Case Study: The Koch-funded “ClimateGate” Echo Chamber

Page - March 29, 2010
In November 2009, anonymous hackers illegally obtained and disseminated thousands of personal emails from climate scientists housed on the server of the University of East Anglia. The emails spanned 13 years of correspondence and a handful of selected emails were taken out of context by a number of climate-denier organizations. These organizations, many part of the Koch Web, claim the emails prove a “conspiracy” of scientists and cast doubt on the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change.

This incident, dubbed "ClimateGate" by climate-denier groups, has been distorted and repeated many times by conservative media and blogs since late November 2009.  Twenty organizations, roughly half of the Koch-funded groups profiled in this report, have contributed to the "ClimateGate" echo chamber. Among the most vocal groups are organizations that received over $1,000,000 from Koch foundations since 2005, including Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute.

  1. Americans For Prosperity (received over $5 million from Koch since 2005) hosted a live webcast from Copenhagen on Dec 9th as part of their "Hot Air Tour," using the "ClimateGate" emails as a reason to prevent passage of any progressive global warming policy. During the webcast, Steve Lonegan, AFP's New Jersey Director, said "ClimateGate" could have uncovered "the biggest hoax our world has ever seen" and vows not to allow any climate bill to pass the US Senate. Several members of the Copenhagen youth delegation crashed the AFP event and were angrily called "Hitler Youth" by AFP guest speaker and well known climate denier Lord Christopher Monckton. In addition to the Copenhagen webcast, AFP mentions "ClimateGate" in many blog  posts, including in their protest of the EPA CO2 endangerment finding.
  1. The Heritage Foundation (received over $1 million from Koch since 2005) has posted several articles on its website regarding "ClimateGate."  The blogs run the gamut of possible climate-denier angles on the incident, ranging from conspiracy accusations , to a history of imagined climate scandals, to effects on world politics, to supposed economic consequences from climate legislation.
  1. The Cato Institute (received over $1 million in grants from Koch since 2005) is the front-group for climate-denier Patrick Michaels, who has been a vocal spokesperson regarding "ClimateGate". Within two weeks following the email breach at East Anglia University, Patrick Michaels had appeared in over twenty media interviews on shows including CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, NBC's Nightly News, FOX's Fox & Friends, C-SPAN's Washington Journal, and BBC's Have Your Say. Michaels, taking one line of an illegally-obtained email out of context, has claimed the scientists have committed a "capital crime"  and their actions are "akin to filtering what goes in the bible."

In addition to AFP, the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute, about half of the Koch-funded climate denial groups detailed in this report contributed to the "ClimateGate" misinformation echo chamber, including:

See also PolluterWatch profiles of Koch IndustriesCharles Koch and David Koch.