The “conservative groups” urging President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement have accepted tens of millions of dollars from groups linked to the billionaire petrochemical brothers Charles and David Koch, ExxonMobil, and the Mercer family.
More than 40 groups have co-signed an open letter urging Trump to keep his campaign promise and “withdraw fully from the Paris Climate Treaty.”
The groups, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), The Heartland Institute, and the Heritage Foundation, claim failing to withdraw from the treaty could put Trump’s policy agenda of promoting fossil fuels at risk.
The Wall Street Journal has quoted a White House spokesperson saying the president will not make a decision on the Paris agreement until after meeting G-7 leaders later this month.
Analysis carried out by DeSmog and the Climate Investigations Center (CIC) shows many of the groups signing the letter have taken multi-million dollar donations from groups tied to the Koch brothers, who own Koch Industries. Several of the groups have accepted cash from oil giant ExxonMobil while many also deny the basic science linking fossil fuel burning to dangerous climate change.
In the letter, the groups say Trump should withdraw from the Paris deal and “stop all taxpayer funding of UN global warming programs” — two promises made by Trump during his campaign.
As part of the Paris deal, agreed to by almost 200 countries as part of the United National Framework Convention on Climate Change, the U.S. pledged in a document known as a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, based on their levels in 2005.
“Paris then requires a more ambitious NDC every five years in perpetuity,” the groups write.
The letter says environment groups and some attorneys general are using court action to try and protect the Obama era’s Clean Power Plan that sought to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.
The U.S. participation in the Paris deal is being cited in these lawsuits, the groups claim.
“Failing to withdraw from Paris thus exposes key parts of your deregulatory energy agenda to unnecessary legal risk,” the letter claims.
Right-wing media outlets including Breitbart and The Daily Caller have been reporting the letter from conservative groups without mentioning the known links to the Koch brothers and to their denial of the science of climate change.
The DeSmog and CIC analysis, using publicly available IRS disclosures, shows the Koch brothers have donated at least $6.9 million to the groups, much of which went to the Heritage Foundation. Exxon donated about $5.9 million to the groups since the late 1990s.
Several of the letter signers had roles in Trump’s various transition teams, including the CEI’s Myron Ebell and Thomas Pyle of the American Energy Alliance.
In 2014, Freedom Partners (FP) — a group once described as the Koch brothers secret bank — gave some $16 million to Americans for Prosperity, another of the letter’s signatories. FP also gave $2.3 miilion to the American Energy Alliance.
But as well as accepting millions of dollars from vested interests such as the Kochs and Exxon over the years, another thing the groups have in common is their denial of the clear science linking fossil fuel burning to dangerous climate change — an issue backed by all the major scientific academies around the world.
The analysis shows groups have also accepted about $80 million through two linked funding organisations — Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust — that academics have confirmed is a key financial source for many U.S. climate science denial groups.
The Koch brothers, through a funding group known as the Knowledge and Progress Fund (KPF), gave more than $7.6 million to the Donors Trust since 2010. The only grants made by the KPF over that period were to Donors Trust.
The Heartland Institute, which has been given more than $5 million in recent years by major Trump financier Robert Mercer, is known for organizing regular conferences where climate science denialists gather.
In the run-up to one conference in May 2012, Heartland said in a statement: “The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”
Another signer to the letter is Professor William Happer, the president of the CO2 Coalition — a group that emerged from the disbanded George C. Marshall Institute.
The CO2 Coalition denies the evidence that humans are causing dangerous climate change and runs with the tag line “CO2 — Essential for Life.”
Happer, thought to be in the running as Trump’s science adviser, has compared what he called the “demonization” of CO2, to the “demonization of poor Jews under Hitler.”
Main image: Charles Koch at a conference in Aspen in 2016. Credit: Flickr/Fortune Brainstorm TECH, CC BY–NC–ND 2.0