Senators Call Out Web of Denial Blocking Action on Climate Change
Nineteen Senators expose fossil fuel-funded groups involved in a campaign to deny climate facts and stymie climate legislation
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Washington, D.C. – Throughout the week on the Senate floor, Senate Democrats called out various trade associations, foundations, and organizations for perpetrating a sprawling web of misdirection and disinformation to block action on climate change. The Senators’ remarks detailed the concerted campaign waged by the Koch brothers, major fossil fuel companies, identity-scrubbing groups like Donors Trust and Donors Capital, and their allies to manipulate the public’s perception of the climate crisis and curtail legislative action to address it.
Participating senators included Harry Reid (D-NV), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Jack Reed (D-RI), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Edward Markey (D-MA), and Gary Peters (D-MI).
Despite polling that shows over 80 percent of Americans favor action to reduce carbon pollution, Congress has failed to pass comprehensive climate legislation. The 19 Senators delivered over five and half hours of remarks describing the activities, backers, and affiliates of 32 denier groups. Each Senator called out one or more organizations, including the Advancement of Sound Science Center; the Acton Institute; Americans for Prosperity; American Legislative Exchange Council; the American Petroleum Institute; the Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy; the Cato Institute; the Center for Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the Competitive Enterprise Institute; the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation; the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity; the George C. Marshall Institute; the Global Climate Coalition; the Heartland Institute; the Heritage Foundation; the Hoover Institution; the Hudson Institute; the James Madison Institute; the John Locke Foundation; the Lexington Institute; the Locke Institute; the Manhattan Institute; the Mercatus Center; the Nevada Policy Research Institute; the Pacific Research Institute; the Reason Foundation; the Science and Public Policy Institute; the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy; the Virginia Institute for Public Policy; and the Western Fuels Association.
During his remarks, Senator Markey said, “Even as the science of climate change has become almost incontrovertible, climate policies have gotten trapped in a web of denial. Exxon, the Koch brothers, Peabody coal and their fossil fuel cronies whose profits might suffer under rules to reduce carbon pollution have had a vested interest in stopping climate action and have engaged in a decades-long campaign of deceit. But no matter what lies and misinformation the climate deniers try to peddle, the facts, the moral authority and the economic opportunities are with us. We can and will create a clean energy revolution that increases jobs as it cuts pollution.”
Senator Whitehouse, who organized the web of denial floor speeches, said during his remarks that he and his colleagues sought to “shine a little light on the web of climate denial and spotlight the bad actors in the web, who are polluting our American discourse with phony climate denial. This web of denial, formed over decades, has been built and provisioned by the deep-pocketed Koch brothers, by ExxonMobil, by Peabody coal, and by other fossil fuel interests. It is a grim shadow over our democracy in that it includes an electioneering effort that spends hundreds of millions of dollars in a single election cycle and threatens any Republican who steps up to address the global threat of climate change. . . . [I]t is long past time we shed some light on the perpetrators of this web of denial and expose their filthy grip on our political process. It is a disgrace, and our grandchildren will look back at this as a dirty time in America’s political history because of their work.”
“It is clear that no country can avoid the impacts of climate change, and no country can meet this challenge alone,” said Senator Reed. “As a nation that has contributed more than a quarter of all global carbon pollution, it is our responsibility to lead, not to deny. As a nation already feeling the effects and costs of climate change, it is also in our national interest to do so. As we have seen time and again, other countries would join us if America leads the way – not by denial, but by dedication to pragmatic solutions that can be achieved.”
“It’s getting harder and harder to stop these outside groups from spreading their smear campaigns. These groups have an interest in making sure Congress never gets anything done to prevent climate change. And they are using our broken campaign finance system as a tool to keep it that way,” Senator Udall said in his remarks. “We need to fix the system. Poll after poll shows that our constituents – across the political spectrum – want reforms, tackling climate change, eliminating dark money from our politics, and standing up to groups that distort public perceptions. It’s time we listened. Our democracy and our environment are at stake.”
“We can and must pass legislative solutions to address global climate change,” said Senator Peters. “Transitioning away from fossil fuels and investing in renewable energy will create sustainable, good-paying jobs here in the United States. Taking bold action on climate change will strengthen our public health, our economy, and our national security. We must wake up and realize that those attempting to mislead and confuse must not be successful.”
Watch Senator Reid’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Boxer’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Durbin’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Reed’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Schumer’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Cardin’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Udall’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Shaheen’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Merkley’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Franken’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Coons’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Blumenthal’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Schatz’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Heinrich’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Kaine’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Warren’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Markey’s remarks HERE.
Watch Senator Peters’s remarks HERE.
As part of their effort to draw attention to the web of denial, Senators Whitehouse, Markey, Schatz, Boxer, Merkley, Warren, Franken, and Bernard Sanders (I-VT) also introduced a resolution describing and condemning the efforts of corporations and groups to mislead the public about the harmful effects of tobacco, lead, and climate change. The resolution urges fossil fuel corporations and their allies to cooperate with investigations into their climate-related activities. Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) introduced the resolution in the House, which is cosponsored by Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) and 13 colleagues.