August 10, 2019
Do climate-change deniers read newspapers? It’s tempting to think that they don’t or that they believe reports are, to quote our leader, fake news; that could explain their continuing to deny in the face of headlines like “Greenland is on track for a record melt year, having already lost 250 billion tons of ice.” Wilful ignorance certainly is a factor.
Many who are not outright deniers may be unaware of the scope of the problem because of poor reporting. I watch NBC news most evenings and, whenever a story about extreme weather is included, I wait for a connection to be made to climate change; it almost never comes. The headline I quoted is from an August 8 article in The Washington Post , which mentions that glacier melting leads to sea level rise — a reportorial step in the right direction — but does not suggest why that might be a problem for people living in coastal areas. Yes, it may be necessary to draw pictures; another recent article reported that homes still are being built in flood zones.
On July 30, the New York Times, describing floods along the lower Mississippi, made the point: “Climate change is increasingly turning the extraordinary into the ordinary. Extreme floods and snowfall, at times moving to extreme heat and droughts, are forcing cities and farming communities across the country to grapple with the threat to their homes and livelihoods.” It quoted an endangered species biologist on the flooding: “This is biblical proportion.” Allowing for forgivable exaggeration, comparing the effects of climate change to the Flood in Genesis is apt: climate change may render the earth uninhabitable. That, however brings us to another impediment to belief in climate change: religious doctrine.
Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma wrote a book a few years ago entitled The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future . For him, the Flood, or its aftermath, is an argument against doing anything. In his book, he dealt with scientific fact by pretending that it didn’t exist and twice cited Genesis chapter 8, verse 22 to prove that climate catastrophe cannot happen. That verse is part of a description of the aftermath of the Flood which Noah, family and animal pairs survived on the Ark. Here’s the relevant passage (using the King James version which Inhofe no doubt prefers):
8:20 And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
8:21 And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.
8:22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
God promised not to smite every living thing or curse the ground; does that say we can’t ruin everything? Assuming that verse 22 is part of the “quote” beginning with verse 21, there will be seasons as long as the earth remains; giving that the interpretation most congenial to Inhofe’s theology, it is a divine guaranty that there will be some periodic variation in weather: seasons. That does not rule out drastic change. Think of the Ice Ages, although Inhofe may not believe in them either.
Then again, he probably does. Here’s Inhofe in a speech in 2016: “One of the smartest things the other side did is when they got rid of, they quit talking about, global warming and started talking about climate change. Don’t get caught in that trap. I’ve had to say this on the Senate floor many times: That climate is changing. I mean, look at it archaeologically, spiritually, scientifically. Climate always changes.” Presumably “archeological change” refers to such periods as ice ages. Inhofe prefers “global warming” because it allows him to refer to winter weather — see, we aren’t warm! — and to prove there is no warming by bringing a snowball into the Senate.
Senator Inhofe isn’t unaware of what, at the simplest level, is occurring; he noted recently that, “Over the past few weeks, Oklahomans around the state faced record rainfall and severe weather, leading to widespread destruction and flooding.” He just can’t take the next step because he would be forced to face other, unacceptable facts, and rethink his reading of Genesis.
I’m laboring this not because I think that we should make environmental policy based on Biblical exegesis, but to demonstrate that a core argument by a leading denier is nonsense. He is not the only one who employs a theological approach to politics, nor is this the only subject which receives that treatment. For further clarification, I’m not attacking religion or, specifically Christianity; I’m suggesting that what passes for the latter, in the context of current political discussion, often is a gross distortion.
A story the Senator told on a radio program perfectly encapsulated his mind set and that of other diehard deniers: “Senator Inhofe told the Eric Metaxas radio show this week that his granddaughter once asked him, ‘Pop I, why is it you don't understand global warming?’ ” His response: “[T]he stuff that they teach our kids nowadays, you have to un-brainwash them when they get out." Don’t learn, remain dangerously ignorant and pass that on.
The Senator’s rejection of climate change mirrors the attitude of the Trump administration, which also pretends that it doesn’t exist, going so far as to ban use of the term. Dealing with climate change requires political change, soon.
50. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/31/climate/climate-change-new-homes- flooding. html
52. For more on the Inhofe philosophy, see my note of December 6, 2014.
53. The Greatest Hoax , pp. 75, 174
56. https://www.newsweek.com/inhofe-declares-kids-brainwashed-after-granddaughter-asks- about-climate-change-484651
57. See discussion at: https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/trump_administration_climate _change.php