Last month, Oklahoma’s senior U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe held up a snowball on the Senate floor as indisputable proof that not only was the northeast United States enduring a bitter cold winter but also that global warming was simply a myth.
Indeed, the northeastern U.S. has experienced a snowy, cold winter, but new information has recently been released that on a global level, this recent winter—December through February—was the warmest winter ever recorded in history. In fact, the last 12 months, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), were the warmest ever recorded in history as well.
Inhofe, who believes global warming is actually a left-wing hoax among scientists to lower the profits of the oil and gas industry and that only God can control the climate, looks even more foolish now than he did in February. But Oklahomans are used to these types of Inhofe stunts and have continued nonetheless to send him to office. There is, however, a solid, progressive group of people in Oklahoma who adamantly oppose Inhofe’s sophomoric approach to global warming, which threatens the planet and has been accelerated by manmade carbon emissions.
To repeat: One particular weather event or events in one particular area of the world doesn’t tell us much about climate change, which is measured over decades and even centuries. It’s the steady, long-term trajectory that matters and the larger issues, such as the melting of the arctic ice cap, rising sea levels and consistent weather-pattern changes.
NOAA reported that the world’s air and sea temperatures were a combined 1.48 higher than the national average for the 20th century and the highest ever record. According to NOAA, the states of Washington, California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona were extremely warm this winter and broke records. California, which is experiencing an extreme drought, was especially warm. So while the northeast was icy cold the western U.S. was especially warm. Other parts of the world that experienced warmer weather, NOAA states, were “Central America, northern and central South America, Australia, most of Africa, and much of Eurasia, including a broad swath that covered most of Russia.”
Inhofe, now 80, has based much of his political career on disputing scientific claims that point out the role of carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels to power our cars and planes. As a senior Senator and again chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, he’s once again in a position to do much damage to the planet. Actually, bringing melting snowballs to the Senate is only political theater in which Inhofe revels and the local corporate media either celebrates or ignores. Trying to turn back or block rules that would limit carbon emissions is a far more dangerous endeavor.
I will point out again what the mainstream media often fails to note. From 2009 to 2014, Inhofe accepted $454,500 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, according to OpenSecrets.com, and more than $1.7 million from the same industry during his entire career.
Mainstream journalists these days don’t often note when it comes to Inhofe how campaign money buys influence. Perhaps, people just accept now the role of big-donor money in influencing politicians, and maybe Inhofe pulls a theatrical stunt now and then for his sheer enjoyment or out of insecurity as he seeks attention. I don’t know.
I do know Inhofe continues to make Oklahoma look backwards and, even worse, uncaring about the environmental welfare of the plant.
Scientists have just reported that 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded, providing more evidence that manmade carbon emissions are accelerating global warming and threatening to do more extensive damage to the planet’s ecosystems.
Here in Oklahoma, many people are worried about the world oil glut and lowering gasoline prices, which are already damaging the state’s economy. But it’s precisely the burning of fossil fuels produced in energy states like Oklahoma and elsewhere in other countries that is contributing to the much larger problem—some would argue the world’s greatest challenge—of climate change.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA, according to media reports, have concluded the average temperature in 2014 was, respectively, 58.24 and 58.42 degrees Fahrenheit. This is more than 1.2 degrees above the twentieth-century average. NOAA reported that nine of the ten warmest years ever recorded have come since 2000.
Meanwhile, scientists reported in September that Arctic sea ice was at its sixth lowest level ever recorded. Arctic ice reflects ice back into the atmosphere cooling the planet. Less ice means a warmer planet.
Scientists throughout the world have long argued that growing carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels in vehicles and energy plants increase what is known as the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect, a natural phenomenon, is when carbon dioxide, methane gas and water vapor, get entrapped in the atmosphere causing the planet to stay warm.
But too much warmth can cause damage to the environment in several ways: Rising ocean levels caused by melting Arctic ice threatening coastline property, longer and harsher droughts diminishing the world’s food supply, extinction of wildlife disrupting natural habitats and extended heat waves killing people.
Some of those problems have obvious major consequences. For example, rising ocean levels could submerge millions of buildings and homes throughout the world in water, forcing massive human displacement. Droughts kill growing crops and reduce the drinking water supply. Other problems, such as wildlife disruption, which include insects, don’t necessarily have one clear and shared consequence, except in cases like fewer fish, a major world food source.
Republicans, most notably Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, have denied that manmade carbon emissions have contributed to global warming. It’s widely known that Inhofe claims scientists throughout the world are involved in a leftist conspiracy aimed at hurting oil and gas companies and that the warnings of the impact of global warming are simply a “hoax.” He has also argued that only a god could impact the environment in any major way.
“The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He [a god] is doing in the climate is to me outrageous,” Inhofe once said in an interview. That’s Inhofe and his wife with Vice President Joe Biden pictured right in a recent Senate swearing-in ceremony.
Inhofe is now chair of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and has announced he will fight to rollback rules by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the environment from pollution while reducing carbon emissions.
Meanwhile, in other Oklahoma-related news, the hydraulic fracturing or fracking boom in this state and others has contributed to a world oil glut that has dropped the price of a barrel of oil below $50, a steep drop from the $100 to $110 a barrel range last summer. This means oil and gas companies here are planning to reduce production, which means fewer jobs and less tax revenue for the state.
So Oklahoma gets it all ways. The fracking bust could very well lead to a major economic downturn in Oklahoma, not experienced since the 1980s. Yet the fracking boom produced more of the carbon dioxide that leads to environmental crises, such as the current extreme drought in western Oklahoman that’s creating a major agricultural and water crisis in the state. Oklahoma also now leads the lower 48 states in the number of 3.0-magnitude or higher earthquakes, which scientists argue are caused by the wastewater injection well process used in the fracking process.
None of this will probably impact Inhofe’s quest to add as much carbon dioxide as possible to the planet’s atmosphere. It’s important to note Inhofe has received more that $1.7 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Get ready for at least two more years of political blustering and stunts over climate change from Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who is expected to become chair again of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the EPW Committee, has wasted no time getting back into his contentious groove, and, in his new position, he will have no problem getting all the media attention he craves. This week, for example, he lambasted President Barack Obama for signing an agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. It was widely reported.
According to Inhofe, the agreement is a “non-binding charade” and vows to fight the White House on new rules governing polluting emissions from power plants in this country. Inhofe is infamous for calling global warming a hoax and a left-wing conspiracy among scientists.
Of course, Inhofe misses the point that the agreement is supposed to be viewed on the world stage as a important symbolic gesture. How we monitor and measure a decline in carbon emissions over the years will always be problematic. What’s important is that there’s a discussion among important world leaders about climate change. For example, the agreement has spurred new discussions among Canadian government officials about curbing greenhouse gas emissions, according to a news report. That’s one of the points of such agreements between countries.
Under the agreement, the United States would reduce its carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025. China would cap its emissions by 2030 and commit to generating 20 percent of its energy from non fossil fuels sources by 2030.
China and the United States account for 45 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The agreement is ambitious, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be implemented in good faith. Any reduction in carbon emissions would be good for the planet. Right now, global warming threatens the world’s eco systems, and, in the future, rising sea levels due to climate change could wreak havoc on major coastal cites throughout the world. This could lead to major population migrations and severely depressed economies never experienced before.
It’s no secret that Inhofe will stand in the way of progress on reducing carbon emissions. As I have written before, most media outlets when reporting on Inhofe’s latest rage against Obama or environmentalists or climate scientists fail to note that he has received more than $1.7 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry in his political career, according to OpenSecrets.org. Inhofe is a de facto spokesperson for fossil-fuel profiteers and represents a state that is experiencing a major energy boom because of hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The fact that Inhofe’s financial ties to the oil and gas industry often go unmentioned is a testament to how the corporate media has complacently accepted and implicitly endorsed the role of big money in our political process.
I expect a political correction on a national level in the 2016 elections. Starting in 2015, however, Republicans will control the Senate and House for two years, and they are indicating they plan to block and stonewall any White House proposals, even to the point of shutting down the government. Inhofe will be a part of this onslaught when it comes to climate change. It’s apparent already the Republicans will overreach and remind voters of the George W. Bush presidency, which was a debacle of right-wing extremism, but that’s not going to make it any easier to stomach.