By Peter Dykstra
On November 17, 1934, Blanche and Perry Inhofe of Des Moines, Iowa, delivered a lasting gift to climate denial. James Mountain Inhofe (the imposing middle name is actually his Mom’s maiden name) came into the world.
Senator Jim Inhofe, the undisputed alpha dog climate denier in U.S. politics, turns 85 on Sunday, which struck me as the perfect time to request an interview.
On Monday, I emailed an interview request to Leacy Burke, press liaison in Inhofe’s DC office, requesting an interview with the Senator on or about November 17, 2034. That’s the date Jim Inhofe would turn 100 years old.
It’s also as good a date as any to evaluate Inhofe’s relentless challenges to the overwhelming view of the climate science community that we’re building a whopping problem on all fronts, in every corner of the earth.
From: Peter Dykstra <[email protected]>
Office of Senator Jim Inhofe
Nov. 11, 2019
Happy Veterans Day to you, the Senator, and colleagues.
I’d like to request a brief Q&A with the Senator on or shortly before the occasion of his 100th birthday.
I met Senator Inhofe just about ten years ago at Eastern Market in DC, wearing a bomber jacket and looking nowhere near his then-age of 75. So I think there’s a good chance he’ll be with us for another fifteen years.
As you know, the Senator’s views on climate change are in opposition to many scientists and political leaders. Fifteen years from now, we’ll have a pretty clear idea who was right, and who was wrong. Either way, assuming the Senator is still with us at 100, and that I’m still here at age 77, I’d love to have the opportunity for Senator Inhofe to hold those he disagrees with accountable. Or vice versa.
Much can happen in fifteen years, but let me know if you’re amenable to this proposal. My email is [email protected], and my cell phone is 404-272-3304. If ehn.org and cell phones still exist in 2034.
Inhofe’s parents moved the family to Tulsa during World War II. Young Jim attended the University of Tulsa, followed his Dad’s footsteps as an insurance industry executive, and served a two-year Army hitch, terms in the state House and Senate, and as Mayor of Tulsa. He won a seat in the U.S. House in 1986, and rose to the Senate in 1994, serving two stints as Chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee.
I’ll spare you the full chronicle of Inhofe’s climate related activities, but here are a few high spots.
- In May, 1978 as Tulsa Mayor, Inhofe issued a proclamation praising the hunt for clean energy. “I think we’re all interested in looking for alternate sources of energy. And of course, we want clean sources,” he said. “Solar energy is bound to be in our future. There’s a kind of inevitability about it.”
- On July 29, 2003, He delivered a stemwinding speech on the Senate floor, concluding “could it be that manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? I believe it is.”
- With the assistance of Marc Morano, a political operative on Inhofe’s committee staff, he became the go-to voice of climate denial. Morano, who had been a key conduit of information on the “swift-boat” claims against Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004, became a key voice on the so-called “ClimateGate” emails in 2009.
- Inhofe has played the Hitler Card, characterizing environmentalists as the “Third Reich” and EPA as the Gestapo.
- Several of Inhofe’s family members built an igloo four blocks from the U.S. Capitol after a record-breaking 2010 snowstorm. They dedicated the structure to climate action advocate Al Gore.
- He playfully lobbed a snowball on the Senate floor at the Senate’s presiding officer during another snowstorm in 2014.
- His lifetime voting score from the League of Conservation Voters in both the House and Senate is 5%.
Posterity will show at least two exceptions to Inhofe’s treatment of environmental issues. In 2003, he co-sponsored the Marine Turtle Conservation Act, which funded efforts to protect the nesting areas of endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. And in 2011, the environment treated him to hospitalization, when an unprecedented heat-driven outbreak of blue-green algae sickened him after a swim in Oklahoma’s Grand Lake.
Jim Inhofe is alternately described as courtly and ruthless, and no doubt both qualities have helped carve out such a long political career. He is also a notoriously robust octogenarian, giving him a fair chance of beating the actuarial tables to live to 100. If he does, and he chooses to keep his Senate job until then, his re-election bids have been won by increasingly comfortable margins.
Hence, my standing invitation to the senior Senator from Oklahoma.
Midday Friday, I received my response from Leacy Burke:
I shared your inquiry with the Senator and he said: “Sure! How is 10 am on Friday, November 17, 2034?”
I’ll pursue clarification whether it’s 10 a.m. Eastern or Central time. Watch this space, or whatever information platforms exist, in November 2034.
Peter Dykstra writes on politics, baseball and environmental health for Environmental Health News.