Senators Launch Resolution, Speech Blitz Calling Out #WebOfDenial Blocking Climate Action

Brendan DeMelle DeSmog

On Monday and Tuesday this week, at least 19 U.S. Senators who understand the need to clear the PR pollution that continues to block overdue climate policy action will speak out on the Senate floor in support of the Senate Web of Denial Resolution calling out the destructive forces of fossil fuel industry-funded climate denial.

Championed by Senators Whitehouse, Markey, Schatz, Boxer, Merkley, Warren, Sanders, and Franken, the resolution condemns what they are calling the #WebOfDenial — “interconnected groups – funded by the Koch brothers, major fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal, identity-scrubbing groups like Donors Trust and Donors Capital, and their allies – developed and executed a massive campaign to deceive the public about climate change to halt climate action and protect their bottom lines.”

Joined in the House of Representatives by Congressman Ted Lieu (D- CA), these champions for climate action and accountability in the Senate are calling out the use of think tanks and denier-for-hire front groups to create doubt about climate science. Read the resolution [PDF].

According to a press release issued this morning, the resolution condemns the “efforts of corporations and groups to mislead the public about the harmful effects of tobacco, lead, and climate.  The resolution also urges fossil fuel corporations and their allies to cooperate with investigations into their climate-related activities.”

As DeSmog, ExxonSecrets, the Climate Investigations Center and others have documented repeatedly over the past decade, the oil and coal industries and their friends have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on an immoral and potentially fraudulent campaign to deceive the public about the scientific consensus on manmade global warming and the need for urgent action to curtail fossil fuel pollution.

Just last week, DeSmog published the latest round of Exxon’s funding of climate denial groups still peddling doubt, bringing the total known funding from Exxon to nearly $34 million over two decades. Add to that the nearly $90 million pumped into the denial machine by the Koch Family Foundations, as well as the largesse emanating from the dark money ATM, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund.

Think tanks and front groups involved in climate denial include the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Heritage Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute,  the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity, the Heartland Institute and many more.

Champions in the U.S. Congress are now putting the denial machine on notice with this resolution and a series of speeches set to take place tonight and tomorrow on the Senate floor.

DeSmog will update this post throughout the day with updates and reactions to this bold move by climate leaders in Congress. Stay tuned.

You can watch the speeches beginning around 4:45pm EDT on C-SPAN2.

Here is a sharable graphic to spread the word about this on Facebook: 

Also on Twitter.


Update 8:15pm EDT: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse spoke last to close out the #WebOfDenial action on the Senate floor. He excoriated the #WebOfDenial’s efforts to “exploit our Founding Fathers… Franklin, Madison and Jefferson,” as well as denial efforts to co-opt the names of American heroes, including George C. Marshall, Lord Acton and John Locke.

Whitehouse also went into detail on the Franklin Center for Government and Public Policy, and its funding from Charles G. Koch Foundation, Donors Trust, Searle and Bradley foundations, among others.

If you look at what’s going on at the Franklin Center, you see Koch people, Koch money and Koch buddies.”

(Sen. Whitehouse referenced DeSmog and our research into climate denial repeatedly in his speeches tonight and last night, for which we’re grateful.)

Whitehouse next went into detail on the James Madison Institute and its common funding sources with Franklin Center and the “Unabomber group Heartland Institute” and mentioned the John Locke Institute and John Locke Foundation and the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) and the Hoover Institution and Manhattan Institute. He also covered the State Policy Network and Art Pope and American Enterprise Institute and the Thomas Jefferson Institute.

“Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Locke… these are great names put on the front of very shady, Koch-funded front groups in the #WebOfDenial. And the organizations share several common features. First, they all propagate what by any reasonable scientific standard is preposterous nonsense, and masquerade it as science and independent opinion. Second, they all get massive funding from fossil fuel interests, and line up always, obediently, with those interests. Third, they interlock. The interlocking is almost too complicated to track, in staff, in board members, in funding sources. But it all traces back to fossil fuel money. And, of course, they all mask themselves behind the names of great men from history who would recoil to discover their names and reputations being put to such discreditable use.”  

Sen. Whitehouse closed by thanking his Senate colleagues for joining him in the #WebOfDenial action, including Harry Reid, Ben Cardin, Chris Coons, Tim Kaine, Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, Tom Udall, Jeff Merkley, Barbara Boxer, Dick Durbin, Brian Schatz, Al Frankin, Martin Heinrich, Jack Reed, Jeanne Shaheen, Gary Peters, Dick Blumenthal, and Ed Markey.

Update 7:45pm EDT: Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) spoke about Exxon’s advanced research into climate change decades ago, relating many of the facts revealed by investigative journalists at Inside Climate News in Exxon: The Road Not Taken. Sen. Markey talked about the role of the George C. Marshall Institute, which recently morphed into the CO2 Coalition, and the leadership that George C. Marshall would have displayed on climate action.  

Markey also talked about the Global Climate Coalition, and its historical role of attacking the United Nations IPCC and climate science.

Markey also called out the funding by the Koch Brothers, Exxon and Peabody coal for the #WebOfDenial. “The Koch Brothers have lied to the American people for decades about climate change. They also lied to their own employees.”

He also talked about Donald Trump’s climate denial. And he talked about the Acton Institute, the Lexington Institute, and the dark money ATM, Donors Trust.

Update 7:40pm EDT: #WebOfDenial is trending on Twitter again.

Update 7:15pm EDT: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) spoke about the role of ExxonMobil in funding the #WebOfDenial, and its own internal preparations for climate change. He spoke about the impacts of climate change on Connecticut that is “causing rising tides, destroying homes, changing literally the nature of our shoreline and impacting our quality of life.” Sen. Blumenthal mentioned the Koch group Americans For Prosperity, and also focused on the “covert efforts to sabotage science” led by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Update 7pm EDT: Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) spoke about the Koch brothers’ role in funding the #WebOfDenial, calling out Charles and David Koch. “Much of their wealth is funneled into activist groups that produce questionable information and the spin necessary to support their own interests. The web of denial they have created is a threat to sound, science-based decisionmaking.” Sen. Peters talked about the coal petcoke pollution harming the health of Detroit, Michigan residents and environmental justice issues.   

Update 6:50pm EDT: Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) spoke about the national security implications of climate change and the need to hold the #WebOfDenial and its corporate funders accountable for misleading the public and investors. “It is our responsibility to believe, and not deny,” Reed said. 

Update 6:35pm EDT: Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke about the Competitive Enterprise Institute and its lengthy history of defending the tobacco industry, in addition to its role in the #WebOfDenial. “If this sounds like Déjà vu that’s because it is. CEI and other front groups are using the same playbook, the same tactics, to deny CC that they used to deny the link between tobacco use and fatal disease. CEI is now on a new mission to confuse and mislead the public on climate change. It is financing and directing ad hoc groups like the so-called Cooler Heads Coalition…”

Sen. Shaheen also spoke about the Energy and Environment Legal Institute, and its funding from Arch Coal, Peabody Energy and other coal interests, as well as the direct funding to E&E Legal’s Chris Horner by Alpha Natural Resources. Shaheen also discussed the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic.

Update 6:30pm EDT: Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) spoke about the American Legislative Exchange Council and its role in the #WebOfDenial. He also covered the fact that climate change has already had an impact on his home state of New Mexico. 

Update 5:45pm EDT: Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) spoke about the Heritage Foundation, which he said has been “a mouthpiece for climate denial.” He called out the “incredibly and deliberately irresponsible way” that Heritage scholars — including Ben Lieberman whose work Sen. Franken quoted — have attempted to minimize the threat of global warming. “It’s not only irresponsible but frankly dangerous to the welfare of people around the world.”

“The Heritage Foundation is deliberate and unwavering in its fraud and deceit,” Franken said. He went on to describe the funding from Exxon and Koch to the Heritage Foundation over the years.

“In order to protect their bottom line, they set out to misinform the public. That’s what they do for a living. And Heritage and many other similar organizations are helping them to spread their falsehoods. That’s what they do at Heritage for a living. The money paid to Heritage goes to supposed experts whose jobs are to release thousands of bogus reports about climate change. These experts are not climate scientists, they are lawyers and economists serving as puppets for the fossil fuel industry.” 

Update 5:30pm EDT: Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) spoke about the denial efforts of the Heartland Institute and the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change.

Update 5:15pm EDT: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) kicked off day two of #WebOfDenial. We missed his speech but will circle back and update here asap.


Update 7:35pm EDT: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) spoke last tonight and highlighted many of the points made by his colleagues throughout the day during the #WebOfDenial speeches. Whitehouse praised the peer-reviewed research into climate denial by Robert Brulle, Justin Farrell, Riley Dunlap, Aaron McCright, Constantine Boussalis and Travis Coan.

He thanked the many authors of books about climate denial, including Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, and noted that the film version of their book Merchants of Doubt is showing tonight on the Hill.

And Sen. Whitehouse called out many groups and outlets that have worked to expose climate denial and industry misinformation, including Greenpeace’s ExxonSecrets and PolluterWatch, set up by Kert Davies who has gone on to found the Climate Investigations Center, also named. He thanked the journalists at Inside Climate News and their must-read “The Road Not Taken” series. He thanked David Brock’s group American Bridge, and Climate Nexus for its work to expose the Wall Street Journal’s peddling climate denial on its editorial page (and the Partnership for Responsible Growth for correcting the record in the Wall Street Journal). He thanked ProPublica, the Union of Concerned Scientists and more.

He highlighted author Jeff Nesbit and his new book Poisoned Tea, Jane Mayer and her book Dark Money, Steve Coll and his book Private Empire on ExxonMobil as well as his role as Dean at the Columbia School of Journalism.

Sen. Whitehouse also heaped much-appreciated praise on us at DeSmogBlog, mentioning our Time Magazine “Best Blogs” accolades as well as highlighting our news coverage and our Disinformation Database. (In turn, we thank the Senator for his leadership on this issue, and his colleagues for speaking about the subject of climate denial which we’ve focused on for the past decade.)

In closing, Sen. Whitehouse said:

The scholarship of all these academics, all these organizations and all these authors — the detectives who are exposing the web of denial — have shined a bright light into its dark corners and illuminated its concerted effort to dupe the American public and sabotage climate action in America, all to protect the fossil fuel industry that funds it. It’s sickening, but it’s big. The denial web is designed to be big and sophisticated enough that when you see its many parts, you’re fooled into thinking it’s not the same beast. But it is. Like the mythological Hydra, many heads, same beast.” …

Welcome to the Web of Denial. And thank you to those who are working to expose it. It is a filthy thing in our democracy.”

Update 7:10pm EDT: #WebOfDenial is Trending on Twitter.

Update 7pm EDT: Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) spoke about the overlap of tobacco industry attacks on science and the “fossil industrial complex” that has similarly attacked climate science to evade accountability. He also discussed the Heritage Foundation, Art Pope, Cato Institute and the forged letter scandal orchestrated by Bonner and Associates for the Hawthorn Group and its coal industry client ACCCE. Merkley highlighted the work of Justin Farrell from Yale and the money flows from Donors Trust and the Koch Brothers. “A powerful, moneyed interest has spun a web of deceit,” Merkley said.

We know that these groups are backed by special interests. All we have to do is follow the money.” He mentioned the more than $30 million from ExxonMobil, and the denial funding from Peabody Energy revealed in its bankruptcy fillings. Merkley saved special mention for the Koch Brothers. “But as much as the fossil fuel companies have contributed to these efforts over the years,  the titles of the mastermind and the kingpins of climate science denial — those titles rest with Charles and David Koch.” 

Update 6:25pm EDT: Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) spoke about the Mercatus Center, which he said “should be called the Koch Center” due to its massive Koch funding. He discussed the connections to the tobacco industry’s attacks on tobacco science and the overlap with the Koch-funded Mercatus Center. 

Update 5:55pm EDT: Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) spoke about the Virginia Institute for Public Policy and the CO2 Coalition and the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewarship of Creation, and mentioned DeSmogBlog’s research in his #WebOfDenial speech. He also talked about the funding from Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust to denier organizations. 

Update 5:40pm EDT: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) spoke about the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI)Willie Soon, and Christopher Monckton‘s Hitler Youth outrage and claims to have a cure for AIDS, and other “completely made up” Monckton-isms.

Watch Sen. Warren’s complete remarks: 

Update 5:25pm EDT: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) spoke about the #WebOfDenial and the $700 billion in global subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, annually. He highlighted the work of Drexel University professor Robert Brulle to expose the climate change counter movement and what the Senators are calling the climate #WebOfDenial.

Update 5:15pm EDT: Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) spoke about the front groups Greening Earth Society and the Information Council on the Environment (ICE) and the web of denial. 

Update 5:10pm EDT: Sen. Christopher Coons (D-DE) spoke about the historical denial efforts of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC)

Update 5pm EDT: Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) spoke about the attacks on climate science by the defunct group Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy which received funding from ExxonMobil and the tobacco industry. He was introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who was thanked for leading this effort. Whitehouse delivered his 144th statement on the need for climate action and discussed the influence of the web of denial blocking action.

Update 4:30pm EDT: Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) kicked off the action on #WebOfDenial, railing against the Koch Brothers and Exxon for dishing out millions to fund climate denial organizations. Reid named Heartland Institute, Cato Institute and Americans For Prosperity, among others. You can watch the action on C-SPAN2.

Reactions to the news of the resolution and speeches: 

Jamie Henn, Communications Director:

“It’s inspiring to see Senators join the movement to hold the likes of Exxon accountable for their decades of deception. Big Oil robbed us of a generation’s worth of climate action, and to this day are still sowing doubt and misinformation — prioritizing profit at the expense of our climate and communities. The last 14 consecutive months have been the hottest on record, making it ever more pressing for our elected officials to bring this extensive web of climate denial to light.”

Last week, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse delivered his 143rd speech about climate change and focused on the issue of climate denial and the front groups involved in peddling doubt: 


Brendan DeMelle DeSmog
Brendan is Executive Director of DeSmog. He is also a freelance writer and researcher specializing in media, politics, climate change and energy. His work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, Grist, The Washington Times and other outlets.

Related Posts


After a 2022 frack out, residents report rashes, and foul methane-spiked water. EQT denies responsibility, offering water for silence from residents.

After a 2022 frack out, residents report rashes, and foul methane-spiked water. EQT denies responsibility, offering water for silence from residents.

But experts say carbon capture technology is unproven and could hurt the region’s shift to tried-and-true renewables.

But experts say carbon capture technology is unproven and could hurt the region’s shift to tried-and-true renewables.

New documents show the close financial relationship between Conservative Party patrons and anti-climate think tanks.

New documents show the close financial relationship between Conservative Party patrons and anti-climate think tanks.

DeSmog catalogues how oil and gas firms have forged ties with the highest levels of government, the media, and influential think tanks.

DeSmog catalogues how oil and gas firms have forged ties with the highest levels of government, the media, and influential think tanks.