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As Catholics’ spiritual leader, Pope Francis, arrives in Washington D.C. for an historic address to the United States Congress (one-third of which is Catholic), new research by the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) reveals that the oil billionaire Koch Brothers spent at least $23 million to elect 62 Catholic Congressmen. Charles and David Koch—who have more money than Bill Gates—outspend all other oil companies to oppose the urgent climate policy actions that Pope Francis calls for in his ecological encyclical, Praised Be, to protect poor people, and the planet.
Today’s climate catastrophes are increasing in their intensity and frequency due to growing carbon emissions, as predicted by scientific consensus. The Koch network (or Kochtopus) funds a range of activities to obfuscate climate science, elect like-minded candidates, and block policies from passing Congress because pricing carbon pollution would reduce Koch’s fossil fuel fortune. The result from Koch’s spending is expanding emissions and more climate catastrophes globally. See below for stories from poor communities suffering climate catastrophes, then share these victim’s voices.
Most Catholics in Congress do not receive support from Koch, but those who do are cause for concern. They should heed Pope Francis’s call for moral action on climate justice by supporting immediate and drastic reductions of deadly carbon emissions, ideally by putting a price on pollution.
Financial figures below are from data sourced by IFG, whose methodology can be found on Kochproblem.org.[ii] The amounts of money from Koch include all entities in IFG’s Kochtopus. Information on the religions of Congressmen is from Interfaith Moral Action on Climate.[iii]
U.S. Catholic Senators supported by Koch
|U.S. Catholic Senators||Koch support in $ *||Pro-planet voting %*|
|Tillis, Thom (NC)||18,674,863||n/a|
|Sullivan, Daniel (AK)||1,830,572||n/a|
|Toomey, Patrick (PA)||1,711,028||9%|
|Rubio, Marco (FL)||719,322||9%|
|Ayotte, Kelly (NH)||71,169||23%|
|Vitter, David (LA)||69,226||5%|
|Hoeven. John (ND)||38,701||14%|
|Murkowski, Lisa (AK)||35,993||20%|
|Risch, Jim (ID)||30,790||11%|
|Collins, Susan (ME)||29,650||65%|
|Total (10):||23,211,314||Avg: 19.5%|
* Koch support in $ is calculated by KochProblem.org, an online tool tracking comprehensive spending in support of candidates by all entities in the Koch network, not just direct contributions from Koch Industries to candidates campaigns.
** “Pro-planet voting %” is from the League of Conservation Voters’ ranking of voting records, or “National Environment Scorecard,” a measure of pro-environmental votes by Members of Congress throughout their careers in Congress. LCV score is measured in percentage where LCV Score = (pro-environmental votes)/ (total votes cast on environmental issues)[iv]
THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
The data on Koch support for Catholics in the House of Representatives was compiled by IFG using numbers from the Open Secrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics that compiles information on campaign funding. [v] The data found in the table below includes campaign funding from the Koch Industries Political Action Committee to candidates’ campaigns in the 2014 election cycle. House figures are much smaller than those of the Senator’s above because the available data for the House covers only Koch Industries PAC, whereas figures for Senators include—thanks to KochProblem.org—support from outside groups affiliated with Koch.
Catholics in the House of Representatives
|Catholic Congressmen||Koch Cash|
|Larson, John B||$1,000|
|Fitzpatrick, Michael G||$2,500|
|King, Steven A||$2,500|
|Ratcliffe, John Lee||$2,500|
|Latta, Robert E||$5,000|
|Wagner, Ann L||$5,000|
|Tiberi, Patrick J||$6,000|
|Joyce, David P||$10,000|
|Risch, James E||$10,000|
|Rothfus, Keith J||$10,000|
|Duffy, Sean P||$11,000|
|Total (52):||$336, 350|
THE SCIENCE OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Climate change, often called global warming, is the phenomenon caused by the excessive emission of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the earth’s atmosphere. The emission of these gases has led to a progressive increase of earth’s atmospheric temperature over time. This rise in temperature is compounded by an increase in ocean temperatures and a continual rise in sea level, which occurs as glaciers melt. These result in increased extreme weather events that create climate catastrophes.
Rising temperatures and ocean levels, which increase the amount of moisture in Earth’s atmosphere, have been scientifically linked to exaggerating the detrimental effects of earth’s natural disasters. Minor storms have become more frequent, and storm surges have been significantly increased. Furthermore, greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons add energy to weather storms, further intensifying the effects of their destruction. Global warming may be making the destructive impact of hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones (which have always tormented earth’s coasts) far worse. [vi]
While the rhetoric supporting the fight against global warming and fossil-fuel producers has been gaining steady ground in recent years, climate change activists often fail to stress the deadly and destructive power of weather storms in their arguments. This could be because, at first, these storms were mostly occurring in the Global South, in countries such as the Philippines and India, and had little effect on the developed world. However, the effects of severe storms in the developing world should be of utmost concern because they are extremely damaging. Many third world communities lack the financial resources or proper infrastructure to prepare for weather disasters, so, when they are suddenly struck with storms, these disasters end thousands of lives and destroy millions of homes.
Recently however, there have been more and more visible incidences of freak storms that ravage communities in the United States as well. This has at last helped draw media attention in the United States to the issue of weather catastrophes caused by climate change. The storms that have left the largest stain on the national psyche in the U.S. are Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. In light of these two storms, Americans have become more aware of climate change and the role it plays on enhancing deadly weather conditions. It is important for Americans to take a closer look into why climate policy is facing such an uphill battle in U.S. politics, and to understand key political players who are blocking action on climate change policies.
In 2007, the negotiations under the United Nations prepared a road map known as the Bali Action Plan (BAP), an agreement in which all developed countries committed to undertake drastic reduction of their emission of greenhouse gasses. The BAP was constructed in hopes of lowering the global temperatures. In the BAP developed countries are expected to reduce target amounts of emissions over time, paving the way for the reversal of global warming’s effects in the future.[vii] However, many developed countries defaulted on those promises via the Kyoto Protocol Commitments.[viii]
The current United States Congress has refused to pass many climate change policies that would help reduce carbon pollution. Fossil fuel industry leaders, most significantly the Koch Brothers, are trying to fight against carbon control measures so they can keep amassing private profit from their oil industry investments. The public needs to understand the damaging effects of climate change, and urge policy action against both global warming and those who are attempting to stop solutions. More information about the Koch Brothers, and their influence of climate change policy, can be found through the International Forum on Globalization: www.ifg.org.
EXAMPLES OF EXTREME WEATHER & CLIMATE CATASTROPHIES
As explained in the introduction, the most detrimental effects of climate change can be seen by the increase of the scale of natural disasters hitting the poor the hardest. Below are examples of severe storms that plague poor countries and poor communities; flooding in India’s Himalayan Mountains, typhoons in the Philippines, and the United States’ Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. The causes and effects of these weather disasters point to the importance of action to change climate policy.
INDIA: Flooding in the Himalayan Mountains
The Himalayan Mountains are the source of water for nearly half of humanity. They contain the third-largest landmass of snow and glaciers on our planet, after the Antarctic and Arctic. Glacial runoff from the Himalayas is the largest source of fresh water that feeds into Asia’s rivers, supporting billions of people. [ix] While the melting of glaciers and snow in the Arctic and Antarctic due to climate change is frequently reported, the effects of climate change and rising global temperatures on the Himalayan Mountains are often overlooked.
In June 2013, melting glacial sediment cause the natural dam of a glacial lake located in northern India to burst. The dam’s collapse sent a deluge of water down the mountains into the village of Kedarnath. As many as 6,000 people were presumed dead. The flood, which was caused in part by rising temperatures associated with climate change, also destroyed an eight-century temple, smashed dozens of houses, and caused many people to become refugees.[xi] Additionally, Kedernath is “the home of a deeply revered Hindu temple that attracts many (religious) pilgrims,” all which werewashed away in this Himalayan Tsunami.[xii][x]
These types of floods are called Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF), or nicknamed Himalayan Tsunamis, and can be directly linked with global warming. Rising global temperatures create glacial lakes of melt-water, held in place by dams formed from glacial sediment. As global temperatures rise and glaciers continue to melt, the lakes fill and pressure increases on the dams. Once that pressure reaches a tipping point, a small event such as; a heavy rainfall, a landslide, or an earthquake, can breach the dam and send a deadly torrent of ice, rock, and water down on the people living below.[xiii]
In the weeks following the June 2013 GLOF disaster, tens of thousands of people were evacuated across the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand.[xiv] Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Banugunga spoke about the widespread infrastructure damage caused by the GLOF: “Around 200 of my bridges have been washed away, nearly 5,000 roads damaged, connectivity to 4,300 villages snapped, electricity and water supplies disrupted, telephone lines collapsed.”[xv]
As temperatures continue to increase world wide due to global warming, the occurrence of GLOF disasters will also continue to rise. More than 20,000 glacial lakes exist in the Himalayan range, and more than 200 of them have been classified as potentially dangerous.[xvi] According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “glaciers in the Himayalas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high.”[xvii] The IPCC report states that the total area of glaciers in the Himalaya will shrink from 1,930,051 square miles to 38,000 square miles by 2035.[xviii]
In addition to the dangers of GLOF disasters, climate change is also affecting prosperity in the Himalayan deserts. In Ladakh, the northern most region of India, snow that falls to the ground and provides the moisture for farms and pastures, and has supported human survival in Ladakh for centuries. However, climate change is changing Ladakh drastically. Less snow is falling, so there is less moisture for growing crops and the ability to farm the land is declining. In contrast, although less snow is falling to support agriculture, heavy rainfall, which was previously unknown in the high altitude desert, has become frequent and has had horrible consequences for the unprepared communities. Flash floods have washed away countless homes, fields, trees and livestock.[xix] In conclusion, global warming is causing unfathomable suffering for the people living in the Himalayas. These people are the victims of climate change, and if apathy about expanding emissions continues, harm to their land and lives will inevitably continue.
THE PHILIPPINES: Typhoon Bopha
The people of the Philippines have faced several typhoons in recent years. Each year, the typhoons become more and more powerful, leaving greater amounts of people dead, missing and displaced. The increase in these typhoons and their power is correlated to climate change, and the people of the Philippines are paying the price for global warming.[xx]
Typhoon Bopha entered the Philippines in early December 2012. Bopha winds were measured up to 160 mph, and flattened villages, wiped out banana plantations, and caused massive mudslides and floods.[xxii] The hardest hit region was the southern island of Mindanao, where Bopha triggered landslides and floods along the coast, and in inland farming and mining towns. Typhoon Bopha was the worst storm ever recorded on Mindanao.[xxiii] [xxi]
In addition to the human death toll, an extreme amount of damage to agriculture and infrastructure on Mindanao occurred. Irrigation reservoirs atop mountains had given way, sending large volumes of water down into the valleys. Many bridges and roads were not only damaged, but completely destroyed.[xxiv] These disasters had detrimental effects on families’ ability to earn an income and recover from the tragedy of the typhoon. By December 9, one week after its initial landfall, Bopha had begun to dissipate. In its wake it left 1,020 people declared dead and 844 reported missing. Additionally, the typhoon displaced 1.2 million more people.[xxv]
In the past, a storm like Bopha would not have been able to produce enough energy to gear up into a full-blown typhoon. But because global warming adds heat and energy to Earth’s weather systems, typhoons like Bopha now possible.[xxvi] Thus, climate change is making typhoons more intense and altering their paths of destruction to reach regions that never before need to prepare for such severe storms. According to Meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters, although “Mindanao… rarely sees strong typhoons due to its position close to the Equator,” Bopha was possible due to climate change.[xxvii]
According to the Global Climate Risk Index; “the Philippines are fourth on the list of countries most at risk from climate disasters. In 2011, the country had the world’s highest death toll caused by weather related disasters, with 1,659 people who lost their lives to typhoons, floods, landslides and heavy rains.”[xxviii] Furthermore, new research suggests that the Pacific Ocean is warming at the fastest rate it has in 10,000 years.[xxix] The increasing ocean temperatures will only further the severity of typhoons and other ocean storms. Thus, the Philippines and many other island-states are on the frontlines of the climate change disaster.
THE UNITED STATES: Hurricanes Katarina and Sandy
Although the damage caused by global warming to the developing world is more widespread, the effect of climate change can also be seen by the two massive hurricanes that struck the United States in the past decade – Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina. Like storms documented in the Global South, hurricane strength is directly correlated to the heat of the water where the storm forms. Greater amounts of water vapor in the air, caused by evaporating oceans and aided by increasing global temperatures, add fuel to hurricanes.[xxxi] Global temperatures have been steadily increasing over the past 100 years, making the last decade the warmest on record.[xxxii] Thus, it can be inferred that global warming and climate change may have indeed increased the strength of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.[xxx]
Hurricane Katrina, which occurred in late August 2005, was one of the most destructive hurricanes ever to hit the United States. The storm slammed the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines moving between a Category 3 through 5 storm with winds measured up to 175mph.[xxxiii] Katrina caused severe damage to many costal cities. Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi were completely obliterated, and in New Orleans, Louisiana, several major levees collapsed and the city went underwater.[xxxiv] Thousands of people living in New Orleans sought refuge in the New Orleans Convention Center and the Superdome, and the U.S. National Guard was called in to assist with home evacuations. Hurricane Katrina caused monumental property damage and a loss of life, which stretched across a huge expanse of land that extended through Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.
An estimated 1,833 people died in the hurricane and from subsequent flooding. Millions of others were left homeless along the Gulf Coast. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration identified Katrina as the most destructive storm to ever hit the United States, with $108 billion dollars in damage. Moreover, it ranks as the sixth strongest ever-recorded Atlantic hurricane. The storm’s deadliness lay not only in its power, but also its unusually large size—at its peak, force winds spanned at least 75 nautical miles east from the center of the storm. [xxxv]
Hurricane Sandy occurred seven years after Hurricane Katrina, in October-November 2012. Sandy first formed as a tropical depression in the Caribbean. Sandy moved through the Caribbean as a Category 1 storm off the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Then, Sandy made a sharp turn towards the northwest, heading towards New Jersey. At this point the hurricane began to interact with other weather systems, gaining energy in the process and becoming stronger. Hurricane Sandy ravaged Washington, D.C., with high winds and rain toppling trees and power lines and cutting off electrical power for millions of people. Sandy’s center then touched land near Atlantic City, New Jersey. [xxxvi][xxxvii]
Sandy’s unusual path along the southeast made its storm surge disastrous for New Jersey and New York. This is because a cyclone’s strongest winds and highest storm surge are contained in the front and right quadrants of its circulation – where the power of its strongest winds are increased with its forward motion.[xxxviii] According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Sandy caused $65 billion in damage in the U.S.—making it the second-costliest weather disaster in American history behind Hurricane Katrina.[xxxix] The destruction of Sandy resulted in the deaths of 159 people; who died mostly due to drowning. The storm also damaged or destroyed at least 650,000 homes, 300,000 business properties and 250,500 vehicles. According to the NOAA, the surges caused by Sandy set historical records for high water levels in at least five New England cities.[xl]
There is no doubt that global warming contributed to the strength Hurricane Sandy. The heating of the Gulf and Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean creates high-energy water – leading to more frequent and ferocious storms. A recent report from University of Copenhagen’s Centre for Ice and Climate said “hurricanes in the southeast Atlantic have become more frequent over the past 90 years.”[xli] Their study shows that this increase occurs in tandem with the amplification of global warming over the past century, with more storms occurring during years in which water temperature is higher.[xlii] Furthermore, this evidence was corroborated at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, where researchers said “climate change likely made Hurricane Sandy much worse than it otherwise would have been.”[xliii]
In conclusion, as shown in the data and stories above, the public needs to be informed of the grim future that is inevitable if there is no ambitious effort to counter the effects of global warming.
Climate change has recently been ravaging the Global South by means of monstrous atypical storms, and now the United States is starting to be confronted with the effects of global warming as well. A recent study published in the National Academy of Sciences journal states that global warming has doubled the risk of Hurricane Katrina-magnitude storm surges in the United States.[xliv]
Americans, and the rest of the world, are paying the price for global warming with their lives, safety, and property. Thus, the public needs to take a stand for climate change action, and be vocal against those profiteers, such as the Koch Brothers, who are responsible for perpetuating global warming before our planet is polluted beyond repair.
Pope Francis explains in his ecological encyclical everyone’s moral responsibility to act by quoting the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, Patriarch Bartholomew:
“to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and against God.”
Click here to view the PDF version.
Researched and written by Stephanie Kumar and Abigail Sellman, editorial direction by Victor Menotti.
[i] Image: Reuters, Sourced from Business Day Live, http://www.bdlive.co.za/world/asia/2012/12/13/typhoon-bopha-kills-hundreds-in-philippines
[ii] “Methodology,” KockProbelm.org, http://www.kochproblem.org/methodology
[iii] “Koch Industries,” Open Secrets: The Center for Responsive Politics, http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000186&cycle=2014
[iv] “National Environmental Scorecard,” League of Conservation Voters, http://scorecard.lcv.org/
[v] Religion and Congress, Microsoft Excel, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate
[vi] “Storm Surge Risk Amplified by Climate Change, Study Finds,” Huffington Post, March 18, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/18/storm-surge-risk_n_2902823.html
[vii] “Now, up to, and beyond 2012: The Bali Road Map,” United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Last updated 2014, http://unfccc.int/key_steps/bali_road_map/items/6072.php
[viii] “Q&A: The Kyoto Protocol,” BBC News, February 16, 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4269921.stm
[ix] Shiva, Vandana, “Climate Change in the Himalayas,” Navdanya, http://www.navdanya.org/climate-change/in-the-himalayas
[x] Image: “Burst of clouds causes ‘Himalayan Tsunami’!” Pakistan Weather Portal, June 22, 2013, http://pakistanweatherportal.com/2013/06/22/burst-of-clouds-causes-himalayan-tsunami/
[xi] Overdorf, Jason, “Climate change’s nasty new natural disaster: ‘Himalayan tsunamis,’” global post, July 29, 2013, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/130725/climate-change-s-nasty-new-natural-disaster-himalaya
[xii] Jethrow, Mullen, “India grapples with ‘Himalayan tsunami’ that has left 150 dead,” CNN, June 20, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/20/world/asia/india-floods/
[xiii] Perera, Amantha, “Fears Grow of a Himalayan Tsunami as Glaciers Melt,” TIME, May 27, 2013, http://world.time.com/2013/05/27/fears-grow-of-a-himalayan-tsunami-as-glaciers-melt/
[xiv] Overdorf, Jason.
[xv] Overdorf, Jason.
[xvi] Overdorf, Jason.
[xvii] Shiva, Vandana.
[xviii] Shiva, Vandana.
[xix] Shiva, Vandana.
[xx] Henn, Jamie, “Hurricane Sandy’s Sister, Typhoon Bopha,” Huffington Post, December 7, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamie-henn/hurricane-sandys-sister-t_b_2258957.html
[xxi] Image: “Dec. 5 Photo Brief: Typhoon Bopha, Tripoli clashes, snowstorms in Sweden and Korea,” The Baltimore Sun, December 5, 2012, http://darkroom.baltimoresun.com/2012/12/dec-5-photo-brief-typhoon-bopha-tripoli-clashes-snowstorms-in-sweeden-and-korea/#1
[xxii] Taylor, Alan, “Typhoon Bopha,” The Atlantic, December 10, 2012, http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2012/12/typhoon-bopha/100421/
[xxiii] De Castro, Erik, “Typhoon kills at least 283, hundreds missing, in Philippines,” Reuters, December 5, 2012, http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/05/us-philippines-typhoon-idUSBRE8B306420121205
[xxiv] De Castro, Erik.
[xxv] Ahmed, Amir, “Death toll from Typhoon Bopha tops 1,000 in the Philippines,” CNN, Decemer 17, 2012, http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/16/world/asia/philippines-typhoon/
[xxvi] Henn, Jamie, 350.org.
[xxvii] Masters, Jeff, “Typhoon Bopha hits the Philippines at Cat 5 strength; at least 40 killed,” Weather Underground, December 4, 2012, http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/typhoon-bopha-hits-the-philippines-at-cat-5-strength-at-least-40-kill
[xxviii] Henn, Jamie.
[xxix] Mann, Michael E, “Pacific Ocean Warming at Fastest Rate in 10,000 Years,” Huffington Post, December 31, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-e-mann/pacific-ocean-warming-at-_b_4179583.html
[xxx] Image: Anderson, Kathy, Times-Picayune archive, Sourced from nola.com, http://www.nola.com/katrina/index.ssf/2012/09/katrina_damage_judgement_again.html
[xxxi] Welsh, Teresa, “Was Hurricane Sandy Caused by Global Warming?” U.S. News & World Report, October 30, 2012, http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2012/10/30/was-hurricane-sandy-caused-by-global-warming
[xxxii] “U.S. and Global Temperature,” United States Environmental Protection Agency, Last updated September 22, 2015, http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/science/indicators/weather-climate/temperature.html
[xxxiii] Zimmerman, Kim Ann, “Hurricane Katrina: Facts, Damage & Aftermath,” Live Science, August 27, 2015, http://www.livescience.com/22522-hurricane-katrina-facts.html
[xxxiv] Zimmerman, Kim Ann.
[xxxv] Zimmerman, Kim, Ann.
[xxxvi] Drye, Willie, “A Timeline of Hurricane Sandy’s Path of Destruction,” National Geographic, November 2, 2012, http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2012/11/02/a-timeline-of-hurricane-sandys-path-of-destruction/
[xxxvii] Image: Cedeno, Ken, Corbis Images, Sourced from Consortium for Ocean Leadership, http://oceanleadership.org/hurricane-sandy-report-warns-of-rising-sea-more-storms/
[xxxviii] Drye, Willie.
[xxxix] Mulvihill, Geoff, “Tallying Hurricane Sandy Deaths And Damage a Complex Task for Officials,” Huffington Post, January 23, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/25/hurricane-sandy-deaths_n_4164333.html
[xl] Rice, Doyle and Alia E. Dastagir, “One year after Sandy, 9 devastating facts,” USA Today, October 29, 2013, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/29/sandy-anniversary-facts-devastation/3305985/
[xli] Welsh, Teresa.
[xlii] Welsh, Teresa.
[xliii] Main, Douglas, “Climate Change Partly to Blame for Hurricane Damage,” Live Science, November 5, 2012, http://www.livescience.com/24566-hurricane-sandy-climate-change.html
[xliv] “Storm Surge Risk Amplified by Climate Change, Study Finds,” Huffington Post, March 18, 2013, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/18/storm-surge-risk_n_2902823.html