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Koch Brothers Decline Tom Steyer's Climate Change Debate Invitation

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Koch Brothers Decline Tom Steyer's Climate Change Debate Invitation

Remember last week when Tom Steyer challenged billionaire clean energy opposers Charles and David Koch to a climate change debate?

Steyer, a billionaire activist for renewable energy and climate awareness, took things a step further Friday by placing an advertisement requesting a debate in the Koch's hometown newspaper, The Wichita Eagle. A bold move, no doubt, but not enough.

The Kochs have declined the offer.

Graphic credit: NextGen Climate

“We are not experts on climate change,” Koch spokeswoman Melissa Cohlmia told the newspaper. “We do believe there should be free and open debate on the climate issue and it should be based on sound science and intellectual honesty."

Steyer extended the invitation after Charles Koch argued in theWall Street Journal that there needed to be more free and open debate on climate change. Apparently, Koch didn't mean that he or his brother should be a part of that.

“We’re glad that Koch Industries has acknowledged that they are not experts on climate change,” said Heather Wong, a spokeswoman for Steyer's NextGen Climate Action. “The scientific community has, in fact, had a free and open debate about climate change and reached an unequivocal conclusion: Our climate is changing and carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels is primarily responsible.”

The actions of Koch Industries show that the brothers don't agree with that, and now their words show that they're unwilling to debate it.

“The Koch Brothers have always been shrouded in secrecy, their labyrinth of shadowy organizations have spent hundreds of millions of dollars benefiting candidates who deny basic science and push legislation that enables climate change,” the advertisement read. “Charles Koch has already mourned the oppression of ‘free and open debate.’

"Here’s his chance to do something about it.”

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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