Environment

U.S. Senator Holds up Snowball to Disprove Global Warming

In hopes of disproving separate studies from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that found 2014 to be the hottest year on record, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) brought a snowball with him to today's Senate proceedings. Inhofe showed off the snowball -- and even tossed it up to the rostrum -- to support his argument that climate change is a hoax. 

"I ask the chair, 'Do you know what this is?' It's a snowball. That's just from outside here. So it's very, very cold out. Very unseasonal," Inhofe said.

 

When Republicans took over the Senate, Inhofe, who has written a book arguing that climate change is a hoax, became the Senate's leader on environmental issues as chairman of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee.

During the final season of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert took time to explain the problem with having a climate change denier hold this important post. You can watch the the segment here:

Here are some of Inhofe's other greatest hits:

  • His basic thesis: "With all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? It sure sounds like it.''
  • So who came up with this hoax? And why? According to Inhofe, the United Nations, which wants to destroy the U.S. economy. Or as Inhofe put it, "shut down the machine called America." 
  • He's also identified the "media and Hollywood elites" as co-conspirators. What's their motivation? Money, according to Inhofe. "I mean, what would happen to the Weather Channel's ratings if all the sudden people weren't scared anymore?"
  • Further, climate change cannot be real, Inhofe argues, "because God's still up there." "[T]he arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what [God] is doing in the climate, to me, is outrageous." His evidence for this belief is Genesis 8:22.

No Easy Solutions

There's one Inhofe quote that caught our eye. He's talking to Rachel Maddow here in 2012 (specifically at 4:07 of this video):

"Do you realize I was actually on your side of this issue when I was chairing that committee and first heard about this? I thought it must be true until I found out what it would cost."

What Inhofe is saying here is that even if climate change is real, the cost of fixing it is much too high. He's talking about the cost of proposed taxes or regulations aimed at changing our use of fossil fuels.

Here's what's interesting: A new study says that Inhofe's transformation is typical. According to researchers at Duke University, climate change denialists become climate change denialists not necessarily because they deny the science behind climate change. Instead, denialists mostly dislike the proposed solutions -- generally some type of regulation or taxes. Their dislike of regulations and taxes colors their view on whether or not the science is legitimate.

Some politicians are brazen in their denialism, like Inhofe. But most politicians who are against doing anything about climate change fall into another category highlighted by Colbert: the "I'm not a scientist" crowd. That consists of politicians who won't come out and explicitly deny the science. Instead, they dance around the issue, explaining that because they aren't scientists, they aren't qualified to speak on climate change. Why do they do that? I think that Duke study tells us. Acknowledging the science behind climate change indicates that a politician might also support the solutions to climate change. That is, acknowledging climate change amounts to saying you support more taxes and increased regulation.

And it's not just conservatives. Look at liberal Maryland. That state passed an innovative, fairly common-sense environmental law to protect its waterways. The law taxed property owners whose land contained hard surfaces -- like a parking lot or a driveway -- that cannot absorb water. The logic behind the tax is that when rain water falls on hard surfaces, it begins to flow along streets and sidewalks, picking up chemicals like pesticides, fertilizers, or automotive fluids along the way. All of that stuff travels with the water until it eventually finds a stream or lake or, in Maryland's case, the Chesapeake Bay. Anyway, the idea is to tax those properties in order to a) make-up for the cost of the pollution they cause and b) incentivize property owners to use more environmentally friendly surfaces. Seems fair, right? Wrong. Republicans in the state called this the Rain Tax and used it to attack Anthony Brown, the Democratic candidate for governor, who supported the tax. Brown ended up losing, despite running in a heavily Democratic state. Many feel that the Rain Tax played a role in the his defeat.

It's clear that the distasteful solutions to global warming -- higher taxes, more regulation -- just don't seem worth it to Americans right now. And that's why, to many Americans, Inhofe or Rain Tax opponents don't sound so crazy.