlike the real IPCC, with thousands of scientists involved from around the world, the Heartland Institute’s handful of authors is paid. Several of them claim fake scientific credentials. They start with a premise of proving the overwhelming consensus on climate science wrong, whereas the real IPCC simply summarizes the best science to date on climate change.

This multi-million dollar campaign has been funded by anti-government ideologues like the Koch brothers, companies like ExxonMobil and trade associations like the American Petroleum Institute.

More recently, less visible channels of funding have been revealed such as the Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust, organization that that has been called the “ATM of the conservative movement”, distributing funds from those who don’t want to be publicly associated with the anti-environmental work product of organizations like the Heartland Institute.

In the last week we’ve seen new peer-reviewed science published, linking at least half of 2012’s extreme weather events to a human carbon footprint in the atmosphere and on the weather and climate.

As the scientific consensus strengthens by the day that climate change is happening now, that carbon pollution is causing it and must be regulated, the denial machine is getting increasingly shrill. But today, while they are being increasingly ignored by a majority of the public, their mouthpieces in the US House of Representatives, for instance, have increased in number.

They’re still fighting the science – and they’re still being funded, to the tune of millions of dollars each year, to do it.

Dealing in Doubt sets out a history of these attacks. We show how the tactics of the tobacco industry’s campaign for “sound science” led to the formation of front groups who, as they lost the battle to deny smoking’s health hazards and keep warning labels off of cigarettes, turned their argumentative skills to the denial of climate change science in order to slow government action.

What we don’t cover is the fact that these organizations and deniers are also working on another front, attacking solutions to climate change. They go after any form of government incentive to promote renewable energy, while cheering for coal, fracking and the Keystone pipeline.

They attack any piece of legislation the US EPA puts forward to curb pollution. Decrying President Obama’s “war on coal” is a common drumbeat of these anti-regulation groups. One key member of the denial machine, astrophysicist Willie Soon from the Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics, has portrayed himself as an “expert” on mercury and public health in order to attack legislation curbing mercury emissions from coal plants.

This recent history, as well as the prior history of denial by the tobacco companies and chemical, asbestos and other manufacturing industries, is important to remember because the fossil fuel industry has never admitted that it was misguided or wrong in its early efforts to delay the policy reaction to the climate crisis. To this day, it continues to obstruct solutions.

The individuals, organizations and corporate interests who comprise the ‘climate denial machine’ have caused harm and have slowed our response time. As a result, we will all ultimately pay a much higher cost as we deal with the impacts, both economic and ecological.

Eventually, these interests will be held accountable for their actions.