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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 Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog, the EnvironmentaLIST.

Years of Living Dangerous Examines Climate Deniers & Kansas Wind Power

11:28 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

 

Next Monday, SHOWTIME’s Years of Living Dangerously series will air an episode focused in part on wind energy in Kansas. Teaser clips posted by SHOWTIME review how wind energy has been a lifeline for farmers suffering from increased drought due to climate change, and interview fossil fuel industry lobbyists who are still peddling climate science denial in Kansas. Watch a teaser here: Years of Living Dangerously – Next on Episode 6

Wind energy is very popular in Kansas. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Kansas’ wind industry employs thousands of people each year as new wind turbines are rapidly constructed. Kansas currently has 800 megawatts of wind energy capacity under construction, on top of almost 3,000MW in existing capacity.

The news gets better, because Kansas has enormous potential for more clean energy growth. While Kansas is currently ranked 8th among US states’ current wind energy generation, it has the 2nd most potential of any state, after Texas.

Caricature of Climate Change Denier James Taylor

Climate Change Denier James Taylor

Don’t try telling that to James Taylor though. No, not the singer-songwriter, but the climate change denier James Taylor you see in the SHOWTIME teaser above. This obscure lawyer at The Heartland Institute has made his cozy career undermining public recognition of how serious global warming is, and fighting against policy solutions to climate change. Here’s how that works:

Fossil fuel companies extract, distribute and burn dirty energy like coal, oil and gas. These companies don’t like the explosion in clean energy competition, an industry that itself is a lot less explosive, corrosive and polluting (have you seen coverage of the massive, deadly coal mine disaster in Turkey??). Rather than innovate their companies to respond to the needs of the 21st Century, polluting companies like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Peabody coal and Duke Energy are funding a vast, coordinated network of political front groups, fake grassroots organizations and lobbying firms to kill clean energy incentives in Kansas and other at least 14 other states.

Just two weeks ago, Kansas state politicians narrowly defended the state’s renewable portfolio standard. The RPS law is a major incentive for clean energy jobs, requiring utility companies to gradually phase in electricity sources that don’t exacerbate global climate change, or poison the air we breathe and the water we drink. As reported in the Washington Post, this attack on clean energy was the third within the last two years introduced by Kansas politicians affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), backed by ALEC’s friends in the State Policy Network, like climate change deniers at The Heartland Institute, political heavyweights like Grover Norquist and the Koch brothers’ main political group, Americans for Prosperity.

SHOWTIME’s Years of Living Dangerously will take a closer look at how these front groups and politicians conspired against Kansas’ clean energy industry, siding with fossil fuel billionaire Charles Koch instead of the farmers and wind industry employees who are building the infrastructure of today’s energy landscape. Here’s a longer preview of SHOWTIME’s forthcoming episode about the effort to build wind energy in Kansas, and the fossil fuel industry-funded enemies of that effort: Years of Living Dangerously Season 1: Episode 6 Clip – Droughts

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s The EnvironmentaLIST: Years of Living Dangerously: Climate Change Denial and Kansas Wind Energy

Is Charles Koch Funding Climate Science Denial in Florida State University Economics?

7:14 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog, the EnvironmentaLIST.

Charles Koch imagined as a clown in caricature

Charles Koch’s money may be polluting science research at Florida State.

Students at Florida State University are telling Charles Koch to stop compromising academic integrity with multimillion dollar grants that come with strings attached.

You may recall: back in 2011, two Florida State University (FSU) professors revealed that the Charles Koch Foundation was given inappropriate control over the professor hiring process in the economics department, where millions of dollars were granted from the Kansas billionaire. Three years later, the case still isn’t closed on this corporate manipulation of university functions. The FSU students write:

Our university’s academic integrity has already been compromised from the influence of high-dollar donors like Koch, who managed to assume inappropriate control over our economics department’s curriculum and hiring process per an agreement signed in 2008. Three years have passed since FSU professors exposed Koch’s financial grip over our school and a committee of faculty senators formally rejected several stipulations of the agreement. Yet, it is clear that the administration refuses to act to appropriately limit outside influence on FSU’s educational operations.

A new agreement with Koch, signed by both ex-President Barron and current Interim President Garnett Stokes, still contains many provisions from the original agreement that were explicitly rejected by the faculty senators who reviewed it. Barron himself stated that the initial agreement ‘did provide the opportunity for outside influence’ from Koch. This leads us to question whether the new agreement leaves that influence intact.

The op-ed focuses on the departure of Eric Barron, who is transitioning into the president’s office at Penn State University after serving as president of Florida State University.

Mr. Barron is being celebrated for his expertise in climate science as he cycles into his new position at Penn State (which also gets money from Charles Koch).

Why does this matter? What’s the relevance of President Eric Barron’s climate change credentials?

Let’s start with Florida State’s economics department. FSU’s economics department has received much of the $3,898,657 itemized to FSU in the Charles Koch Foundation’s tax filings from 2009 to 2012.

Beyond the well-documented concerns highlighted by FSU students and professors alike, FSU’s Koch-funed economics department appears to host professors who are misrepresenting climate science, a field well outside of their credentialed expertise.

Ph.D economist Yoram Bauman has twice reviewed and ranked economics textbooks for how accurately they portray climate change science. Citing top climate science institutions like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Bauman has repeatedly given a failing grade to a widely-used textbook authored by professors from several of the top Koch-funded schools across the country, including FSU. Three of these four authors have direct ties to FSU: one primary author is a current economics professor, one formerly taught in the FSU econ department, and one obtained his economics Ph.D at FSU.

These same four professors, who aren’t climate scientists yet authored the worst economics textbooks in regard to climate science misinformation, are affiliated with numerous Koch-funded climate denial organizations. Such affiliations include the Tallahassee-based James Madison Institute, The Heartland Institute, the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) and the Association for Private Enterprise Education (APEE). These professors are closely affiliated with groups created and directly overseen by the Koch brothers, like the Cato Institute in Washington, DC and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Read the rest of this entry →

WATCH: Confrontation of Climate Deniers at Heartland Institute fake-fest!

11:14 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Crossposted from PolluterWatch.

Yesterday, the Heritage Foundation hosted The Heartland Institute’s CEO Joseph Bast, along with two of Heartland’s contracted climate denial scientists (Willie Soon and Bob Carter), to present their new report that denies the seriousness of global warming. Greenpeace was there to ask Heartland about the report’s funders, including billionaire Barre Seid, and to challenge Heartland’s assertion that their work has any scientific validity (it doesn’t). See the video for yourself.

Heartland Institute CEO Joseph Bast, as illustrated in Greenpeace’s report on climate change denial, “Dealing In Doubt.” Click to read.

Heartland’s “Climate Change Reconsidered,” written by the usual climate denier suspects under the guise of the “Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change” (NIPCC) is intended to undermine new scientific findings from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Despite what Joe Bast and Heartland communications director Jim Lakely claim, their false report is not peer-reviewed, a formal process conducted by editors at actual scientific journals have other qualified scientists rigorously review and critique submitted work if it is to be approved for publication.

You’ll notice that Heartland’s climate denial report isn’t being published in any scientific journals, but rather from Heartland itself. This is because the document is a public relations tool intended to keep politicians and the public doubting that global warming is worth addressing.

While Heartland continues politicizing science, demonizing credible scientists and using tobacco industry tactics to forge doubt over global warming, Americans are feeling the real toll climate change is already taking on society, by increasing the severity of storms like hurricane Sandy or pushing droughts, wildfires and heatwaves to new extremes.

Heartland doesn’t care, or even recognize, that global warming is already costing the global economy $1.2 trillion dollars and contributing to 400,000 deaths each year. They don’t care that billion-dollar weathers disasters, intensified by climate change, are on the rise and impacting the U.S. economy and our infrastructure. Nor do they accept repeated research indicating the overwhelming consensus among credential climate scientists that human fossil fuel use is the primary driver of unnatural global warming–in fact Heartland’s staff have repeatedly lied to cast doubt upon that research.

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.

Avoid buying Koch Industries products with new phone app!

2:48 pm in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog, The Witness.

Here’s a cool new toy. A popular article on Forbes today details a new smart phone app called “Buycott,” which is catching the attention of shoppers who want to make sure their money spent on groceries and other basic products isn’t enriching corporations with bad records on social and environmental responsibility.

Take Koch Industries. Greenpeace has written extensively about the Koch brothers’ $67 million in support for groups that deny climate change science and promote industries that pollute our air and water, our politics, and our health. The millions of dollars going to groups like ALEC and the State Policy Network also serves to break unions, privatize education, and water down healthcare reform.

Those are good reasons not to give a dime to the multi-billionaire Koch brothers, who own the vast majority of Koch Industries’ private stock. Yet many consumers may not realize that buying products like Quilted Northern toilet paper or Brawny paper towels contributes to Koch profits through their giant pulp and paper subsidiary, Georgia-Pacific. Nor perhaps did the incoming Obama Administration realize that the 2009 inaugural carpet was made by a Koch subsidiary called INVISTA. What a crummy business deal–the President buys your carpet, then you coordinate hundreds of millions of dollars from billionaires determined to defeat his re-election bid…if only there had been an app!

The President’s staff aren’t alone. You may well have Koch products in your house. Read the rest of this entry →