Workers on Google's main campus in Mountain View.
Workers on Google’s main campus in Mountain View. (David Paul Morris/Getty Images)

Last month, Google CEO Eric Schmidt had some strong words on the subject of climate-change deniers:

“You can hold back knowledge, but you cannot prevent it from spreading. You can lie about the effects of climate change, but eventually you’ll be seen as a liar.”

So it’s struck a lot of people as very strange that just a few weeks later, Google hosted a Washington, D.C. fundraiser for Congress’s Global Warming Denier-in-Chief, Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma.

Inhofe’s skepticism about human-caused climate change—in the face of a growing consensus among scientists about the issue’s reality and urgency—is legendary. A decade ago, he called it “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” He’s hardly backed off that stance since. Last year, he published “The Greatest Hoax,” which expanded on the theme and charged, among other things, that global warming is nothing more than a cover for cap-and-trade schemes, which he called “the largest tax increase in American history.” (Cap-and-trade exchanges, like the one in California, function as markets for buying and selling carbon emission credits.)

A few months later, he gave a long Senate floor speech laying out his position and dismissing those who assert “that global warming is occurring today and is occurring because of the release of CO2 and anthropogenic gases, methane and such as that—that’s really a hoax.”

Earlier this year, Inhofe was featured prominently in “Greedy Lying Bastards,” a no-holds-barred activist documentary that examined the energy industry’s efforts to thwart a government response to climate change.

Inhofe told the Tulsa World he was proud to be singled out as a leading foe of the climate-changers:

“As I said in July 2003, when I first called global warming the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people, science has been co-opted by those who care more about peddling gloom-and-doom fear tactics to drive their own broader political agenda. Just by watching the trailer, that’s exactly what this video seems to do, as well, leveraging the unknown to incite fear and raise money to make people like Al Gore even wealthier.”

So … that’s Sen. Inhofe. As far as Google goes, environmental and climate-change activists have been all over the company, whose motto is, famously, “don’t be evil,” for having anything to do with the senator, much less sponsor a fundraiser for him. A group called Forecast the Facts launched an online petition protesting the company’s relationship with Inhofe, and today tried to deliver 50,000 signatures to Google at its Mountain View headquarters.

Forecast the Facts’ Brad Johnson told KQED reporter Francesca Segre that Google “should be held to the values that it itself espouses.” And since the company had declined to accept the petition, he and other protesters tried to engage with Google employees they encountered on the company campus.

“The Googlers are shareholders,” Johnson said, “and they are some of the most important stake holders in Google’s corporate ethics. And one thing we’ve learned by coming out here is that a lot of Googlers are upset by what their company has chosen to do.”

Google didn’t respond to our emailed request for comment on today’s protest. It hasn’t had a lot to say about the issue beyond brief statements to a couple of other media outlets earlier this month. And what the company said, to the San Francisco Chronicle and Time magazine among others, is that while it disagrees with Inhofe on climate issues, it has found common ground with him on others, including its business operations in Oklahoma — which consists of a data center in Mayes County that employs 100 people.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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