Farewell to the Senate’s biggest climate denier
Search Google for Jim Inhofe and you’ll immediately see images of the Republican Senator from Oklahoma proudly holding a snowball on the US Senate floor.
Inhofe’s career in elected office spans nearly six decades, but the snowball is perhaps his most famous stunt — pure, unabashed climate idiocy that will haunt him long after he vacates his Senate seat.
Inhofe, 87, will retire in early January after nearly three decades in the Senate. He leaves behind a legacy of climate denial that would be ridiculous if it weren’t so embarrassing and dangerous. Few members of Congress have done more to sow public doubt about the increasing, deadly effects of fossil-fuel-driven global warming, or to block policies and regulations designed to address the threat.
It was late February 2015 and snow had covered Washington, DC. Speaking in the Senate, Inhofe pulled a snowball out of a plastic bag — proof, he argued, that global warming isn’t real.
“We keep hearing that 2014 was the warmest year on record,” he said, reaching for the softball-sized chunk of frozen water. “Do you know what that is? It’s a snowball that’s from out here. So it’s very, very cold outside. Very unseasonal.”
“Here, Mr. President, catch this,” Inhofe said, tossing it to the sitting Senate President. The senator spent the next 20 minutes doing what he has done his entire career: selling the kind of climate disinformation that would make his fossil fuel industry donors blush.
Inhofe’s views go well beyond skepticism about the magnitude of the global threat. He has dismissed global warming as “the greatest hoax ever done to the American people” and called for climate scientists to be prosecuted. He accuses the Environmental Protection Agency of “brainwashing our children” with “propaganda” about climate change. And he has characterized carbon dioxide – the main driver of planetary warming – as nothing more than “a form of fertilizer for growth”.
In his 2012 book on climate change, The Greatest Hoax, he wrote: “[T]This is what many alarmists forget: God is still up there, and He promised to keep the seasons going, and that cold and heat would never end as long as the earth endured.” As a longtime former chairman of the powerful Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, he has made it a habit to bring in the most prominent climate opponents as experts.
Inhofe continued to shamelessly carry the torch even after many fossil fuel enthusiasts began to distance themselves from outright climate change denial.
“There is no evidence that President Biden’s climate fantasy is real,” he said in a video posted to Twitter in July.
First, Dems used cow farts to justify their climate agenda.
Now, according to the Biden admin, the sky is falling and the only way to solve the problem is to throw more money into liberal climate policies.
Let’s get back to policies that actually help, not harm, the American people. pic.twitter.com/UiAi8P8zOG
— Senator Jim Inhofe (@JimInhofe) July 20, 2022
For his efforts, Inhofe has been richly rewarded by the oil and gas industry. During his long career in Congress, first in the House of Representatives and then in the Senate, oil and gas interests donated a whopping $2.32 million — more than any other industry, according to data from OpenSecrets.com. Only eight members of Congress have received more money for fossil fuels.
Like other seasoned deniers, Inhofe is a master of the raisin harvester. When it suits him, he brings weather and climate together to make his arguments – the snowball stunt is a prime example. He parrots the climate deniers’ pet theme that “the climate is constantly changing,” ignoring an undeniable body of research on the cause and pace of the current crisis. And he’s brushing aside the work of respected climate scientists around the world while spotlighting an increasingly fringe of contrarian scientists.
Inhofe has been described as “the original climate denier” and “one of the most vocal climate skeptics in the world.”
In his farewell speech last month, Inhofe promoted his efforts to limit climate and environmental protection.
“It comes as no shock to anyone that the Washington Post has dubbed me Public Enemy #1 of Radical Environmentalists for decades,” he boasted. “For much of my time in the Senate, I served as chairman and senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Throughout this time, I have opposed the Obama administration’s far-left policies aimed at turning the lives of the people of Oklahoma upside down, such as the Paris Climate Agreement, the Waters of the US Rule, the Clean Power Plan, and many others. “
“This policy was really about giving the bureaucrats in Washington broad control over the lives of millions of Americans,” he said. “We are debating many of these issues today, and I expect these disagreements will continue well into the future.”
Climate change is a long established scientific fact. But thanks in no small part to Inhofe, Americans will be forced to continue sift through a mountain of climate misinformation and disinformation.
Part of Inhofe’s legacy is raising a small army of like-minded skeptics and industry allies. E&E News identified at least 30 former Inhofe employees who are now in influential positions in the energy and environmental sectors – alumni whom the publication wrote were “looking forward to continuing to dominate right-wing environmental sectors for years to come”. They include Andrew Wheeler, Trump-era EPA chief and current top environmental adviser to Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R); Marc Morano, founder and CEO of climate denial website Climate Depot; and Mandy Gunasekara, a former Trump EPA official and current nominee for the Mississippi Public Service Commission.
“I would like to take a second to thank all of my current and former employees. They’re hanging out here now,” Inhofe said in his farewell speech. “I affectionately refer to my former employees as ‘the ones who have been’. It’s like a badge of honor. To all of you, thank you, you are all about to be gone.”