Global Warming's Denier Elite

President Obama has vowed to take action to fight global warming. Meet the polluters, politicians and propagandists who’ve vowed to stop him

Aerial view of a coal fired power station.
Paul Langrock/Zenit/laif
Aerial view of a coal fired power station.
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Charles and David Koch
Principal owners, Koch Industries
With a combined worth estimated in the tens of billions of dollars, the super-conservative industrial magnates with vast holdings in the energy industry are major funders of climate-change skepticism. Their latest move: Via the proxy group Americans for Prosperity, they have persuaded more than 400 members of the current Congress to sign a "No Climate Tax" pledge to oppose any use of government dollars to fund climate efforts that does not include offsetting tax cuts.

Rep. Darrell Issa
R-CA, chairman, House Oversight Committee
Issa has used his broad investigative powers to attack Obama-administration programs that fund alternative-energy development. He all but charged the Energy department with fraud and corruption for its loans to clean-energy companies Solyndra and Fisker Automotive. The investigations threatened to chill federal support for clean-tech development. But, surprise: Issa himself supported a $150 million Energy Department loan to electric-car developer Aptera, located in his own district.

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Jack Gerard
President and CEO, the American Petroleum Institute
Fossil fuel's go-to figure on Capitol Hill, Gerard leads the lobby group most avidly pushing the industry's positions on issues where they may not want to have a very public face, such as keeping fossil-fuel tax breaks, expanding fracking and offshore energy drilling, and approving the Keystone pipeline.

Alex Epstein
President and founder, Center for Industrial Progress
The youthful Epstein tours college campuses debating environmentalists and promoting the benefits of oil and coal to modern society; "Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet" was the title of his April talk at Vassar. Recently he termed the Tesla Model S "a coal car" because "the electricity in an 'electric car' must come from somewhere – and that somewhere is usually fossil fuels." And in April, Epstein told a Canadian oil-industry gathering, "Thank you for producing the lifeblood of civilization."

Craig Idso
Chairman, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide & Global Change
A leading skeptic who believes that rising carbon levels are actually a boon to the planet, Idso is the senior editor behind an upcoming 1,200-page Heartland Institute paper presenting climate change as "politicized science." Timed to counter the IPCC report, it will be backed by a $1.6 million promotional campaign and will likely fuel the climate change coverage by Fox News and other conservative media outlets.

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Sen. David Vitter
R-LA, ranking member, Environment and Public Works Committee
As the ranking Republican on the Senate committee that oversees environmental legislation, Vitter is one of the capitol's most powerful climate-change deniers. In May, Vitter led GOP members in boycotting a committee meeting on advancing Gina McCarthy's nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

American Legislative Exchange Council
Funded by the Kochs, among others, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) provides state legislators with "model bills" that advance conservative causes. After recent successes passing pro-gun and anti-abortion initiatives in GOP-dominated state houses across the country, ALEC is now taking on an issue near and dear to climate deniers: repealing renewable-energy standards that require utilities to buy electricity from clean, non-fossil-fuel sources. Though its initial efforts failed, the group, known for its perseverance, is expected to introduce retooled versions of the bill in North Carolina and Kansas, both Tea Party strongholds, next year.

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Ken Cuccinelli
Attorney general of Virginia, 2010-present
Cuccinelli vaulted to national stature as a climate-science denier when he baselessly accused prominent climate scientist Michael Mann of using fraudulent data in state-funded research, and sued the EPA to block federal regulation of greenhouse gas pollution. Currently, Cuccinelli is the Republican nominee for governor of Virginia, and though he trails in the polls, the election is still considered to be in play.

Rex Tillerson
CEO, ExxonMobil
Under Tillerson, oil behemoth ExxonMobil posted the biggest corporate profits in history in 2008. At this year's annual meeting, Tillerson reassured shareholders that the oil economy will never disappear. And that's fine, said Tillerson, because "what good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?" Aside from the direct impacts the company's fossil fuels have on intensifying climate change, under Tillerson the company has contributed millions to distorting public knowledge and understanding of climate science.

From The Archives Issue 1192: September 26, 2013