Early in 2015, Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced an amendment stating, “it is the sense of Congress that – (1) climate change is real; and (2) human activity significantly contributes to climate change.” Fifty senators voted in favor of the amendment, while forty-nine senators voted against mainstream climate science. The amendment required 60 votes in order to pass.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) urged her colleagues to vote against the climate change amendment, saying, “I urge colleagues to oppose the Schatz amendment. There is a distinct difference between this amendment and what was previously considered in the sense of the Congress, which would refer to human activity that significantly contributes to climate change, and the issue of degrees. And I would suggest to colleagues that the inclusion of that word is sufficient to merit a ‘no’ vote at this time.”

The just-published book “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right,” written by New Yorker investigative reporter Jane Mayer, serves as in-depth piece to explain why the federal government is paralyzed to admit and act on the certain problems facing the country, especially curbing emissions that contribute to global warming.

In a New York Times review of the book, Alan Ehrenhalt writes:

Mayer believes that the Koch brothers and a small number of allied plutocrats have essentially hijacked American democracy, using their money not just to compete with their political adversaries, but to drown them out.

A great deal has already been written about the Koch brothers and the money their network has invested in American politics. The importance of “Dark Money” does not flow from any explosive new revelation, but from its scope and perspective… It is not easy to uncover the inner workings of an essentially secretive political establishment. Mayer has come as close to doing it as anyone is likely to come anytime soon.

Indeed, Mayer has revealed how the Koch Brothers and other billionaires in their network have leveraged their business empires to shape the political system in the mold of their own agendas, while simultaneously capturing the Republican Party and along with it, American democracy.

For example, chapter eight titled “The Fossils,” details the who’s who of the Koch donor network that have a clear, direct financial interest in preventing the United States from limiting carbon emissions. These coal, oil, and gas magnates include Harold Hamm, founder of Continental Resources, and Larry Nichols, head of Devon Energy.

Mayer writes, “If the government interfered with the ‘free market’ in order to protect the planet, the potential losses from these companies were catastrophic. If, however, the carbon from these reserves were burned wantonly without the government applying any brakes, scientists predicted an intolerable rise in atmospheric temperatures, triggering potentially irreversible global damage to life on earth.”

Koch Industries contributed a total of $947,950, since 2000, to the senators who voted against the climate change amendment that Sen. Schatz introduced last year, compared to the $29,600 to the senators who voted in favor.

Nichols’ Devon Energy and Hamm’s Continental Resources contributed $393,850 and $86,000 to the deniers compared to $19,000 and $15,900 to the senators that accept the science.

In addition to the Kochs, Nichols and Hamm working to fund the climate change countermovement, there are smaller operators of propane, chemical, railroad, pipeline, and drilling equipment companies in the network. However, Koch Industries, a company few had ever heard of several years ago, is the “kingpin of climate science denial.”

Mayer writes about an interview David Koch where he expressed his views on climate science. David said, “The Earth will be able to support enormously more people because a far greater land area will be available to produce food.” Mayer also notes Charles Koch’s views on the science reflected in the company in-house newsletter titled “Blowing Smoke.” The newsletter states:

We are often told our planet will be devastated unless we immediately make drastic reductions in man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The list of possible climate catastrophes caused by GHGs seems endless.

The newsletter then references the “Climategate” hack and reads, “All of this should be a warning flag for anyone proposing actions to respond to climate change on the mistaken assumption that “the science is settled.” The letter also includes a quote from Mark Dobbins, executive vice president for Koch Supply and Trading in Houston. Dobbins said, “It’s clear from the data that the science on greenhouse gases is not really settled.”

Mayer craftily connects the dots between the players in the Koch network, their money, and how it gets contributed to politicians and conservative think tanks to create the outcome beneficial to the bottom-line of the Koch network.

The book is available on Amazon.

Photo credit: Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. The Pine Bend oil refinery in Rosemount, Minnesota, run by Flint Hills Resources, a subsidiary of Koch Industries. Wikipedia Commons.

Posted by Matt Kasper

Matt Kasper is the Deputy Director at the Energy and Policy Institute. He focuses on defending policies that further the development of clean energy sources. He also focuses on the companies and their front groups that obstruct policy solutions to global warming. Before joining the Energy and Policy Institute in 2014, Matt was a research assistant at the Center for American Progress where he worked on various state and local policy issues.