New Year’s always brings new things. Most people will make resolutions in hopes of becoming a better person than they were the year before. But for the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, this new year could be one giant step backwards.
Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe is poised to take over as chairman of the committee in January, and, to be frank, he is not the man for the job.
Inhofe previously held this position from 2003 through 2007, the last time the Republican Party held the Senate majority. In addition to being a senator, though, Inhofe has also delved into literature, publishing the book The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future in 2012.
In the book, Inhofe discusses why “environmental activist extremists” (including President Barack Obama and the Democratic members of Congress) are continuing to perpetuate “the hoax” of global warming when “the public has caught on and believes the global warming issue is dead.”
Since 2003, Inhofe has been one of Congress’ biggest opposers of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In his book, Inhofe discusses how regulations put in place to combat global warming “are set to destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs and significantly raise energy prices for families, businesses and farmers, basically anyone who drives a car, uses heavy machinery, or flips a switch.”
In 2009, when the EPA attempted to regulate carbon emissions by industry, many Republicans shared Inhofe’s concerns and said that these regulations would hinder the United States’ ability to compete with countries that had weaker regulations.
In 2003, as chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, Inhofe wrote a paper titled “The Facts and Science of Climate Change.” In this paper, he asserts that rising temperatures may be beneficial and says some parts of IPCC’s process “resembled a Soviet-style trial, in which the facts are predetermined, and ideological purity trumps technical and scientific rigor.” At a Christian Right conference in 2006, Inhofe said that the United Nations invented global warming “to shutdown the machine called America.”
This line of thinking is based primarily on a disturbing trend among many Republicans: a rejection of science. Nowhere is this more evident than with regards to the environment and climate change.
Pew Research Center recently released the results of a survey that showing that 79 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of independent voters believe there is “solid evidence” that the earth has been warming. Meanwhile, only 37 percent of Republicans said the same. Additionally, 68 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of independents said that global climate change is a major threat to the United States. Only 25 percent of Republicans agreed.
One source of this thinking is strict Christian beliefs. Inhofe said about as much in a visit to a Voice of Christian Youth America radio program, saying, “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.”
Inhofe isn’t the only Republican to hold an important scientific position who rejects man-made climate change though. Ralph Hall, the former chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, dismissed humanity’s impact on the changing climate, saying, “I don’t think we can control what God controls.”
While it has been seven years since Inhofe previously held the chairman position and the advancements in science and data collection during that time have been immense, the senator insists on talking about old data and outdated conclusions.
Just last week, Inhofe told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “when you say that science has settled [that climate change is real], and the overwhelming scientific analysis comes to that conclusion, frankly that is just not correct.” Inhofe went on to assert that in 2002 and 2003 he published the names of thousands of scientists dissenting against this idea.
The fact of the matter is that Inhofe is stuck in the past.
In 2004, 75 percent of published studies supported the idea that global warming is caused by humans, according to a study out of Harvard University. Nearly 10 years later, a group of 10 scientists examined 4,014 published works on climate change and found that 97.2 percent assumed that humans play a role in global warming.
Inhofe, however, continues to assert that there is no “consensus” that global warming even exists, much less that it is at least partly man-made.
The world is changing, but the soon-to-be chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is perfectly content with living in the early 2000s.
The problem with this is that Congress needs to pass environmental legislation that is relevant today, not that was relevant in 2002. With a man who is so clearly stuck a decade in the past at the helm of one of the Senate’s major committees, this will be nearly impossible.
Luckily, Inhofe is not yet in the chairmanship position. There is still time for the Senate Republicans to put a qualified senator in the post. Someone who is open to accepting the clear scientific consensus. Someone who is receptive to working with the rest of the Senate. Someone who will take action to limit the harm mankind is doing to the environment.
That someone is not James Inhofe.