THE BLOG
09/13/2010 02:31 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Blight at the Museum: The Smithsonian's Cloudy Climate Science (VIDEO)

The David H. Koch Hall of Human OriginsAn exhibit on evolution & climate at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History that doesn't even mention manmade climate pollution or the current impacts of global warming?

It's a shocking story ... until you learn who sponsored it. It's David Koch, recently revealed in a New Yorker profile as major financier of both polluter front groups & charitable institutions. In this case, Koch's interests appear to overlap -- his donation is sponsoring a museum exhibit that argues climate change is a good thing & doesn't blame polluters for today's skyrocketing carbon levels.

David & Charles Koch (sounds like Coke) own Koch Industries. It's an industrial giant originally started by their father that includes large oil & chemical holdings. They've poured millions of dollars into anti-government groups, with health & environmental regulations among their biggest targets. Most recently, they gave at least $1 million to fight California's landmark climate law.

So for this week's National Wildlife Federation Climate Capsule, we headed down to the museum to check it it out first-hand. And who better to explore a climate denier exhibit with than Dirty the Global Warming Denier Sock Puppet?

Was it really as bad as ClimateProgress.org's Joseph Romm & others had made it out to be? Nope. It was worse:

It's not the first time the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has been accused of downplaying the threat of global warming. In 2007, a former administrator accused museum officials of toning down an exhibit on climate change in the Arctic, afraid of angering Congressional Republicans & the Bush administration.

Back then, Museum Director Cristián Samper pleaded ignorance on all counts -- claiming to be completely unaware of any toning down or of any pressure. When questioned on this year's Koch-sponsored exhibit, he's singing an eerily similar tune:

Cristián Samper, the museum's director, said that the exhibit is not about climate change, and described Koch as "one of the best donors we've had, in my tenure here, because he's very interested in the content, but completely hands off." He noted, "I don't know all the details of his involvement in other issues."

It's stunning that the museum's director would try to claim the Koch-sponsored exhibit "is not about climate change." I mean, the first thing you see after you walk through a tunnel of pictures of early man is a temperature graph. To claim otherwise is to deny reality. Then again, when it comes to climate, maybe denial is what we should be expecting from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History under Cristián Samper.

Photo via Flickr's Ryan Somma