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Mann Bites Dogged Senator Inhofe

Dan Lashof

Posted February 28, 2012

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Ever since Jim Inhofe first took to the Senate floor to declare that “man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” in 2003 he has been predicting the imminent collapse of the whole “global warming conspiracy.” We know this because Senator Inhofe tells us so in his new book The Great Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future. The problem for Senator Inhofe is that unlike conspiracies and ice sheets, facts don’t collapse. No matter how many times Senator Inhofe says “hoax” the 850 billion tons of excess carbon dioxide now in our atmosphere will continue to trap heat and change our climate.

Oddly, while trying to convince us that the global warming conspiracy threatens our future because “the environmental activist extremists are not going away,” Senator Inhofe simultaneously argues that “the public has caught on and believes the global warming issue is dead…” Never one to worry too much about the facts, Senator Inhofe has this wrong as well. Results from a December 2011 Pew Research Center survey found 65% of Americans believe climate change is a serious problem. While that’s fewer than the 77% who said it was a serious problem in 2007, it’s still a solid majority of the public.  Meanwhile, as of September 2011, Jon Krosnick of Stanford University found that 83% of Americans believe that global warming is occurring, an 8 percentage point increase from 2010. And even in Senator Inhofe’s home state of Oklahoma a large majority believes that global warming is occurring according to Krosnick.

Any credibility Senator Inhofe might once have had on the subject of global warming should have evaporated long ago, like soil moisture in Oklahoma’s panhandle. In 2005 he invited science fiction writer Michael Crichton to be his star witness at a hearing on climate science. Apparently Sen. Inhofe is very proud of this because he tells us about it in The Greatest Hoax and quotes extensively from Crichton’s novel as evidence that there is a global warming conspiracy in the real world. Here’s a great graphic to help sort out fact from fiction.

But for me the most insidious episode was in March, 2010, when Senator Inhofe released a staff report with which he attempted to harass and intimidate climate scientists with guilt-by-association tactics and innuendo of criminal wrongdoing reminiscent of the McCarthy era. As I wrote at the time:

Have you no sense of decency Senator Inhofe? At long last have you left no sense of decency?

Apparently not, because Sen. Inhofe cites this report several times in The Greatest Hoax.

In fact, Inhofe’s penchant for vilifying climate scientists is on full display as he weaves his conspiracy theory. One of his favorite villains is Michael Mann, the Penn State climate researcher best known for his analysis of proxy temperature records that go back 1000 years, dubbed the hockey stick. Mann is among the researchers whose private emails were stolen from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia and posted on the internet by a still anonymous hacker. Inhofe makes ample use of these stolen emails in his attempt to discredit Mann’s finding that the warmth of the last few decades in the Northern Hemisphere probably exceeds anything seen in over 1000 years. Of course, Inhofe fails to mention that all of the allegations that arose as a result of these stolen emails were thoroughly investigated by Penn State and found to be without substance.

While Inhofe’s version of the hockey stick story is pure science fiction worthy of Michael Crichton, the real story has been told by Mann himself in his book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines (to be released officially on March 6th, but available now from Amazon). Reading Mann’s account it is hard to sustain the notion that he is an evil conspirator out to destroy our future. Rather it is clear that he is just a scientist who wandered into the field of paleoclimate research from theoretical physics and unexpectedly found himself in the crosshairs of the Merchants of Doubt.

Senator Inhofe’s conspiracy theory might be amusing if it were not so dangerous.

Enough is enough.

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Bill WalkerFeb 28 2012 03:49 PM

I wouldn't worry to much about what the good Senator Inhofe has to say. It's obvious that the only person that he is trying to convince is himself. And he must be having a really hard time doing it considering all of the time he spends trying to reassure his own imaginary convictions!

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