During the opening ceremony of the David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, Greenpeace deployed our Climate Crime Unit to search for David Koch; namesake of the new exhibit, oil billionaire, and major funder of the climate denial industry.
Although most people have never heard of Koch Industries and its principal shareholders David and Charles Koch, they play an enormous role in blocking clean energy and climate policy. This privately held oil giant is ExxonMobil's "silent partner" in funding the climate denial machine, and in recent years Koch has actually surpassed Exxon's funding of climate denying think tanks and astroturf front groups. The Koch Brothers use their foundations to funnel millions of dollars to climate denial groups like Americans for Prosperity, which David Koch founded and now chairs. Next week, AFP will continue its efforts to distort climate science and protect polluters like Koch Industries by launching its Regulation Reality campaign aimed at blocking the EPA from addressing global warming pollution. Climate Science Watch just posted some new analysis of Koch and AFP here
It's a wonder the Smithsonian didn't learn a lesson on vetting its funders from the 2007 controversy over oil industry funding of the oceans exhibit hall. In that case, concerns from Smithsonian Regents including Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont effectively blocked funding from the American Petroleum Institute from tainting the exhibit. But perhaps because few people know that David Koch is bankrolling attacks on climate change science and policy, this time the Smithsonian is sticking with the oil money. As Newsweek reported on the controversy surrounding the Koch's money and the Smithsonian exhibit:
Randall Kremer, director of public affairs for the Natural History Museum, says they are thankful for Koch's gift. "There are not many philanthropists who have given as much as Koch to arts and science. I think his interest lies in the scientific verification of a whole range of things."
It's hard to relate to the interests of an oil billionaire. David Koch has profited so handsomely from our addiction to oil that he can clearly afford to spend a bit of his money to get his name on venerable institutions like the Smithsonian. But David Koch is also a multimillion dollar donor to groups that vend misinformation about climate science, so it's concerning that the Smithsonian would stamp his name on an exhibit that aims, in part, to educate people about the impacts of climate change on humanity.
If the Koch Brothers are really interested in their legacy, they should stop funding climate denial think tanks and organizations and stop obstructing clean energy and climate policy.