Meet the Billionaire Who Plans to Defeat Climate Deniers in 2016

April 7th 2015

Sarah Gray

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer's organization NextGen Climate is planning to attack climate change denying presidential candidates during the 2016 election. So far, only Republican candidates have denied climate change. This means NextGen will spend a lot of resources hitting Republicans.

NextGen's mission is two-pronged: put GOP candidates on the defensive for their positions on climate change and the environment and tie candidates to big oil-related billionaires David and Charles Koch. The campaign was announced on Monday by Chris Lehane, NextGen's chief strategist. 

"If you're in a position that is different from 97 percent of scientists, that does raise basic competency questions in terms of whether people are going to want to give you the keys to the White House," Lehane stated to the Huffington Post.

NextGen's strategy is to place candidates in the Hot Seat, which is described on the website as "a high-tech war room that will track Koch-backed presidential candidates and put them in the Hot Seat for their science denial and support for policies that only serve the best interests of the Kochs." The upcoming election will be framed as a choice between "big oil" -- and "big oil" funded candidates -- and the environment and clean energy.

“The Hot Seat will really seek to turn the nearly billion dollars that stands between our kids and the solution on climate as an oil barrel tied to the ankles of the Koch Republicans by shining a spotlight on the Koch Republicans, disrupting the Koch Republicans, engaging young voters and localizing the issue,” Lehane explained in a press call.

Newly announced 2016 presidential candidate, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), is NextGen's first target, according to the Huffington Post. NextGen hopes to pressure Sen. Paul into going on the record with his views on climate change; they will also follow him to Iowa.

Just how much money will NextGen spend during the 2016 campaign -- from everything to radio to television to social media? The figures are still unknown. 

"He's made pretty clear he will spend what it takes," Lehane said of Steyer.