The pope’s moral argument on global warming seems lost on Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who has spent much of his political career denying the negative ramifications of mankind’s pollution of the planet’s atmosphere.
The main message given in Pope Francis’s recent encyclical is not the concept of global warming itself or the huge, mounting evidence of how carbon emissions have accelerated it. The pope, along with most rational people, takes that for granted because of scientific evidence.
What the pope, from his religious perspective, is saying is that global warming can be blamed on “collective selfishness.” The pope’s encyclical states this about earth and how humans treat it:
We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her [earth] at will.
The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life.
The pope, of course, frames the issue on religious and moral terms, whether one agrees with the approach or not. He’s not a scientist, but he can read and understand the scientific record. Inhofe, who is widely known for calling the science underlying the impact of global warming a “hoax,” isn’t a scientist either, but he also doesn’t seem to get the pope’s message.
In response to the encyclical, Inhofe, chairperson of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, trotted out his usual arguments:
I am concerned that his [Pope Francis] encyclical will be used by global warming alarmists to advocate for policies that will equate to the largest, most regressive tax increase in our nation’s history.
It’s the poor that spend the largest portion of their expendable income to heat their homes, and they will be the ones to carry the heaviest burden of such onerous policies.
The statement contains two of Inhofe’s favorite global warming fallacies: (1) Those “alarmists” will want some type of tax on carbon emissions, and (2) the poor will have to pay up. But those alarmists include highly educated scientists relying on a vast amount of scientific evidence, and there’s no reason in the world that poor people should have to pay more in taxes to reduce carbon emissions. (The pope would obviously be against hurting impoverished people.) These are the Inhofe conjectural myths we’ve endured for years now, but they miss the pope’s larger moral message.
Pope to Inhofe: Polluting the planet is morally wrong and selfish.
Inhofe to Pope: Taxes, poor people.
To argue that there’s a disconnect here is an understatement. Obviously, Inhofe wants to repeat his tired talking points to support the oil and gas industry, which has contributed more than $1.7 million to his campaigns in his political career. The pope intentionally wants to frame the issue on a larger level of morality, which Inhofe can’t or won’t address directly.
Those of us concerned about the environment and global warming can hope the pope’s message resonates and moves people to action, but as long as Inhofe and his fellow Republicans remain in power nothing much is going to happen.
The antics of Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe when it comes to denying humankind’s contribution to global warming never cease.
Has he made himself into parody for the fun of it or does he really believe in all of the stuff he argues in some of the world’s most serious forums?
As you recall, last winter Inhofe brought a snowball to the Senate floor and, in a speech, referred to how unseasonably cold it was in Washington. The point was to show, as Inhofe has repeatedly argued, that the whole science underlying climate change predictions and causes is what he calls a hoax.
None of this might matter except that Inhofe is chairperson of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
This past week, Inhofe gave the keynote address at what is called a “Climate Conference” sponsored by the conservative Heartland Institute, which gave him an award for all his diligent work in refuting the scientific evidence based on his religious views and, well, things like snowballs even though 2014 was the warmest year ever recorded on the planet.
Speaking of religion, Inhofe took on Pope Francis at the conference. The pope has discussed the moral issue of global warming recently, but Inhofe wasn’t having any of it.
According to media reports, Inhofe had this to say about the pope at the conference: “Everyone is going to ride the Pope now. Isn’t that wonderful. The Pope ought to stay with his job, and we’ll stay with ours.” That’s showing the pope, isn’t it? The Catholic Church has now been brought to its figurative knees.
Inhofe apparently has a different view of the role of religion than the pope when it comes to global warming. Speaking of climate change on a Christian radio show, Inhofe once said, “My point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.” So God is making this all happen. Just get out of the way, and don’t let the pope stick his nosey craw into it.
All of this might be considered funny in a type of frontier or southwestern Mark Twainy humor sense, except that Inhofe holds some real power as the chair of EPW. When he’s not telling the pope how to do his job, Inhofe, 80, is usually criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency for trying to protect our water and make sure we’re breathing clear air.
Here’s the usual information I always try to include in these posts about Inhofe’s antics when it comes to his fight against the scientific evidence of how manmade carbon emissions have warmed the planet:
(1) In his political career, Inhofe has collected more than $1.7 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. He represents an oil and gas state that is experiencing an energy boom because of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. This has obviously influenced his political agenda. Any reporters who don’t mention these basic facts in a story about Inhofe related to global warming are not doing their job.
(2) The greenhouse effect is what happens when the atmosphere absorbs radiation from the planet surface and radiates it back to the surface. The vast majority of scientists who study global warming believe the burning of fossil fuels in cars, power plants, machinery, etc., accelerates the greenhouse effect and the warming the planet, creating higher sea levels from the melting of ice caps. This threatens the very survival of coastal communities and creates more frequent and severe weather events.
I know that’s not the type of information that makes headlines. It’s not like I’m telling off the pope or anything or throwing snowballs around on the U.S. Senate floor. But it does show Inhofe’s obvious motivation to advance the interests of the oil and gas industry, which makes profits off selling fossil fuels. It also gives the basic, simplistic form of what scientists are arguing about when they warn of the dangers of global warming.
The answer, of course, is to double down on developing renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, and that’s happening in places. We also need to limit the amount of fossil fuels we do burn and eventually phase them out, which will take decades. Both those renewable sources I mentioned, as the deniers are quick to point out, have environmental impacts as well, but they are localized and don’t jeopardize the entire planet.
Even local Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company is experimenting with solar power.
Inhofe, as I’ve noted through the years, has brought notoriety and, yes, national embarrassment to Oklahoma because of his political stunts. He has been enabled by the corporate media here over the years, and, in particular The Oklahoman and the Tulsa World, which refrain from consistently holding him accountable.
I realize voters here keep reelecting Inhofe to office, but do they realize the negative impact he has had on our state image? You wouldn’t know this by following the state’s corporate media. But consider this: The fracking boom here would have happened with or without Inhofe’s implicit boosterism of the oil and gas industry by denying humankind’s influence on climate change. Oklahoma would still be reaping the economic benefits of the oil and gas industry even if Inhofe focused his political agenda elsewhere. All he’s doing is making Oklahomans look backwards and even selfish for putting their localized economic concerns above the interests of the entire planet. I realize not everyone believes this, but Oklahoma remains relatively isolated in its own ridiculous false hubris.
As I mentioned in my last post, a scientific argument has been made that global warming has exacerbated the rainfall amounts leading to recent destructive flooding in Oklahoma and Texas.
Even Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” has weighed in with this tweet, “Billion$$ in damage in Texas & Oklahoma. Still no weather-caster may utter the phrase Climate Change.” Other weather experts have discussed the issue publicly as well.
Basically, the air is warmer so it can hold more moisture. This has led to record rainfall amounts and major flooding in Oklahoma. In a more technical sense, El Niño, a part of a warm ocean band in the Pacific Ocean, is strengthening right now. Global warming exacerbates its effect, which has brought rain and misery here to Oklahoma. Global warming isn’t necessarily causing the rainfall. It’s just making it more extreme.
Many right-wingers, of course, dismiss this basic fact, but it’s really fundamental and not difficult to understand. For years, climatologists have warned that global warming will create severe weather events. What’s difficult for some to grasp is that these weather events can be dramatically oppositional. Thus, years of crop-destroying drought can be suddenly replaced with a month or two of crop-destroying rain. The POINT is the extreme swing in weather conditions.
What the global warming deniers will argue is that those of us who believe in basic science blame every major event on climate change. This generalization is simply not true. The deniers often lack a larger perspective. There’s been excessive rainfall in Oklahoma and Texas this month, but there’s also been a major heat wave in India at the same time. My point is that global warming is a planetary phenomenon and should always be considered in that context. At the same time people are suffering here because of flooding, people are suffering elsewhere in the world because of heat and lack of rainfall.
The cause of rapid and increasing global warming, according to the vast majority of climate scientists, is manmade carbon dioxide emissions created by the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and gas. This accelerates the greenhouse effect in which planet surface radiation is re-radiated back to the surface by the upper atmosphere. This acceleration heats up the planet to dangerous levels, leading to arctic ice melting and rising sea levels. This impacts weather patterns, creates weather catastrophes and threatens coastal communities through erosion.
Human inaction on significantly decreasing carbon emissions is now a given as long as politicians such as Oklahoma’s U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe have major influence on the issue, and increasingly climatologists are taking a preparedness stance. In other words, extreme weather events are obviously in our future so how do we prepare? Is it even possible to prepare?
Bill Nye gets it right. I’ve heard no real, extended discussion of global warming from our local television weather forecasters during the recent stormy weather. In a weather-extreme place like Oklahoma, this is unfortunate and tragic.