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Documents reveal Koch-funded group's plot to undermine climate science

Documents leaked from the 'free-market' Heartland Institute reveal payments to prominent climate-change deniers, a plan to create a fossil-fuel-friendly curriculum for Kindergartners, and efforts to 'keep opposing voices' out of the media. 

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Creating controversy

In fact, while some of these statements may be politically controversial, they are not particularly scientifically controversial. For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, which synthesizes global scientific findings about climate change, states: "Since the start of the industrial era (about 1750), the overall effect of human activities on climate has been a warming influence. The human impact on climate during this era greatly exceeds that due to known changes in natural processes, such as solar changes and volcanic eruptions."

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Likewise, while models cannot represent the climate system perfectly (thus the uncertainly in how much the Earth will warm for a given amount of emissions), climate simulations are checked and re-checked against real-world observations and are an established tool in understanding the atmosphere.

And while carbon dioxide is crucial for plant life, the carbon balance on Earth is a delicate cycle, with oceans and land able to absorb only so much CO2. Humans do emit only a fraction of the 750 gigatons of CO2 that move through the atmosphere each year, but small changes in the total amount can overwhelm so-called carbon "sinks" such as the ocean, resulting in important, and cumulative, changes in the atmosphere. [10 Ways the Weather Changed History]

"These documents are breathtaking, and they reveal what many of us have long suspected: That there is a campaign afoot by groups directly funded by the fossil fuel industry and right-wing foundations such as Koch Industries to mislead the public about climate change," Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann wrote in an email to LiveScience.

Other donors giving more than $10,000 a year to the Institute include Allied World Assurance Company, Amgen, USA, AT&T, Bayer Corporation, Comcast Corporation, GlaxoSmithKline and General Motors. Links to all documents can be found at DeSmogBlog.

You can follow LiveScience senior writer Stephanie Pappas on Twitter @sipappasFollow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.

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