John Blundell is welcomed into the inner circle of the Koch elite at at time of inner-family squabbling and political scandal. He soon gains insight into an empire run by obsession and apparent deception. This is part two of DeSmog UK’s history of Blundell and Charles Koch.
Blundell was offered a well paid job at the Institute of Humane Studies (IHS) in April 1982 - a hardline neoliberal think tank funded by the oil billionare Charles Koch.
He resigned as spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses and as a councillor at a London borough and moved to California in the United States with his wife Christine and their three-month-old baby boy, Miles.
It's amazing what qualifies for a tax break in Australia these days.
The climate science misinformation promotion unit at the Institute of Public Affairs, a Melbourne-based “free market” think tank, are currently passing the hat around to raise cash to publish a book on climate change.
The IPA has been pushing and promoting climate science denial since the late 1980s, when it published an article in its magazine asking if there really was a greenhouse effect.
According to an email to supporters earlier this month from the IPA’s executive director John Roskam, the think tank has raised $144,545 towards a $175,000 target to publish a book Climate Change: The Facts 2014.
Roskam reminded supporters that their donation for the book would be “tax deductible” and those prepared to part with $400 or more more would even get their name on the back cover.
The list of chapter authors is a predictable line up of denialists and contrarians picked from the blogosphere, conservative media outlets and the associates of secretly funded conservative think tanks.
It’s known as the Kochtopus – the extensive network of think tanks, institutes, university departments, political funding arms and “grassroots” activist groups funded by oil billionaires Charles and David Koch.
The multi-tentacled network has pumped tens of millions of dollars into groups that deny the risks of human-caused climate change.
But if it is Koch cash that helps fuel these groups, then what is it that fuels the Koch brothers themselves beyond the obvious financial interest?
As DeSmogBlog has revealed, Charles Koch is a long-standing member of the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) – a global group of industrialists, academics and economists who share the “neoliberal” ideology of limiting government control.
If the Koch network has many groups dangling from its tentacles, then Charles Koch’s membership with the Mont Pelerin Society provides a window into the ideological heart of the Kochtopus.
THERE’S a popular talking point coming from climate change denialists that all people who accept the science and the need to act on it are somehow blinded by faith.
In Australia, climate science contrarian columnists can barely touch their keyboards without typing out the words “global warming faith” or explaining how human-caused global warming is some sort of “new religion”.
This “climate religion” narrative often goes hand-in-hand with another favourite denialist talking point where climate scientists are only doing what they do because there’s a dollar in it.
Presumably the laws of physics, the melting ice sheets, the increasing risk of bushfires, the hottest decades on record and the acidifying oceans are also waiting for their cash.
Maurice Newman, the man hand-picked by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to be the government’s top business advisor, loves both of these debating points.
Newman has described climate scientists as being a “global warming priesthood” and belonging to a new “religion”. In a second opinion column in two weeks in The Australian, Newman repeats his cynicism over the IPCC and climate scientists, describing them as a “cartel” that “will deny all contrary evidence”. Newman even repeats the myth that in the 1970s scientists were certain the world was heading for global cooling, when in fact, as this study shows, a healthy majority of scientific papers were predicting the opposite.
Yet Newman has a deep belief system of his own, having long been associated with a form of “classic liberalism” – a particular world view which advocates small government and low regulation of the activities of businesses.
Not only that, but he is a member of a global society of influential business people, academics and think tank associates known as the Mont Pelerin Society who share the same broad ideology.
The Mont Pelerin Society
The Mont Pelerin Society was established in 1947 by free market economist and philosopher Friedrich von Hayek.
Maurice Newman, a Mont Pelerin member since 1976, has long been an admirer of the work of Hayek and fellow free market economist Milton Friedman, a past president of the Mont Pelerin Society.
Newman was responsible for bringing Friedman to Australia in the mid-1970s, at a time when Newman was helping to set up the Centre for Independent Studies – a Sydney-based free market think tank.
Mont Pelerin’s website explains that while all members don’t agree on everything, “they see danger in the expansion of government, not least in state welfare, in the power of trade unions and business monopoly, and in the continuing threat and reality of inflation.”
The Society, which holds a meeting annually in different parts of the world, also explains how its members see their society “as an effort to interpret in modern terms the fundamental principles of economic society as expressed by those classical economists, political scientists, and philosophers who have inspired many in Europe, America and throughout the Western World.”
To become a member, individuals have to be nominated by a current member and then seek endorsement by the membership committee before being endorsed.
DeSmogBlog has obtained a full list of the society’s members that includes senior representatives of many of the world’s foremost “free market” think tanks actively pushing back on proposed policy solutions to tackle climate change.
The list, from 2010, includes almost 500 people from 52 countries, with the bulk of members coming from the United States and the United Kingdom. The 70-page list includes private contact details. DeSmogBlog has decided to publish only extracts with contact details redacted.
Among the notable members is Charles Koch (list excerpt here), the US oil billionaire who has been a Mont Pelerin Society member since 1970.
The once-authoritative Economist news magazine has set fire to its credibility, again, by reporting that global warming has slowed to the point where one columnist argues that we should wait “a decade or two” before instituting any policy measures to ameliorate the threat. At the same time, Google, a company that advertises its corporate philosophy as “Do No Evil,” has decided to snuggle up to the climate change denial community, splashing money at the likes of Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe and the “think” tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
This kind of blithe disregard for fact or prudence was more in style a couple of years ago, when Denier-in-Chief George W. Bush was in the White House and Inhofe was Chair of the Republican-dominated Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works. But how can you account for so irresponsible and reactionary a performance - from theoretically credible sources - in 2013?
One potential explanation is the loveable naivety of the scientific and environmental community - the kind of people who are always willing, in good faith, to join a conversation about a “climate-change slowdown.” The very phrase is like red meat to the Anthony Watts types who deny climate science as part of their business plan. Looking, for example, at the current state of Arctic sea ice and the predictions for the $60-trillion time bomb that will detonate as that ice disappears, any talk of such an actual slowdown is absurd.
IF you haven't seen them on the television or come across their interviews on the radio or in newspapers and magazines, then you've almost certainly seen their work as your eyes scan the climate change section in your local book store or library.
They are the authors of books claiming to reveal the “real truth” about global warming and climate change - that it's either all a hoax, that it's overblown bad science from green ideologues or an elaborate illusion and wrongheaded nonsense.
You might have been intrigued by titles like “An Appeal To Reason: A Cool Look At Global Warming”, “The Climate Caper” or the subtle sledgehammer that was “Global Warming and Other Bollocks”.
But new research into the origins and authors of more than 100 of these climate science denial books finds almost all of them - about four out of five - are largely the products of conservative-leaning think tanks.
“Coming off one of the most devastating hurricane seasons in recent memory, many are quick to blame the strength and frequency of these storms on global warming. Leading climate scientists, however, say there is no link between increased storm activity and a massive change in global climate.”
The 2006 Saul/DCI press release quotes the Koch-funded Cato Institute's Patrick Michaels, who stated, “There are many more factors determining hurricane frequency and severity, some of which (such as westerly wind strength) should become LESS conducive to hurricanes as the planet warms.”
Figures such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former President Bill Clinton, writer and activist Bill McKibben, environmental reporter Mark Hertsgaard, and numerous others all have connected the dots between the tragedy in New York City and its excerbation at the hands of climate change.
On the other side of the spectrum, no matter how bad the tragedy, it seems, climate change denial will continue apace by the “merchants of doubt.” Hurricane Sandy was no exception this time around.
The Cato report, titled: “Addendum: Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States” uses the same cover design, title and fonts as a report issued in 2009 by the US government's Global Change Research Program titled: Global Climate Change Impacts in the US.
Democracy is utterly dependent upon an electorate that is accurately informed. In promoting climate change denial (and often denying their responsibility for doing so) industry has done more than endanger the environment. It has undermined democracy.
There is a vast difference between putting forth a point of view, honestly held, and intentionally sowing the seeds of confusion. Free speech does not include the right to deceive. Deception is not a point of view. And the right to disagree does not include a right to intentionally subvert the public awareness.