Have The Koch Brothers Changed Their Mind About Climate Change?

A new study suggests the Koch brothers may have changed their mind on climate change.

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Oh, the irony, liberal news sites proclaimed.

A University of California-Berkeley study on earth surface temperatures, financed in large part by Libertarian petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch's foundation, has found that global warming is indeed happening and that the emissions of greenhouse gases are truly caused by humans.

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Charles and his brother, David, have for years backed groups that produce studies denying the existence of climate change. And Greenpeace and other environmental groups have long accused them of having a "vested interest" in doing so.

But some believe the Berkeley study shows the oil tycoons have turned a corner.

University of California-Berkeley Physics professor Richard A. Muller, who led the new study, told Whispers that he believes the Koch brothers really do "want to get the science clarified."

"People think they can look into the minds of Charles and David Koch," says Muller, who himself was previously a climate change denier. "But I have had conversations with them, where they are interested in the science and the proof, so that these issues [on climate change] would be resolved."

The Koch brothers, who founded the conservative non-profit group Americans for Prosperity, previously supported the campaign of Herman Cain, who declared he didn't believe climate change was real.

Earlier this month, however, David Koch held a campaign event for GOP candidate Mitt Romney, who has said he does believes climate change "is occurring."

Elizabeth Muller, executive director of the Berkeley Earth Project, tells Whispers she too believes the Koch brothers are genuinely interested in the science.

Muller points out that the Arlington, Va.-based foundation's $150,000 grant for the study was "unrestricted," and that the study's stated purpose was to "increase the transparency" of climate change studies.

The proof will be in the pudding, however, if and when the Koch Foundation decides to support the second phase of the Berkeley study, which will focus on ocean surface temperatures, but will also continue to explore mankind's role in climate change.

Though two foundations have already renewed their funding for the second phase, says Muller, the Koch Foundation is not among them.

Koch Foundation spokesperson Tonya Mullins would not reveal to Whispers whether funding would be renewed, but she called the research the foundation has supported both "independent" and "sound."

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at eflock@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.