The news from a large group of scientists warning of the dire effects of global warming and showing the impact of human activity on climate change didn’t create much of a stir here in Oklahoma.
That’s because this is an epicenter of global warming denial, which includes among its adherents U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and the state’s largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. The main basis of the denial is simple, reckless subterfuge: The science behind climate change is actually a global, leftist conspiracy targeting the fossil-fuel industry for extinction. This is nonsense, and it puts us all at risk.
A draft of a report created by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as reported by The New York Times, shows that global warming would push sea levels three feet higher by the end of the century, a catastrophe of epic proportions for the world’s populated coastlines. The draft report also claimed that there’s a 95 percent certainty that carbon emissions produced by human activity are the main cause for the warming, The Times reported.
Scientists have long argued that carbon emissions or greenhouse gases trap heat, which is then radiated back to the earth’s surface. The extra heat leads to the melting of the Arctic ice cap, which raises sea levels. It also causes weather extremes in the form of intensified severe events, such as hurricanes and flooding, that can be highly destructive and expensive. The extra heat also impacts wildlife and the world’s overall eco-systems. It creates new health issues for humans.
The final report, created with the input of more than 800 scientists throughout the world, will be released after an IPCC session in late September, and it’s sure to garner the ire of Inhofe and The Oklahoman. They dismiss climate-change science as alarmist and detrimental to the oil and gas industry. The IPCC won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, along with former Vice President Al Gore, but its critics, such as Inhofe, are relentlessly dismissive of its findings.
Inhofe, who has written a book titled The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, just recently criticized President Barack Obama’s so-called “climate change agenda.” In a somewhat rambling media release, Inhofe said:
I also find it quite interesting that to end this week of coincidental events on climate change alarmism, certain liberal media is showing a climate change special with reportedly no interviews from those challenging the theory. There seems to be a coincidental coordination between the White House, the President’s campaign, and the liberal media that is weaving a false and potentially harmful narrative of alarmism. This agenda will leave our nation less secure, less prosperous and less informed.
In other words, Inhofe, who is running for re-election in 2014, has no intention of backing down anytime soon in the face of growing global-warming evidence. He has been supported consistently in his denial efforts by the editorial page of The Oklahoman, which shares with Inhofe the use of the words “alarmists” or “alarmism” when it comes to climate-change science
The anti-environmental efforts of Inhofe and The Oklahoman are only a blip in the waning decades of The Oil Age. Inhofe’s large campaign contributions from the oil and gas and utility industries show the main reason behind his political motivation. The Oklahoman is now owned by a Colorado billionaire oilman. But how much damage and destruction will humanity have to endure before it wakes up?
In an editorial this week essentially supporting the use of coal in power plants, The Oklahoman again made unsubstantiated, sweeping claims denying the impact of climate change and global warming on our planet.
Obviously, Oklahoma is known as a fossil-fuel state, and the newspaper is a strong booster of the energy industry and its top executives, but that doesn’t mean it should promote an anti-environment agenda.
The editorial, “President Obama’s carbon tax is sure to hurt consumers” (June 27, 2013), is basically a typical anti-Obama hatchet job that criticizes new federal restrictions on carbon pollution for power plants. The point is that these restrictions will result in higher electricity bills in the future for some customers, especially those served by Public Service Co. of Oklahoma.
Along the hyperbolic way to that conclusion is a lot of Obama bashing and tortuous logic about carbon dioxide emissions and then this gem of reasoned wisdom:
Furthermore, it remains debatable that mankind is causing climate change. The globe hasn't warmed as predicted for more than a decade now, even with emissions increasing.
Now, the use of the word “debatable” here is probably an improvement for The Oklahoman editorial page, but it still underscores the problem. It is in the vested financial interests of the fossil fuel industry to cast doubt on the reasons for climate change for as long as possible. It’s about money. The owner of The Oklahoman is Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, who made his money in the oil business.
Again, for the record, below are some reasons why global warming is extremely real, not debatable, and why it’s important to reduce carbon emissions in this country and throughout the world.
(1) The planet IS getting warmer. Since 1880, when records were first kept, the earth’s surface temperature has risen. Here’s a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) chart showing about a 1.3 degree rise, along with the accompanying increase in carbon emissions, since 1880. It is the long-term increase that matters, not necessarily one decade. Let’s not forget, as well, the highest record average temperature in the contiguous United States was recorded in 2012. There are many ways to parse temperature levels.
(2) Carbon emissions, which pollute the planet and raise the overall temperature, continue to increase. (See video above) Just recently, the amount of carbon dioxide in the surpassed the 400 parts per million level, the highest ever recorded. The Oklahoman argues that this country is reducing its emissions while China and India lead the way in increasing emissions. That’s true, but that doesn’t mean the U.S. shouldn’t lower its emissions even more. In fact, the U.S. should lead the way.
(3) There are other signs of climate change beyond the rise in the earth’s surface temperature. These include higher and warmer sea levels, melting arctic sea ice and an increase in severe weather events, such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and even the recent tornadoes here in central Oklahoma. Here’s a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) site outlining the evidence for climate change.
The Oklahoman continues to do a disservice to its readers when it casually dismisses climate change to support the financial interests of the fossil-fuel industry, including coal producers. Skepticism can be a good trait, but not when it’s reduced to sweeping generalizations and unsubstantiated claims.
I think it’s fair to say that at least some members of the Oklahoma Congressional delegation and the corporate power structure here are waging a carefully constructed rhetorical war against the environment.
The principal ammunition is money given by the oil and gas industry in campaign contributions to politicians, such as Republicans U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and U.S. Rep. James Lankford, who represents Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District. The principal tactics—or to put it another way, what that money buys—are relentless science denial, linguistic subterfuge and reductionist sloganeering.
The victim, of course, is the environment. Our planet faces the major threat of global warming caused by man-made carbon emissions. By supporting the interests of the oil and gas industry above environmental protection, politicians like Inhofe and Lankford, the corporate energy sector here and their mouthpiece, The Oklahoman, have not only positioned themselves on the wrong side of history but have also sold out the future of the planet for money and power.
Take just this week. On Wednesday, Inhofe announced he, along with other senators, have introduced a legislative plan for a “full global embargo against Iranian oil” that also includes a requirement that the federal government open up more of its land for energy production. Of course, as even Inhofe concedes in a press release, the United States doesn’t import any oil from Iran, but that doesn’t matter because the new production of oil by big corporations on federal lands would somehow help those countries who do import oil from Iran. All this will result in the “defeat” of Iran, according to Inhofe, which is a somewhat fantastical concept in itself.
Of course, traditional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on federal lands will also damage the environment and only exacerbate the real problem of climate change through the burning of fossil fuels, but, as we know, Inhofe doesn’t buy into the science of global warming and calls it all a hoax.
On Friday, Inhofe also issued a statement arguing that the Department of Interior needs to back off any re-proposals of rules over fracking on federal lands, which are going to provide the oil needed to defeat Iran. In the statement, Inhofe makes the claim that “over one million wells have been fracked and there has not been a single confirmed case of groundwater contamination in that time.” It’s not surprising that argument has been refuted. (Click here as well.) Fracking has also been related to earthquakes here in Oklahoma and elsewhere.
It’s also not surprising that Inhofe doesn’t mention in his press releases that he has received at least $550,950 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry since 2007.
Inhofe’s ties to the oil and gas industry through campaign funding ultimately result in an assault on the environment as he does the bidding of big energy companies.
One of his anti-environment colleagues in Washington, Lankford, does the same type of bidding. Lankford received $160,350 in campaign money from the oil and gas industry in the 2011-2012 campaign cycle. What does that amount of campaign money get the oil and gas industry?
On Thursday, Lankford criticized the federal government during a hearing for not expediting drilling permits on federal land. He has argued that new rules related to fracking are not needed for drilling on federal lands because apparently states do such a good job regulating the oil and gas industry. The Oklahoman, of course, extensively covered Lankford’s predictable remarks.
To round out the week, the newspaper, which is a propaganda mouthpiece for Inhofe, Lankford and all of Oklahoma City’s large energy companies, such as Devon, Chesapeake, Sandridge and Continental Resources, published an editorial Friday mocking protesters of the Keystone XL pipeline currently under construction in the state.
The editorial focused on one quote by a protester, who was arrested at a construction site, and the editorial made the sophomoric argument once again that people who fight for the environment most likely also use cars fueled by gasoline and thus have some type of conflict of interest that renders their arguments invalid.
The real conflict of interest is that the newspaper is owned by Philip Anschutz, a Colorado billionaire, who became rich drilling for fossil fuels, and that the newspaper conveniently never allows consistent, dissenting views to its one-sided, conservative myopia when it comes to the environmental destruction. Has Oklahoma become the epicenter of an anti-environment campaign waged by corporate interests for short-term profits?