TRNN Documentary: Trump, The Koch Brothers and Their War on Climate Science
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
DANNY GLOVER: 2016 was the hottest year on record, topping a decade of increasingly warm years. Powerful storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, declining ice caps, and droughts stalk the planet.
MICHAEL MANN: There’s anywhere from 97% to 99% consensus among the world’s scientists studying this problem, that climate change is real and human caused.
DONALD TRUMP: The office of President of the United States.
DANNY GLOVER: Yet how did a climate change denier get elected President of the United States?
CHARLIE CRAY: Trump’s win has created a fossil fuel field day.
DANNY GLOVER: Donald Trump has claimed that climate change is an expensive hoax. This summer, he announced the United States was pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord.
DONALD TRUMP: The bottom line is that the Paris Accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States.
DANNY GLOVER: Even before that dramatic move, Trump had already signed an executive order rolling back former president Barack Obama’s climate regulations.
DONALD TRUMP: It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban.
DANNY GLOVER: Trump wants to see a revitalization of the coal industry.
DONALD TRUMP: Over the past two years, I’ve spent time with the miners all over America.
DANNY GLOVER: He plans to scrap NASA’s climate research program and has approved the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would route oil from Alberta’s tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico.
DONALD TRUMP: When completed the Keystone XL Pipeline will span 900 miles. Wow.
DANNY GLOVER: He’s also set out to gut the Environmental Protection Agency.
DONALD TRUMP: First of all, I want to congratulate Scott Pruitt, who’s here someplace. Where is Scott?
DANNY GLOVER: Appointing the climate change denier Scott Pruitt to run it.
KENNETH VOGEL: Pruitt has been a skeptic, is the term that they like to use, of climate change.
SCOTT PRUITT: Human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.
DANNY GLOVER: The fact that climate change deniers now inhabit the most powerful positions in the world’s most powerful government is no accident. Or that most Americans don’t perceive that global warming causes a catastrophic threat. This is largely the handiwork of two brothers, David and Charles Koch.
KENNETH VOGEL: The Kochs are going to have a lot more influence in any Republican administration.
DANNY GLOVER: Ken Vogel is an investigative reporter in Washington, DC. He has followed the Koch brothers for years.
KENNETH VOGEL: They’re thrilled that Donald Trump won and Hillary Clinton lost, but I think they’re even surprised by how much ability they have to shape the Trump administration.
CHARLIE CRAY: For the most part, this is going to be incredibly beneficial for the Kochs and the best major of that so far is how many people are working for the Trump administration who were, over their careers, supported by the Kochs.
DANNY GLOVER: Just who are the Koch brothers?
CHARLIE CRAY: The Koch brothers are two of the wealthiest individuals in the United States.
DANNY GLOVER: David and Charles Koch own Koch Industries, a $100 billion conglomerate based in Kansas that refines, transports, and sells oil. The company is also into chemicals, minerals, paper products, and commodities trading, employing 100,000 people in more than 60 countries. And it controls one to two million acres of Alberta’s tar sands, the third largest reserve of oil in the world.
MIKE CASEY: The Kochs are a vertically-integrated fossil fuel conglomerate and they have a vertically-integrated influence-peddling apparatus to go with it.
DANNY GLOVER: Indeed, the Kochs are more than just about selling oil. One of the goals of the Koch political network is to get Republicans elected to office, and the occasional Democrat.
KERT DAVIES: They have a vast network now, a political network that rivals the other parties. They’re bigger than the Republican party and the Democratic party, in their organizing might.
NEWS REPORT: Senator Ron Johnson will beat back a challenge from Democrat Russ Feingold, in a …
DANNY GLOVER: During last November’s election, the Kochs spent hundreds of millions of dollars on key Congressional and Senate seats.
NEWS REPORT: Republicans from all across the country are going to be marching to your door to figure out how you came from, what, a 10-point deficit …
DANNY GLOVER: Which was likely critical for the Republicans retaining control of both chambers of Congress.
ROB PORTMAN: You know, we won because of the work we did for the people of Ohio.
KENNETH VOGEL: Even as the Kochs were not a major factor in their direct spending on the presidential race, the infrastructure that they set up around the country did have an impact on getting voters, getting their type of voters, out to the polls, and that probably did have an impact on not only the Senate race, but also even in the presidential race.
CHARLIE CRAY: They supported and focused on about eight Senate campaigns, and I believe, seven of the eight that they supported won. Most of these were fairly critical Senate seats.
NEWS REPORT: This monster of a storm system is the remnants of a powerful Pacific typhoon.
DANNY GLOVER: While Trump and the Republicans, with the encouragement of the Koch brothers, are rolling back climate change measures, global temperatures keep climbing.
NEWS REPORT: Australia’s record-breaking heat wave is continuing to fuel outbreaks of wildfires across scores of thousands of hectares in the southeast of the country.
MIKE CASEY: The worst predictions keep coming true, so you’re looking at an unprecedented drought in the west, you’re looking at extreme weather all over the place.
NEWS REPORT: The water level at Oradell reservoir is nearly immeasurable.
DANNY GLOVER: Four years ago, carbon dioxide passed 400 parts per million in the atmosphere, the highest level in more than four million years. Scientists now forecast temperatures will rise 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century.
MIKE CASEY: The science around global climate disruption is 97%.
DANNY GLOVER: While NASA predicts this will mean more severe weather and impact on communities worldwide, the US Republican-controlled Congress and Senate refuse to take action, voting down the McCain-Lieberman climate change bills and refusing to vote on the Paris Agreement.
CHARLIE CRAY: United States Congress is the single biggest obstacle to the global resolution of climate change.
DANNY GLOVER: The U.S. Congress and Senate’s inaction on climate change was by design.
MICHAEL MANN: That gulf between scientific opinion and public opinion has been bought with hundreds of millions of dollars of special interest money.
MIKE PENCE: In the mainstream media, Chris, there is denial of the growing skepticism in the scientific community about global warming.
DANNY GLOVER: The campaign to sow doubt about climate change and prevent meaningful action began decades ago, particularly as the science became more certain.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: If your party wants to be credible with science, you gotta accept science, do you? Accept science.
MIKE PENCE: I always wanted to play in “Inherit the Wind”.
DANNY GLOVER: In 1988, NASA climatologist James Hansen testified in front of Congress.
JAMES HANSEN: The greenhouse effect has been detected, and it is changing our climate now.
DANNY GLOVER: Climatologists like Michael Mann at Penn State University discovered that temperatures had risen by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 1800s. Two-thirds of that warming has occurred since 1975.
MICHAEL MANN: The observations were showing that there was a prominent warming trend in the data that was outside of what we would expect from natural climate variability.
DANNY GLOVER: Yet, long before climate scientists began raising alarm about global warming in the 1980s and ‘90s, scientists who worked with the oil industry had realized years earlier that burning fossil fuels would cause climate change.
KATHY MULVEY: From what we understand the oil industry was aware of climate impacts and climate science decades ago. Exxon Mobil in particular was actually conducting cutting-edge climate science research decades ago.
DANNY GLOVER: Exxon scientists warned the company this warming was caused by burning fossil fuels and that the consequences would be catastrophic.
But Exxon, along with other oil companies, hid this information from the public.
KATHY MULVEY: The oil industry embarked on a campaign of deception and disinformation.
NAOMI ORESKES: The whole strategy is about creating doubt, making the public, making politicians, making political leaders feel that we don’t really know for sure whether or not this is a problem.
DANNY GLOVER: Harvard University science historian Naomi Oreskes studies how the oil industry creates doubt about climate change.
NAOMI ORESKES: So, if you can create doubt in people’s minds, you can delay action. So that’s what this is all about.
ALIYA HAQ: During the ‘90s and the 2000s, Exxon Mobil and a number of oil companies were well-known for funding climate denial activities.
DANNY GLOVER: The oil industry uses the same methods and even the very same public relations firms that tobacco companies employed to spread doubt about the dangers of smoking.
NAOMI ORESKES: We do know that some of the key people who began challenging climate science, who began denying climate science in the late 1980’s had previously worked for the tobacco industry.
We know that they began to use the same strategies and tactics, often the same arguments, the same vocabulary.
DANNY GLOVER: The driving force behind spreading doubt was the American Petroleum Institute. API is the lobbying arm of the oil industry. In 1998, API wrote an internal memo that said: “Victory will be achieved when average citizens understand uncertainties in climate science.”
JANE MAYER: The industry at large spent something like over a half-billion dollars, sort of disseminating doubt and basically trying to confuse people in the United States.
DANNY GLOVER: High effort companies like Exxon eventually stopped financing climate denial groups, because of pressure from the environmental organizations.
KERT DAVIES: Exxon had to back off and in about 2005, ’06, and ’07, they stopped funding the very groups that they had been sending millions to in the years prior, and they dropped them like a hot potato. In the meantime, the Koch money came in.
DANNY GLOVER: The Koch brothers quickly filled the void with even harsher methods.
GREENPEACE VIDEO: Perhaps their greatest achievement is helping convince the world that global warming doesn’t exist.
DANNY GLOVER: Greenpeace soon dubbed the brothers’ apparatus the “Climate Change Denial Machine”.
KERT DAVIES: It’s a network of corporations and think tanks, front groups.
MIKE CASEY: They are arguably the biggest sugar daddies of the fossil fuel front groups that have gotten tremendous traction.
DANNY GLOVER: Charles Koch has said that, “Even if the planet is warming, it would not have catastrophic consequences”, and argues climate scientists’ models for future warming are faulty.
ALIYA HAQ: The Koch brothers have spent, at this point, $80 million on climate denial front groups. That money has been focused at both the federal and state level.
DANNY GLOVER: The Koch brothers politics were shaped by their father, Fred Koch, a chemical engineer who grew up in Texas, and seems to have had few scruples. Back in the 1930s, Fred invented a new kind of technology to refine oil.
JANE MAYER: He had a hard time getting work in the U.S., and so he tried to find work elsewhere in the world and ended up selling his process to very unlikely sources.
DANNY GLOVER: Jane Mayer is an investigative reporter for the New Yorker magazine in Washington, DC, and author of “Dark Money,” a bestselling book about the Koch brothers.
JANE MAYER: Quite ironically, given that Fred Koch became one of America’s most right-wing anti-communists, he made the beginning of his fortune by setting up oil refineries for Josef Stalin.
DANNY GLOVER: Another early customer for Fred’s technology were the Nazis in Germany, after 1933.
JANE MAYER: He ended up building a refinery for Adolf Hitler that had to be greenlighted specifically for Hitler after he became Chancellor in Germany. It became very important during World War II.
DANNY GLOVER: Fred eventually set up Koch Industries in Kansas, invested in oil refineries. He had four sons. Two of them, Charles and David, eventually took over running his company.
JANE MAYER: Charles Koch has always been the dominant brother in the family. He’s domineering, he’s smart, and he’s ruthless. His younger brother, David, has been more good-natured and going along with him.
DANNY GLOVER: But the brothers also embraced their father’s distaste for government regulation.
KERT DAVIES: They don’t like the government, and they want the government to be smaller and disabled. That would help their business a lot, if there was fewer regulations.
DANNY GLOVER: Still, by the 1990’s, the brothers realized they needed clout in Washington.
JANE MAYER: Koch Industries is becoming a huge company. It’s a fossil fuel company with a horrendous record for environmental violations, and it runs smack into the new regulations that are being imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency beginning in the ‘80s.
DANNY GLOVER: The Kochs wanted to change those laws.
NEWS REPORT: The 1996 presidential campaign-
DANNY GLOVER: To do that, they set their sights on influencing the Republican party.
JANE MAYER: It’s 1996. David Koch at this point goes from trashing conventional politicians to becoming the Vice Chair of Bob Dole’s presidential bid on the Republican Party ticket.
Archive Footage: You’ll get a better feel of who Bob Dole is and what he’s all about.
NAOMI ORESKES: It was a big fight within the Republican party at that time about whether or not Republicans should accept the reality of climate change and look to market base solutions to fix it, or whether they should deny it. One of the things that we know is that there was tremendous lobbying and advertising from the fossil fuel industry on the denial side.
DANNY GLOVER: At the very time of that internal debate, the Kochs built a network of at least 17 think tanks and front groups to influence the entire political system. Often referred to as “the Kochtopus”.
CHARLIE CRAY: The Kochs have created a multi-dimensional political apparatus to create a tectonic shift in American politics.
ROBERT MAGUIRE: The single most important thing to understand about the Koch network today is that it is unparalleled in its complexity.
DANNY GLOVER: Today the Kochs fund a wide range of organizations, from the National Rifle Association, the Cato Institute, Heritage Fund, US Chamber of Commerce, DonorsTrust, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, but its most powerful weapon is an organization called Americans for Prosperity.
JANE MAYER: Americans for Prosperity is now the primary political front group that the Kochs founded and fund. It’s just become a guerrilla army that is almost like a third party in the United States now.
DANNY GLOVER: Housed in this office tower in Arlington, Virginia, just across the river from Washington, DC, Americans for Prosperity strikes fear into the hearts of politicians.
KERT DAVIES: When Obama was elected, they emerged as the key force in driving the Tea Party. They grabbed it and they corporitized it.
DANNY GLOVER: And appears on Fox News regularly.
FOX NEWS REPORT: What we’re gonna have if this climate change legislation passes, this cap and trade, are gas prices through the roof today.
DANNY GLOVER: Today, the Kochs’ political apparatus spends hundreds of millions of dollars during elections.
MARCO RUBIO: Thank you very much. Thank you.
DANNY GLOVER: And puts out tens of thousands of TV advertisements to get their chosen Republicans elected.
POLITICAL AD: Kay Hagan, taking care of Washington insiders.
ROBERT MAGUIRE: The largest purpose of that money was to change control of Congress. To change control of the presidency. To elect Republicans.
DANNY GLOVER: All told, Koch money has gone to more than half of all Senators and nearly 40% of all Congressmen. While it’s still not known exactly the total they spent in the 2016 election, it’s estimated to have been more than half a billion dollars.
KENNETH VOGEL: When the Kochs estimate how much they’re going to spend, it’s always sort of a dicey proposition because they end up raising and spending a lot more money than they say is for just overt partisan politics, and they say, “This is for issue-based advocacy.”
DANNY GLOVER: Either way, it’s a huge increase from the 40 million dollars Americans for Prosperity spent in 2010 to help Republicans win control of Congress during the mid-terms.
ROBERT MAGUIRE: In 2012, it had $400 million, which was well above anything it had had prior to that.
DANNY GLOVER: And in 2014, they spent $290 million to help the Republicans win control of the Senate.
POLITICAL AD: You have sold West Virginia out. Families are suffering.
ROBERT MAGUIRE: We know that Americans for Prosperity, just to name one group, had run 33,000 ads in tight Senate races around the country.
DANNY GLOVER: The Kochs also hold conclaves twice a year, inviting fellow billionaires and hitting them up for cash.
JANE MAYER: That club grew from just a few members in 2003 to now 400-450 of the richest, most conservative businessmen and women in America, and it’s attracted all kinds of important dignitaries, too.
DANNY GLOVER: Including Supreme Court justices and Republican stars like Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio.
MIKE PENCE: This is a great day for energy independence.
DANNY GLOVER: And Mike Pence, the current Vice President.
ROBERT MAGUIRE: So, as a major donor, you get to spend a weekend chatting with the person who’s going to be making policy that could drastically affect your bottom line.
DANNY GLOVER: One of the key purposes of this political apparatus is to ensure that no legislation is passed to curb the burning of fossil fuels.
CHARLIE CRAY: The Kochs have gotten over 170 members of the House to take a pledge that they will never support any legislation that places a tax on carbon.
KERT DAVIES: So they screwed up the entire House of Representatives for years.
DANNY GLOVER: The Kochs’ influence on the Republicans on climate change is powerful.
NAOMI ORESKES: We had period where a number of important Republican leaders again, were coming to the fore, saying this was real.
DANNY GLOVER: By 2008, leading figures in the party, such as Mitt Romney, Senator John McCain, and Republican House Leader Newt Gingrich were calling for action on global warming. Gingrich even appeared in this ad with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, calling for steps to be taken.
NANCY PELOSI: We don’t always see eye to eye, do we Newt?
NEWT GINGRICH: No, but we do agree, our country must take action to address climate change.
NAOMI ORESKES: And then there was tremendous pushback from the Americans for Prosperity, which as many people know, is the Koch brothers-funded political movement.
DANNY GLOVER: Indeed, in 2011, Gingrich renounced the ad.
NEWT GINGRICH: First of all, it’s probably the dumbest single thing I’ve done.
KERT DAVIES: I think they saw that as a bigger threat than Al Gore or Bill Clinton or anything on the left.
ALIYA HAQ: And unfortunately, you saw a number of Republicans that once supported climate action, suddenly rushing that back.
DANNY GLOVER: And Republicans who refused to toe the line, such as Bob Inglis, a conservative Congressman from South Carolina, pay a heavy price. Inglis had become convinced that climate change was real.
JANE MAYER: So when the evidence was in front of his own eyes, he changed his point of view and he started speaking out about climate change.
DANNY GLOVER: In 2010, when Inglis was running again for Congress, Americans for Prosperity swung into action to win the primary.
KERT DAVIES: And he lost badly, to a very under-qualified candidate who the Koch machine brought in. So, he was then hung up in the public square as an icon of what happens when a Republican turns good on climate change.
DANNY GLOVER: Another one of those icons, for example, was climate scientist Michael Mann at Penn State University, authored the famous ‘Hockey Stick Curve’ that visibly showed how humans had impacted climate change going back centuries. In 2005, Mann was attacked by a member of Congress.
MICHAEL MANN: Joe Barton decided to use his authority as the Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold hearings, to subpoena my personal records, all of my personal emails.
DANNY GLOVER: Yet Greenpeace soon revealed that Barton, a Republican Congressman, received money from the Kochs’ political action committee.
MICHAEL MANN: And they attempted to smear me in op-eds and conservative-leaning newspapers.
DANNY GLOVER: While the Kochs were attacking legitimate climate scientists, they were funding scientists who denied global warming was caused by burning fossil fuels.
WEI-HOCK SOON: And I’ve been receiving money from whoever that wants to give me money.
NAOMI ORESKES: One of the key strategies is to recruit either scientists or people who pretend to be scientists. Sometimes they are actually scientists but rarely scientists in the particular field.
DANNY GLOVER: One example is Wei-Hock Soon, at the Harvard Center for Astrophysics. He believes that climate change is caused by variations in the sun, and not CO2, and that more carbon in the atmosphere is good for growing plants.
KERT DAVIES: We sent a Freedom of Information Act request in to the Smithsonian and we requested who was funding him, and eventually after years of discussion, got back a list of his grants.
SPEAKER: Who is funding your grants, just in your …
DANNY GLOVER: In total, Soon received $1.2 million from the oil industry, a large portion of which have come from the Koch brothers.
NAOMI ORESKES: In the correspondence between him and the industry, he speaks specifically about deliverables, about particular products, particular papers, making particular arguments that the fossil fuel industry wants.
DANNY GLOVER: And yet Soon has no training as a climate scientist. His background is aerospace engineering.
SPEAKER: Dr. Soon has already talked about those issues on the stage today and in the past.
NAOMI ORESKES: When he was asked, he says, “Well, these are my authentic beliefs, I’m not being paid to say anything I don’t believe,” and that may well be true. The point is though that he is a complete outlier science. He has views that are shared by almost no one in the scientific community.
REPORTER: Mr. Koch. Excuse me, Mr. Koch, I have a question.
KOCH BROTHER: Come on, get to it.
REPORTER: You’re wanted for climate crimes.
DANNY GLOVER: The Kochs’ funding of climate denial has not always gone smoothly. Physicist Dr. Richard Muller of the University of California Berkeley, was a global warming skeptic who the Kochs backed. But in 2012, Muller produced a study that concluded global warming was caused by carbon dioxide.
RICHARD MULLER: I was flabbergasted. Not only was global warming real, and roughly consistent with what the previous groups had said, but the match to carbon dioxide … and the fact that solar variability was not responsible.
DANNY GLOVER: All of this activity to generate doubt is effective. According to a Yale survey, 70% of Americans believe global warming is real, but only 53% of those people think it’s caused by human activity. Just 16% think climate change is something to be very worried about.
NAOMI ORESKES: I think we have very, very strong evidence in this case to support the conclusion that these campaigns have been highly impactful. So, until quite recently, many Americans have thought that the science was unsettled, even though scientists will tell you that it’s been settled for 20 years. So why would they think that?
DANNY GLOVER: As a result, politicians are not taking action, and that includes Democrats. Even when the Democrats control both Houses of Congress, they did little to address the crisis.
NAOMI ORESKES: Most Republicans in Congress, and even some Democrats, are very, very afraid to try to do something about climate, for fear that they will be targeted by fossil fuel interests, and that they could lose their seats.
DONALD TRUMP: America will start winning again. Winning like never before.
DANNY GLOVER: The election of Donald Trump means fighting climate change in the United States has become more difficult than ever. After all, David Koch attended Trump’s election victory party. But most significantly, one-third of Trump’s transition team was made up of people who were linked to the Koch brothers’ vast political network.
KENNETH VOGEL: Some of the folks who had a pivotal role in Trump’s campaign, his transition, and now his presidency, who have Koch network ties include Donald Trump’s very first campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, his vice president Mike Pence, his Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short, his Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, all the way down to Andrew Bremberg, the Domestic Policy Director who worked at Freedom Partners, actually putting together the executive orders that the Koch network would like a theoretical Republican president to sign.
DANNY GLOVER: Other important Koch-linked Trump officials include his former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Trump’s campaign manager and current advisor Kellyanne Conway, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo.
SCOTT PRUITT: I believe that we as an agency, and we as a nation, can be both pro-energy and jobs, and pro-environment.
DANNY GLOVER: And already Trump and its new head, Scott Pruitt, want to cut the EPA budget by as much as 30%. Pruitt played a key role in persuading Trump to pull out of the Paris Accord.
SCOTT PRUITT: You have corrected a view that was paramount in Paris, that somehow the United States should penalize its own economy, be apologetic, lead with our chin, while the rest of the world does little.
KENNETH VOGEL: The Kochs see Scott Pruitt as someone who is going to strip away some of the climate regulations that they see as limiting job growth, and it should be said, limiting their own company’s ability to do some of the things that it wants to do.
DANNY GLOVER: And even if Donald Trump is removed from office before his term ends, waiting in the wings to replace him is Vice President Mike Pence, a strong champion of the Koch brothers’ interests.
ALIYA HAQ: This is not the way our democracy should be working. Incredibly powerful, rich people who spend this kind of money should be held accountable.
MICHAEL MANN: They have polluted our public discourse, they have skewed media coverage of the science of climate change, they have paid off politicians.
ALIYA HAQ: Considering what this means for our health, for our kids’ futures, for our planet, it is unconscionable that the Koch brothers are denying climate change and fueling this kind of anti-climate activity.
NEWS REPORT: The situation in Antarctica offers cause for concern as well.
DANNY GLOVER: Scientists now fear if action is not taken to drastically cut greenhouse emissions soon, global warming will run out of control, with major extinctions around the globe, large coastal cities such as New York and Tokyo underwater, and wars and conflict due to mass migration of people becoming the norm.
MICHAEL MANN: The number of lives that will be lost because of the damaging impacts of climate change, in the hundreds of millions. To me, it’s not just a crime against humanity, it’s a crime against the planet.
DANNY GLOVER: In October 2016, seven of the world’s top climate scientists warned the planet is on track to sail past the two degrees Celsius threshold for dangerous global warming by 2050. Even if all the countries that signed the Paris Accords fulfill their pledge, that model was created before a climate crisis denier was elected President of the United States.