David Koch, Charles Koch, caricatures
David and Charles Koch caricatures Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Classic Who: Will the Radical War on Science Transform America?

Fatal Combination: Big Oil, Right Wing Politicians, Corporations, Ignorant Public


With Donald Trump taking office in two weeks and Congress controlled by a GOP majority with a record of dismissing science, this alarming essay from Peter Dale Scott on the War on Science is more important now than ever before.

Sometimes we run a story that has a certain message at the time of publication but it then takes on a different significance down the road. We saw this just last week when we re-ran our article on how alleged terrorists throughout the world seem to have one thing in common: They conveniently tend to leave behind an ID at the scene of the crime.

The following piece from Peter Dale Scott is another great example. We only ran the story half a year ago but now, with Donald Trump and his oil-friendly cabinet set to take the reins of the country, Scott’s insights take on an entirely new meaning.

The scientific confirmation of a human factor in global warming is accepted by a majority of Americans as well as scientists, yet those in power have produced only the Paris climate agreement, with fine goals but little to guarantee reaching them.

The lack of decisive leadership can be attributed to the furious counter-attack from parts of our society that are path dependent on fossil fuels and the internal combustion engine.

At the core of this counter-attack has been an effort to challenge these scientific findings themselves, sometimes referred to as a “war on science.” There have been three phases to this war: governmental (silencing scientists), corporate (challenging the findings), and now radical (seeking to restructure our society and the role of science in it).

As oil majors begin to accept the Paris goals and invest in renewable energy, leadership in the attack on science has passed to the brothers Charles and David Koch, super billionaires whose wealth is tied up with exploitation of extreme energy: the environmentally damaging Alberta tar sands. From 2008 to 2015, under Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper from Alberta, 2000 environmental scientists were fired, and decades of research were discarded, sometimes in landfill.

Scientists must take steps to insure this does not happen in America. The work of atomic scientists at international meetings like Pugwash, leading to the 1986 disarmament agreement at Reykjavik, could be a model for NASA scientists, faced with dangerous new military ventures in space, and a war at home on science itself.

Will the Radical War on Science Transform America?


“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” Donald Trump[1]

“Our movement must destroy the prevalent statist paradigm.” Charles Koch[2]

Can one imagine an America which in two or three years has fired thousands of environmental scientists, and dumped their decades of recorded data into landfill, just to preserve a fossil fuel economy that scientists have proven to be unsustainable?

My heart, always impressed by American kindness and generosity, assures me that such a thought is nonsense. But my researches persuade me that, unless scientists mobilize urgently to defend their mission and legacy, such an outcome is in fact quite likely. After all, we have just seen such firings of scientists and destruction of records in Canada, another kind and generous country.

After many years of writing about covert wars and other aspects of deep politics, I have for the first time begun to deal with the urgent issue of global warming, and the still more immediate threat from those enemies determined to fight science, in order to preserve our society’s path dependence on fossil fuels. I am speaking specifically about the brothers Charles and David Koch, who have climate scientists in their sights.

Path Dependence in the Government and on Wall Street


Path dependence has been defined as “a positive, self-reinforcing regime… that eventually locks in a particular process or organizational outcome that is usually considered inefficient.”[3] Path dependence is as natural as our own genes, which preserve in each of us a coccyx or tailbone, the remnant of a vestigial tail. An often-cited example is the QWERTY keyboard, entrenched in the market even though long criticized as inefficient.[4]

It is found in all large bureaucracies, which tend to be inertia-ridden and risk-averse. Without using the term, I have described in my books how path dependence has prevented the CIA and Pentagon from breaking out of their traditional responses and alliances, and thus prolonging a Cold War on which their survival has curiously come to depend.

After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1990-91, for example, the CIA, against instructions, continued for at least two years to support and prolong a war it had waged using Pakistan-sponsored client terrorists, some of whom subsequently became known as al-Qaeda. The CIA did so even though, as the US Ambassador Tomsen told the CIA Station Chief in Islamabad, the CIA now “was violating fundamental U.S policy precepts agreed to in Washington.”[5]

When we look at non-governmental institutions, we also see the major problems arising from locked-in path dependence — as in the financial meltdown of 2008. A Wall Street Journal reporter, Gregory Zuckerman, has analyzed the disastrous persistence of Wall Street banks and hedge funds in seeking profits from real estate, long after the press had begun to report on the “housing bubble,” and a bestselling book by a leading financial economist, Irrational Exuberance, had warned of the dangerous consequences.[6] Only outsiders could see the writing on the wall; those trapped inside the financial giants continued to rely on the bad advice they extracted from their elaborate models.

Today “nothing fundamental has changed,” according to Mervin King, the former governor of the Bank of England, and banks continue to convert deposits into risky long-term investments. Thus to prevent another meltdown “requires radical reforms,” including obliging major banks to maintain enough equity to cover losses without taxpayer support.[7]

These radical reforms are not going to happen, as long as we have the problem of gridlock in Washington. Instead we are likely to see a further increase in income disparity, concentrating more and more wealth and power in the hands of a few super billionaires like the Kochs. All large societies (as in Russia, India, and China) tend to produce these concentrations of wealth and power in the hands of a few. The results can be can be threatening to the social equilibrium and stability of society as a whole, as the examples of tsarist Russia and Weimar Germany should persuade us.[8]

I hope to show that these problems of political gridlock and income disparity are now part of, and aggravated by, the crisis we face from global warming.


Galileo Demonstrating the New Astronomical Theories at the University of Padua

Path Dependence and the Global Warming Challenge


A major factor in the problem of global warming is the failure of our society, as a whole, to break out of its unsustainable path dependence on fossil fuels and the internal combustion engine.[9]

Thanks to the energetic efforts of scientists at NASA and elsewhere, Gallup was able to report this March that “65 of percent of Americans believe global warming is caused primarily by human activities, and that 59 percent believe the effects of climate change have already begun.”[10] These majorities are of course far higher among professional scientists, and growing.[11]

In a healthy democratic society, these majorities would translate into social remedies. But as we all know this is not happening. Instead we are facing an election where the leading Republican candidate, Donald Trump [Note from editor: Scott wrote this before the election.], has tweeted that “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop.”[12] We hear a quite different rhetoric from the leading Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. But she has worked closely with energy companies to spread fracking around the globe, and voted in favor of a bill opening new Gulf Coast areas to offshore oil drilling.[13]

In the absence of vigorous leadership, those responsible for dealing with climate change are finding it almost impossible to break with past behavior. This was illustrated by the Paris climate agreement of last December, which combined an aspirational limit of 1.5C of global warming, with concessions in practice that are “likely to commit us to levels of climate breakdown that will be dangerous to all and lethal to some.” As George Monbiot commented in The Guardian, ‘In comparison to what it could have been, [the agreement is] a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”[14]

Even the first timid steps towards dealing with the problem, such as Obama’s failed “cap-and-trade” proposals, were not just defeated, they provoked a furious counter-reaction in America which stymied the president and completely restructured one of the two political parties. This counter-reaction enhanced an increasingly well-funded war on climate science.

For over a decade there has been a spate of books about this war on science. But I am disappointed to see that one of the best and most recent of these books, This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, seems completely unaware that since 2012 this war has entered a radically new and far more dangerous phase. (The index to Klein’s masterful overview lists only three page entries for the Koch brothers, as opposed to 19 for Exxon and ExxonMobil. Of the three, only one refers to the Kochs alone; the other two discuss the Kochs and Exxon as a single force.)[15]

My purpose today is to tell you about this radical new war on science, and to suggest what scientists and intellectuals can do to fight it.

The First Governmental War on Science


Let us briefly recapitulate earlier phases of this war on climate science. In one sense the war on science is as old, and as American, as apple pie (recall the Scopes trial of the 1920s). And Jimmy Carter’s science-driven environmental reforms were a major reason the oil industry helped defeat him in 1980, after which Reagan overrode much of the Carter environmental agenda.[16]

But the first time an all-out war on science was waged officially from the White House was in 2001, when Vice President Dick Cheney oversaw the appointment of political ideologues to oversee various government agencies. As a consequence, in June 2003, when EPA scientists prepared a report on climate change, political appointees went so far as to demand deletion of a sentence stating that “climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment.”[17]

The same pressures were felt in NASA. NASA scientist James Hansen told The New York Times in 2006 that

he was threatened with “dire consequences” if he continued to call for prompt action to limit emissions of heat-trapping gases linked to global warming. He and intermediaries in the agency’s 350-member public-affairs staff said the warnings came from White House appointees in NASA headquarters.[18]

Hansen himself also accused NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe of telling him in a 2003 meeting that he shouldn’t talk “about dangerous anthropogenic interference” — humans’ influence on the atmosphere — “because we do not know enough or have enough evidence for what would constitute dangerous anthropogenic interference.”[19] Two years later, Hansen’s charges of NASA interference were upheld in a 48-page report from NASA’s Inspector General, which found that “such activities occurred and were ‘inconsistent’ with the law that established the space program 50 years ago.”[20]

The Corporate War on Science


The waging of war from the White House ended with election of Obama in 2008, and his reiteration that he would, “as he promised during the campaign, make global warming a top priority.”[21] But Obama’s promises to confront the challenge of climate change had the effect of intensifying the corporate war on science. This had been waged for over a decade by energy corporations like ExxonMobil, coordinated by the American Petroleum Institute, and funded by the wealthy Scaife, Olin, and Bradley Foundations.[22]

After Obama introduced his first ill-fated “cap-and-trade” bill in 2009, the war on science became much dirtier. For example, when freshman congressman Tom Perriello announced his support for the bill,

constituents started bombarding his office with angry missives…. But an effort by the Congressman’s staff to reach the angry constituents revealed that the letters were forgeries, sent on behalf of a coal industry trade group by Bonner and Associates, a Washington-based public relations firm.[23]

Increasingly the war on science became a war on scientists. A prominent but not unique case was that of Michael Mann, as he recounts in his book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars. Mann was investigated, was denounced in Congress, got death threats, was accused of fraud, received white powder in the mail, and got thousands of emails with suggestions like, You should be “shot, quartered, and fed to the pigs along with your whole damn families.”[24]

Recently however some of the largest publicly-traded oil corporations, like BP, Shell and Chevron, are beginning to invest in renewable energy, in view of the unanimous agreement in Paris last December that most of the world fossil fuels must be left in the ground. Notably, the CEO of Shell told the BBC last year that “Solar energy will comprise the backbone of the world’s energy system in years to come.”[25] (ExxonMobil remains a holdout: its CEO last year told shareholders his firm hadn’t invested in renewable energy because “We choose not to lose money on purpose.”)[26]

The Slow Emergence of the Radical War on Science


The intensification of dirty tricks against science and scientists reflected a progressive shift in the structure of the anti-science movement. ExxonMobil, hitherto a leader, had made a public pledge in 2007 to stop funding climate contrarian groups.[27] Increasingly the predominant funding of anti-science was shifting from publicly-traded corporations (and its trade association the American Petroleum Institute) to a small group of personal billionaires meeting regularly under the iron-handed leadership of the brothers Charles and David Koch.[28] In 2014 Forbes named the Koch brothers two of the world’s wealthiest billionaires, each with an estimated net worth of $41.4 billion.

The Kochs’ journey into radical politics began when they joined the John Birch Society, of which their father Fred Koch had been a founding member and funder.

As far back as 1976, Charles Koch… began planning a movement that could sweep the country. As a former member of the John Birch Society, he had a radical goal. In 1978, he declared, “Our movement must destroy the prevalent statist paradigm.”[29]

The brothers’ views were so far to the right of Goldwaterite conservatives like Reagan and William Buckley that David Koch actually ran on the Libertarian ticket against Reagan in 1980. “At the time, the conservative icon William F. Buckley dismissed their views as ‘Anarcho-Totalitarianism’.”[30]

The Kochs’ goal in fighting science, and in creating what one of their allies called a “counter-intelligentsia,” was thus only part of their ambitious ideological goal to remake America. It was thus radically different from the goal of American corporations, which is to protect the status quo, including their access, for as long as possible, to cheap fossil fuels.

Extreme Energy and the Kochs’ Extreme Politics


The Kochs’ economic motivation can be distinguished from that of the oil majors in another respect too. Their privately-held family corporation, Koch Industries, is deeply involved in the development of the Canadian tar sands — in other words, in the exploitation of extreme energy.[31]

Extreme energy is often considered as a category into which can be consigned all the new, more intensive and environmentally destructive energy extraction methods that have been spreading across the globe in recent years — methods such as ‘tar sands’ open-cast mining (also called the ‘oil sands’), mountaintop removal, deep water drilling, shale gas extraction by hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) and coalbed methane (also called coal seam gasification).[32]

Like other forms of extreme energy, tar sands oil production is particularly detrimental to the environment. It has been the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, and has greatly increased the country’s contribution to global warming.[33]

They are also costly to exploit. “Alberta’s oilsands hold the world’s third-largest crude reserves but also have some of the highest breakeven costs globally because of energy-intensive production methods.”[34] This makes tar sands oil marginal in a fluctuating market — profitable only when oil prices remain high because of heavy demand. The slide in crude oil prices in 2015 “left many Canadian oil sands producers selling their oil at a loss, with some analysts predicting even more pain in 2016.”[35]

Exploitation of extreme energy, in other words, requires extreme politics on the matter of climate change. In contrast, some of the oil majors are beginning to adjust to a gradual withering away of fossil fuel demand. (Increasingly there is a new consensus that oil demand may peak about 2030.[36]) The Kochs, profiting from extreme energy, are not making this adjustment.

Thus it is important to distinguish between the corporate war on science, which is path dependent but relatively limited, and the radical war on science which has been gradually supplanting it. The first difference is in the amount of money devoted to fighting science. Greenpeace estimates that the Koch Brothers “have sent at least $79,048,951 to groups denying climate change science since 1997…. increasingly hiding money through nonprofits like [the Koch-sponsored] Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund.”[37] According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top single energy-sector spender on lobbying in 2014 was the privately-held Koch Industries, Inc., ahead of the far larger publicly-traded corporations like ExxonMobil and Occidental.[38]

A second difference is in the tactics the Kochs have used to fight science, tactics so heavy-handed they have divided and restructured the Republican Party to remake it in their image. The Kochs have, through Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group they back, succeeded in persuading many members of Congress to sign a little-known pledge in which they have promised to vote against legislation relating to climate change unless it is accompanied by an equivalent amount of tax cuts…. the pledge essentially commits those who sign to it to vote against nearly any meaningful bill regarding global warming.,,,, Fully one hundred and fifty-six members of the House of Representatives [in 2010] had signed the “No Climate Tax Pledge.”

To secure the efficacy of the pledge, the Kochs, together with their handful of billionaire allies who meet annually, also backed pledge-signers in primary elections, targeting and defeating more moderate Republican incumbents.[39] As a result the Koch extreme war on science has both radicalized and polarized the Republican Party and become a major factor in the current gridlock in Washington, making meaningful climate change legislation impossible.

Meanwhile, lobbyists have successfully targeted environmental regulations and scientific funding that supports research into climate change…. NASA’s earth science budget has dropped by 40 percent.[40]

In this way, the Koch brothers, even though defeated in their plans to oust Obama in 2012, have achieved much of their agenda through Congress.

Their search for still more power has not abated. As reported in 2015,

The political network overseen by the conservative billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch plans to spend close to $900 million on the 2016 campaign, an unparalleled effort by coordinated outside groups to shape a presidential election that is already on track to be the most expensive in history.

The Kochs’ network in 2012 spent just under $400 million, an astonishing sum at the time. The $889 million spending goal for 2016 would put it on track to spend nearly as much as the campaigns of each party’s presidential nominee. [41]

American elections, this one more than most, are notoriously difficult to predict. But one can safely say that Koch funds, whatever the brothers think of the presidential candidates, will continue to be spent on fighting science. [42]

Extreme Anti-Science Triumphant: Stephen Harper’s Canada


To see what extreme anti-science can achieve when in power, one should look at Canada between 2008 and 2015, when Stephen Harper (a crony of the Kochs’ political protégé Scott Walker) was prime minister. In Canada funds from the Alberta oil industry (and more recently from tar sands) had funded the creation of a new far-right Reform Party dedicated to freeing provincial oil from federal policies and regulations. Eventually this movement, incorporated into a restructured Conservative Party, secured the election as prime minister of an Albertan, Stephen Harper.

Harper once vowed to fight the Kyoto Protocol, writing that it “is essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations.”[43] And he was ruthless in implementing his “war on science,” with environmental monitoring budgets relentlessly slashed, covering everything from oil spills and industrial air pollution to the broader impacts of climate change. Since 2008, more than two thousand scientists have lost their jobs as a result of the cuts.”[44]

Not only were scientists fired, but in many cases their archives were destroyed.

In the first few days of 2014, scientists, journalists, and environmentalists were horrified to discover that the Harper government had begun a process to close seven of the 11 of Canada’s world-renowned Department of Fisheries and Oceans libraries, citing a consolidation and digitizing effort as the reason. Reports immediately proliferated that the process was undertaken in careless haste, with the officials sent to gather and transfer the documents allegedly neglecting to take proper inventory of the centuries’ worth of documents containing vital information on environmental life, from aquatic ecosystems to water safety and polar research, with some documents reportedly dumped in landfills or burned, leading some scientists to refer to it as a ‘libricide.’ [45]

A documentary on CBC, Canada’s national TV network,illustrated a battle between an ideology driven administration and mostly apolitical scientists simply pursuing the facts gleaned from their research, and how it led many to be silenced and defunded. Scientists discussed being hamstrung and dissuaded from pursuing politically inconvenient facts, instances of research that didn’t fit policy directives being curtailed or shut down completely; world-renowned researchers who were summarily dismissed and barred from accessing their work; and programs monitoring food inspection, water quality and climate change being reduced.[46]

The government funds thus saved at the expense of science were used instead bolster an environmentally noxious tar sands industry threatened by falling fuel prices.

Canada’s Conservative government spent several million dollars on a tar sands advocacy fund as its push to export the oil faltered, documents reveal.

In its 2013 budget, the government invested $30 million over two years on public relations advertising and domestic and international “outreach activities” to promote Alberta’s tar sands.

Adopting reforms lobbied for by the oil industry, the Conservative government passed legislation dismantling a generation of environmental regulations to ensure resource projects could be more easily approved.[47]

In the Harper era, war was waged against scientists as well as science. Dr. John O’Connor, a doctor in the tar sands region, was fired after he spoke out about elevated cancer rates in Northern Alberta communities, and expressed his belief they were linked to tar sands activity (a claim that was later supported by an official study).[48]

Thanks in part to hundreds of media-exploited leaks about Harper’s dismantling of research programs and destruction of records, the Harper era of extreme anti-science officially ended in 2015, with the election of a new Trudeau government. But Harper’s legacy included a Canadian economy now in recession, due chiefly to its dependence on slumping oil prices.

An ironic postscript to the Harper attack on nature has been the devastating forest fire engulfing Fort McMurray, thus shutting down production of the environmentally destructive tar sands bitumen.[49] “Canadian officials say they expect the massive wildfire that has destroyed large parts of Alberta’s oil sands to continue burning for months.”[50]

What Does All This Mean?


In her powerful book, This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein attaches great importance to popular pushback against further degradations of our climate. But I look for change also to scientists, who have already done so much to energize these issues. I am particularly impressed by the fact that, during the current political crisis between Washington and Moscow over Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria, NASA scientists and engineers have continued to collaborate productively with their Russian opposite numbers to support and develop the International Space Station. I particularly relish the irony that, while politicians continue to rant about American supremacy, the US is currently dependent on Russian vehicles to supply the station.

The final phases of the 20th Century Cold War saw military encroachment on the goal of peaceful space exploration, in both America and the Soviet Union. But through all this period we continued to see international scientific cooperation, through such institutions as the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), established by the International Council for Science in 1958. COSPAR in turn has permanent observer status with the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).

Let us hope that peace-minded scientists in these projects can help break political stalemates — just as in the last century atomic scientists, in small meetings at Pugwash, Nova Scotia, contributed in the end to the agreement reached in 1986 at Reykjavik by Reagan and Gorbachev.

The ability of scientists to break political stalemates was I think well illustrated by the success of peace-minded nuclear scientists, whose small meetings at Pugwash, a village in Nova Scotia, contributed in the end to the agreement reached in 1986 at Reykjavik by Reagan and Gorbachev.

Scientists and Political Stalemates: The Example of Pugwash


It seems to me self-evident that the challenge of expanding the frontiers of human knowledge will attract a more open-minded, imaginative and responsible group of people than those whose desire is to subvert other societies, to improve the techniques of spying on fellow humans, to administer power for its own sake, or simply to make money.

I’m not sure social scientists could ever quantify this moral distinction.[51] And yet it is demonstrably relevant to the problem of path dependence, on the highest level. If we look at the easing of the Cold War in the last century, we see how scientists like Joseph Rotblat, Paul Doty, and Leo Szilard started meeting their Soviet opposite numbers at Pugwash in 1957. The success of these unofficial encounters led quickly to two similar overlapping groups, the ongoing Dartmouth Conferences and the Soviet–American Disarmament Study Group.[52]

The increasing concreteness of the proposals at these meetings set the stage for the Reagan–Gorbachev Reykjavik summit of 1986 (attended by many graduates of the Dartmouth Conference), which produced the 1987 US-USSR Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.[53] One can say that a by-product of Reykjavik was the increasingly warm relationship between Reagan and Gorbachev, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe, and at least a two-decade respite in the Cold War.

I believe that this significant achievement of nuclear scientists can be emulated by space scientists and earth scientists as well. What this means in practice is not for me to say. But I believe that the seriousness and affluence of the current war on science makes it imperative for scientists to remember that they are also citizens, break with their normal path dependent routines, and become active outside their laboratories. For it is they who hold the answers to the related challenges of climate change and renewable energy, challenges which should be of equal concern to all the great powers. [54]

Let me close with the words of Dr. John Abraham, a professor and researcher in climate monitoring and renewable energy generation:

It is essential for scientists to speak out. With the necessary expertise to make informed decisions, it is our obligation to society. Of course, each scientist has to decide how to become engaged. We don’t get many kudos for engagement, it takes time and money out of our research, you will never get tenured for having a more public presence, and you will likely receive poorly-written hate mail – but it still is needed for informed decision making.[55]

The rest of us may regret it if we do not also get involved. To quote from a German’s self-critical explanation in 1939 of how he and others failed to prevent rise of Nazism to power, “It was just this automatic continuation of ordinary life that hindered any lively, forceful reaction against the horror.”[56]

[1] Tweet by Donald Trump, 2012,

[2] Charles Koch, quoted in Jane Mayer, Dark Money (New York: Doubleday, 2016), 3.

[3] Trevor Waddell, “Institutional path dependence in NASA’s human spaceflight program: a case study of technological evolution and persistence,” Essay Submitted to Oregon State University In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Public Policy, May 21, 2013, 5.

[4] E.g. Clem Brooks and Jeff Manza, Whose Rights?: Counterterrorism and the Dark Side of American Public Opinion (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2013), 11.

[5] Peter Dale Scott, The American Deep State, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), 67; quoting Peter Tomsen, The Wars of Afghanistan: Messianic Terrorism, Tribal Conflicts, and the Failures of Great Powers (New York: PublicAffairs, 2011), 406-07. Steve Coll agrees with Ambassador Tomsen that “by early 1991, the Afghan policies pursued by the State Department and the CIA were in open competition with each other” (Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 [New York: Penguin Press, 2004], 225).

[6] Gregory Zuckerman, The Greatest Trade Ever (New York: Broadway Books, 2009), 116; referring to Robert J. Shiller, Irrational Exuberance (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005). In the second edition of 2005, Shiller included real estate in his analysis of market volatility, marshalling evidence that housing prices were dangerously inflated as well, a bubble that could soon burst, leading to a “string of bankruptcies” and a “worldwide recession.”

[7] “THE INVESTMENT STRATEGY LETTER #704,”; cf. New Yorker, May 2, 1016, 77.

[8] The rise of Nazism in Germany is usually attributed to the resentment and alienation resulting from the wiping out of middle-class savings in the great inflation of 1921-22. But the decline of the middle class left the German “one percent” feeling isolated and threatened, leading some of them to fund the once-marginal Nazi Party.

[9] Philip Shabecoff, “Global Warming Has Begun, Expert Tells Senate,” New York Times, June 24, 1988.

[10] Sammy Roth, “Most Americans say climate changing, humans to blame,” Desert Sun, April 18, 2016,

[11] John Abraham, “New survey finds a growing climate consensus among meteorologists: 96% of AMS members realize climate change is happening, and most understand humans are responsible,” Guardian, March 28, 2016, “Nearly every meteorologist (96%) agrees that climate change is happening, and the vast majority are confident in their opinion. Only 1% felt that climate change isn’t happening (3% did not know). Next, a large majority feel that climate change is being caused by humans. For instance, 29% believe that the change is largely or entirely human caused; 38% think most of the change is from humans; 14% answered that humans and natural factors are about equally responsible. Only 5% felt that climate change is mainly natural.”

[12] Donald Trump, Twitter, January 1, 2014. In 2012 Trump tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive,”

[13] Ben Adler “8 things you need to know about Hillary Clinton and climate change.” Grist, April 12, 2015,; citing Mariah Blake, “How Hillary Clinton’s State Department Sold Fracking to the World.” Mother Jones, September 2014,; League of Conservation Voters, “2006 Scorecard Vote: Offshore Drilling,”

[14] George Monbiot. “Grand promises of Paris climate deal undermined by squalid retrenchments,” Guardian, December 15, 2015, Former NASA scientist James Hansen was even blunter: ““It’s a fraud really, a fake. It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned” (Oliver Milman. “James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks ‘a fraud’”, Guardian, December 12, 2015, Cf. Bianca Jagger, “Will the Paris Climate Agreement Deliver?” Huffington Post, April 28, 2016,

[15] Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014).

[16] “Jimmy Carter on Environment,” OnTheIssues, For the role of the oil majors in defeating Carter, see Peter Dale Scott, The American Deep State, 28, 106-07.

[17] Shirley Anne Warshaw, The Co-Presidency of Bush and Cheney (Stanford, CA: Stanford Politics and Policy, 2009), 151.

[18] Andrew C. Revkin, “NASA Chief Backs Agency Openness,” New York Times,

February 4, 2006,

[19] Juliet Eilperin, “Putting Some Heat on Bush,” Washington Post, January 19, 2005, Dr. Franco Einaudi, also present at the meeting, commented, “”Whether it is obvious to take that as an order or not is a question of judgment. Personally, I did not take it as an order” (Andrew C. Revkin, “NASA Expert Criticizes Bush on Global Warming Policy,” New York Times, October 26, 2004,

[20] Andrew C. Revkin, “NASA Office Is Criticized on Climate Reports,” New York Times, June 3, 2008,

[21] Brian Knowlton, “Obama promises action on climate change,” New York Times, November 18, 2008, “Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all,” Obama said. “Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high; the consequences, too serious.”

[22] Mayer, Dark Money, 208.

[23] Mayer, Dark Money, 217: “Perriello, like many other elected officials that summer, also found himself heckled during town hall meetings. One such heckler called him a “traitor” for supporting the cap-and-trade bill…. Later one of the disruptive members of the audience admitted… that he had been put up to it by the Virginia director of [the Koch-financed] Americans for Prosperity.”

[24] John H. Richardson, “When the End of Human Civilization Is Your Day Job,” Esquire, July 7, 2015, “Conservative legal foundations pressured his university, a British journalist suggested the electric chair. In 2003, Senator James Inhofe’s committee called him to testify, flanking him with two professional climate-change deniers, and in 2011 the committee threatened him with federal prosecution, along with sixteen other scientists.” Cf. Mayer, Dark Money, 219-21.

[25] James Ayre, “Shell CEO: Solar Energy To Be Backbone Of World’s Energy System,” CleanTechnica, September 30th, 2015, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden’s exact words were that he has “no hesitation to predict that in years to come solar will be the dominant backbone of our energy system, certainly of the electricity system.”

[26] Adam B. Lerner, “ExxonMobil CEO mocks renewable energy in shareholder speech,” Politico, May 27, 2015,

[27] Union of Concerned Scientists, “Global Warming Skeptic Organizations,” Despite the pledge, ExxonMobil continued to provide annual contributions to more general-purpose groups like the Heritage Foundation.

[28] Mayer, Dark Money, 4: “In addition to the Kochs, this group included Richard Mellon Scaife, an heir to the Mellon banking and Gulf Oil fortunes, Harry and Lynde Bradley, midwesterners enriched by defense contracts; John M. Olin, a chemical and munitions company titan, and the DeVos family of Michigan, founders of the Amway marketing empire.”

[29] Mayer, Dark Money, 3. The Kochs deny that they are either radical or intolerant, projecting the term “radical” instead on their target Obama. “He’s the most radical president we’ve ever had as a nation,” [David Koch] said, “and has done more damage to the free enterprise system and long-term prosperity than any president we’ve ever had.”

[30] Ibid. I have searched in vain for the original appearance of Buckley’s charge.

[31] Koch Industries held a majority interest in the Pine Bend Refinery in Minnesota, which “was uniquely well situated geographically to buy inexpensive, heavy, ‘garbage’ crude oil from Canada. After refining the cheap muck, the company could sell it at the same price as other gasoline. Because the heavy crude was so cheap, Pine Bend’s profit margin was superior to that of most other refineries” (Mayer, Dark Money, 49).


[33] Deirdre Fulton, “Mass Evacuation as ‘Apocalyptic’ Inferno Engulfs Canadian Tar Sands City” CommonDreams, May 04, 2016,

[34] Nia Williams, Reuters, “At $22, three quarters of oilsands production is underwater and losing up to $3 on every barrel,” National Post (Canada), December 17, 2015,

[35] Ibid. Donors Trust (whose affiliate is Donors Capital Fund) was “founded in 1999 by Whitney Ball… who had overseen development of the Koch-founded Cato Institute” (Mayer, Dark Money, 206).

[36] Joe Romm, “Peak Oil Returns: Why Demand Will Likely Peak By 2030,” ClimateProgress, February 22, 2016,

[37] “Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine,” Greenpeace,

[38] Kit O’Connell, “Koch, Exxon And Other Big Oil Spend $141 Million Lobbying Washington For More War,” MintPressNews, June 15, 2015,

[39] Jane Mayer, “Koch Pledge Tied to Congressional Climate Inaction,” New Yorker, June 30, 2013, “Of the eighty-five freshmen Republican congressmen elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, seventy-six had signed the No Climate Tax pledge. Fifty-seven of those received campaign contributions from Koch Industries’ political action committee.”

[40] Kit O’Connell, “Koch, Exxon And Other Big Oil Spend $141 Million Lobbying Washington For More War,” MintPressNews, June 15, 2015.

[41] Nicholas Confessore, “Koch Brothers’ Budget of $889 Million for 2016 Is on Par with Both Parties’ Spending,” New York Times, January 26, 2015,

[42] The Kochs’ electoral plans are now less clear because of their expressed displeasure with the tax and other plans of Donald Trump. Some of the Koch super billionaires like Trump; the Kochs however have expressed major reservations. Cf. Daniel Schulman, “This Is How Much the Koch Brothers Hate Donald Trump,” Mother Jones, February 4, 2016,; Alex Isenstadt, ”What the Kochs think about Trump now: Top GOP officials are warming to the party’s presumptive nominee, but the donor class remains unswayed,” Politico, May 5, 2016,

[43] “Harper letter called Kyoto ‘socialist scheme’,” Toronto Star, January 30, 2007,

[44] Klein, This Changes Everything, 327.

[45] Jordan Sowunmi, “The Harper Government Has Trashed and Destroyed Environmental Books and Documents,” Vice, January 15, 2014, Cf. Anne Kingston, “Vanishing Canada: Why we’re all losers in Ottawa’s war on data — Records deleted, burned, tossed in Dumpsters. A Maclean’s investigation on the crisis in government data,” Macleans, September 18, 2015. “Physicist Raymond Hoff, who published more than 50 reports on air pollution in transport and toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes—including pioneering work on acid rain—at Environment Canada between 1975 and 1999, doesn’t seem to exist, either. “Nothing comes up when I type my name into the search engine on [Environment Canada’s] website,” says Hoff, now a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland. Also gone are internal reports on the oil sands experiments of the 1970s. “That research was paid for by the taxpayer. Now, the people who need to protect Canada’s environment can’t get access.”

[46] Ibid.

[47] “Revealed: Canadian government spent millions on secret tar sands advocacy,” Guardian, August 11, 2015,

[48] Brandi Morin, “Alberta doctor that found higher rates of cancer in First Nation communities fired by health board,” ATPN National News, May 11, 2015, ATPN National News,

[49] “Besieged by the Fires of Denial — Fort McMurray Blaze Grows to Overwhelm Anzac, Shuts off 640,000 Barrels per Day of Tar Sands Production,”, May 5, 2915,

[50] “Canada wildfire likely to burn for months.” AlJazeera, May 8, 2016,

[51] Organizational psychologists recognize the psychological problem of functional fixedness, defined as “a cognitive bias that limits a person to using an object only in the way it is traditionally used” (Thomas R. Peltier, How to Complete a Risk Assessment in 5 Days or Less, [Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2009], 10). It is obvious to me that scientists as a group will show less functional fixedness than, say, Air Force generals.

[52] Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Cold War: Volume 3, Endings, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 405-10. Cf. Mary Nolan, The Transatlantic Century: Europe and America, 1890–2010, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 317.

[53] Cf. the comment of Freeman Dyson about the important physicist Fang Lizhi: ““Fang believed passionately in science, not only as an intellectual pursuit of understanding of nature, but also as an international enterprise in which people of diverse cultures and traditions could work together. Scientists throughout the world speak a common language and find it easy to collaborate. That is why scientists can communicate across political barriers more easily than diplomats and politicians. Scientists are often useful as channels of international communication about matters having little to do with science. We provide the world with a model demonstrating that a working international enterprise is possible” (Freeman Dyson, “The Heritage of a Great Man,” New York Review of Books, May 26, 2016,

[54] The Pugwash Conference and its founder, physicist Joseph Rotblat, were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995, “for their efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms.”

[55]John Abraham, “When their research has social implications, how should climate scientists get involved?” Guardian, September 4, 2014,

[56] Sebastian Haffner, Defying Hitler: A Memoir, translated by Oliver Pretzel

(London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2002), 114; quoted at greater length in Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 242-43.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from landfill (Bill McChesney / Flickr -CC BY 2.0)


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