David Koch

With ice sheets in Greenland falling off into the sea and the Amazon rainforest burning at unprecedented rates, the work of David Koch is complete. The only real tragedy in David Koch’s death is that he won’t be alive to see the damage his life’s work has caused.

Earlier this month, Greenland lost 11 billion tons of ice in just one day. Last month, the island lost 197 billion tons of ice. According to scientists, that’s 36% more ice loss than what was previously expected, and this level of ice melt wasn’t supposed to happen for at least 50 years.

If the ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica were to melt, global sea levels would rise by approximately 65 feet, submerging entire cities and island nations while displacing hundreds of millions, if not billions of people. As The Washington Post reported last year, the residents of the island nation of Kiribati — which encompasses 33 islands and 1.3 million square miles — are already having to evacuate their country, as rising sea levels are swallowing their homes.

More recently, the burning of the Amazon rainforest — which Indigenous residents say is being done deliberately by agribusiness interests following widespread environmental deregulation by President Jair Bolsonaro — is already more than 80% more destructive than last year’s fires. Because the Amazon contains roughly 1/10 of the Earth’s species, and produces 20% of the world’s oxygen, its destruction could make the worst effects of global warming irreversible:

An increase in fires and ensuing deforestation in the Amazon make it even more difficult, if not impossible, for countries to hold global warming to “well below” 3.6 degrees (2 degrees Celsius) compared with preindustrial levels, as called for in the Paris climate Agreement.

The Amazon, which spans 2.12 million square miles, sucks up about a quarter of the 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon that global forests absorb each year. However, the ability of the rainforest to pull in more carbon than it releases is diminishing, weakened by changing weather patterns, deforestation and increasing tree mortality, among other factors. The ongoing fires will further degrade its function as a carbon sink.

…If the Amazon were to turn into a consistent net source of carbon emissions, it would accelerate global warming while also leading to a huge loss in species that are not found anywhere else on Earth.

It wasn’t enough for David Koch to simply inherit his father’s business and be satisfied. It wasn’t enough for he and his brother, Charles, to turn that company into Koch Industries — the second-largest privately owned corporation in America. It wasn’t enough for David Koch to amass a net worth in the tens of billions of dollars. Instead of being satisfied with his own prosperity, David Koch became a crusader against environmental regulations, government social safety net programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and taxes imposed on wealthy oligarchs like himself.

In 1980, David Koch was the vice presidential nominee on the Libertarian Party ticket. As Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) documented on his Senate website, Koch’s platform included not only abolishing Medicare and Medicaid, but also repealing the federal minimum wage, the EPA, the FDA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, laws barring debtors from charging usurious interest rates, and even repealing “all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs.”

David Koch, and his brother Charles, didn’t fund a single organization toward achieving their ends. Instead, the two funded a bevy of academic institutions, think tanks, legislative laboratories, super PACs, and far-right politicians that the Institute for Globalization has referred to as the “Kochtopus.

The Kochtopus includes organizations like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, Reason magazine, the Mercatus Institute at George Mason University, and the campaigns of numerous mostly Republican members of Congress who constantly seek to weaken environmental protections and lower taxes on the wealthy, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), and many others.

It wasn’t enough for the Kochs to control Washington — the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), also a big recipient of Koch money, operates by uniting mostly Republican state lawmakers with corporate lobbyists at luxurious resort hotels, in which they both collaborate on “model bills” to be introduced in statehouses across the country. The model bills are, by and large, the same wherever you go. In 2012, one Florida Republican lawmaker forgot to remove ALEC model bill template language from a bill he introduced aimed at cutting taxes for the rich.

David Koch is dead, but his legacy lives on in his company’s oil pipelines; his vast network of well-funded research aimed at casting doubt on the global scientific consensus that human activity is causing the Earth to warm at a rapid, unsustainable rate; his pet politicians in state legislatures and Washington, and, most importantly, the pending demise of the human race, should we fail to take decisive action in the 10 to 12-year window the United Nations has given humanity to solve global warming.

Other than his brother, there is perhaps no other human being on the planet who has singlehandedly had more of an impact in creating the climate crisis that’s could completely wipe out 30% to 50% of all species on the planet over the next few decades. That is, ultimately, David Koch’s legacy.

(Featured image: Creative Commons)


Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.

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