(This post has been updated.)
Three dozen scientists sent an open letter to museums of natural history calling on them to cut ties with the Koch brothers and anyone else with connections to the fossil fuel industry.
In the letter, and a subsequent petition related specifically to the billionaire Koch brothers, the scientists contend that museums of science and natural history should not be associated with “those who profit from fossil fuels or fund lobby groups that misrepresent climate science.”
The petition specifically calls for David Koch to be kicked off the boards of the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington. The movement is being organized by a new “mobile” museum called The Natural History Museum, a pop-up whose exhibitions are featured in existing institutions.
They plan to present the petitions to the museums in New York and D.C. before their respective spring board meetings.
David Koch, the billionaire conservative donor and executive vice president of Koch Industries, donated $35 million in 2012 for a new dinosaur hall at the Smithsonian’s Natural History museum. He had previously given $15 million to the museum’s hall of human origins that is named for him. In New York’s museum, he donated $20 million to the dinosaur wing that is also named after him.
Randall Kremer, spokesman for the Smithsonian Natural History museum, said both exhibits deal in great detail with the impacts of climate change. And that Koch, and others on the board, are well aware of that.
Kremer told the Loop that they wouldn’t be supporting the museum if they “did not understand the science behind our public programs.” (The Smithsonian has been unequivocal in its belief that climate change is manmade.)
Koch did not respond directly to the letter, or his opinion on climate change, but Ken Spain, Koch’s managing director for external relations did send the Loop an e-mailed statement:
“David Koch and the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation have pledged or contributed more than $1.2 billion dollars to educational institutions and cultural institutions, cancer research, medical centers, and to assist public policy organizations. Mr. Koch remains committed to supporting these causes.”
It’s improbable that the museums are going to cut off a top benefactor. But the letter, signed by a number of scientists from universities and environmental interest groups, will certainly be an irritant. It was tweeted over and over Tuesday by actor Mark Ruffalo to his 1.39 million followers:
How much the Kochs support climate change deniers is a popular topic for Democrats hoping to vilify them. In fact, several Democratic senators wanted to investigate whether fossil fuel companies, including Koch Industries, were funneling money to groups trying to discredit climate change, but the Kochs’s lawyer said that information was protected by the First Amendment.