While international cooperation to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions has never been a greater imperative, climate progress has never been more stymied, more corrupted by those who stand to gain from maintaining a beleaguered carbon-based energy system that threatens the health and well-being of the global community.
“The Kochs cashed in by polluting our planet - economists would call them free-riders - and now they wield their wealth to rig the rules in their own favor…Leading an epic propaganda effort by the broader fossil fuel industry, global climate cooperation may face no bigger barrier blocking progress today than these two individuals of undue influence.”
The extent and influence of the Kochs' wealth cannot be underestimated. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the Koch brothers combined constitute the world's wealthiest 'individual' with a value of $80.2 billion, beating out Mexico's Carlos Slim at $71.8 billion.
“Acting as a single financial and political entity, the two oil barons from Wichita are today's top spenders on efforts to stop climate policy solutions in the planet's most polluting nation, and hold hostage any progress in Washington that underpins the deadlock at COP 18 in Doha. Advancing constructive UN climate negotiations requires urgent and substantial changes in domestic US dynamics to reduce the role of the Kochs specifically - and private money generally - corrupting policy outcomes,” the report states.
Political spending is a high priority for the Koch brothers who contributed $400 million to the 2012 election alone. But as this chart from the report highlights, Koch-funded political tampering doesn't stop there.
Together the Koch brothers “have outspent all other oil companies - including Exxon - to kill US climate legislation by campaign contribution, lobbying of legislators, funding denial science, attacking clean air laws, stopping the shift in subsidies, and other activities aimed at influencing policy outcome.”
IFG is no stranger to the Koch brothers' extensive network of climate deniers, political sell-outs, conservative think tanks, and media manipulators. One of the most thorough maps of this network - called the Kochtopus - was created by IFG.
The Koch empire is built on fossil fuels, which helps explain the brothers' efforts to suppress truly progressive environmental policy. Beyond their personal wealth, Koch Industries was expected to generate $100 billion in revenues for 2011, the report claims. Koch wealth “quintupled in six years (2005-2011) following the creation of unregulated oil derivatives markets that made room for speculation and insider trading.”
“It is no coincidence,” the report goes on “that the world's wealthiest men also have its largest carbon footprint, and have initiated an ideological campaign to advance the myth that an economy of mindless material expansion is possible on a planet that has already gone beyond any respect for ecological limits.”
Climate talks in Doha are expected to end with a whimper this year, reinforcing once again the failure of 'business as usual' political models.
The Koch brothers have helped to effectively paralyze the climate debate in the US, by polarizing and disrupting collaborative efforts to legislate for change. Their efforts to fight carbon regulation, public health and clean air standards, and public investment in renewables have made meaningful emissions reductions in the US virtually impossible.
And, because climate change solutions, or failures, carry global significance, America's corrupted political realm has consequences for the international community. When it comes to pollution, even of the political realm, there are no borders.
Several concerns emerge in the conclusion of IFG's report. Most notable is the danger unchecked individual wealth can have on politics.
IFG suggests climate campaigners coordinate across sectors to combat the effects of private wealth on the political process. Internationally, the influence of the Koch brothers must be tracked, investigated and better understood.