Frank O'Donnell is president of Clean Air Watch, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization aimed at educating the public about clean air and the need for an effective Clean Air Act.
Maybe global warming has finally gotten to Senator James Mountain Inhofe, R-Okla. The Senate’s resident crackpot on global warming finally seems to have—well, cracked up.
The concern is prompted by a live interview that CNN anchorman Miles O’Brien conducted last week with Inhofe. For years, many have thought Inhofe took reactionary positions on global warming—calling it a “hoax”—because of the positive feedback loop provided by so many big polluter campaign contributions. But in the O’Brien interview, Inhofe exhibited disturbing symptoms.
O’Brien quizzed Inhofe following President Bush’s recent acknowledgement of “the serious challenge of global climate change” and as word was leaking about the new international climate report, which links human activities to global warming. Inhofe’s replies suggested someone in a state of denial, paranoia—someone disconnected from reality. Or was Inhofe merely struggling with the loss of his Senate committee chairmanship following the recent elections?
Consider, for example, when O’Brien asked him about James Hansen, the noted NASA scientist who has long warned about global warming.
INHOFE: I'd say that that's James Hansen, who is paid $250,000 by the Heinz Foundation. I think he'd say almost anything you ask him to say. [Hansen won a prestigious Heinz Environment Award for his research on global warming in 2001.]
O'BRIEN: He's—Senator, he's speaking for 2,500 of the world's leading scientists.
INHOFE: Oh. Then why is he the guy speaking?
Inhofe continued with a paranoid rant about the climate scientists assembled by the U.N. in Paris:
INHOFE: These are politicians, these aren't scientists.
O’Brien forged ahead gamely, giving not a hint that his interview subject perhaps was trying to anesthetize his feelings of inadequacy.
O'BRIEN: These are leading scientists who make these claims [about global warming] and now say there is a certainty of this human connection. Do you still reject that certainty?
INHOFE: Oh, definitely. I was on a program yesterday with Art Robinson. [An Oregon chemist and prominent global warming skeptic, who has admitted he has done no direct research on global warming.]
With a poker face rivaling that of The Sopranos ' Dr. Melfi, O’Brien noted that even such big corporations as General Electric and Duke Energy had agreed it was time to support a cap on global warming emissions.
INHOFE: Hey, let me work into that—it just takes me a second here—my favorite quote of all the people who were on the side of saying manmade gas caused global warming was a socialist in France. He's a geophysicist named Claude Allègre. He's a member of both the French and American Academy of Sciences. He says, "The cause of global warming is unknown. The proponents of manmade catastrophic global warming are being motivated by"—and listen to this, Miles—"money."
Aware that his interview subject appeared unbalanced, O’Brien started talking like a therapist:
O’BRIEN: Well, let's talk about that. That's an interesting point...
But Inhofe appeared to start hallucinating—conjuring up a vision of an America where coal wasn’t used at all (a vision shared by no one else in Congress).
INHOFE: Well, if you go that route—if you do away with 50 percent of our electricity in America…
Hoping to return Inhofe to reality by touching his spiritual side, O’Brien played a clip in which an official with the National Association of Evangelicals invoked a “biblical duty as evangelical Christians” to deal with global warming. But it didn’t work.
INHOFE: One of the problems, there's one individual. His name is Richard Cizik—and you talk about making money. There's a guy that's on the cutting edge, being sponsored by all these environmentalist groups to try to break into the National Association of Evangelicals. They have rejected him and what he has said. He's speaking on his own, not for evangelicals. [Cizik is, indeed, vice president of an evangelical group.]
With that, the time was up.
Those of us who have followed Inhofe over the years know that the former real estate developer and failed insurance company president likes to speak his mind . It wasn’t that many years ago that Inhofe likened former EPA Administrator Carol Browner to Tokyo Rose, and the EPA itself to The Gestapo. But little did we realize at the time that Inhofe may actually have been delusional—perhaps thinking he was a character in a World War II movie, or even fighting in the war.
Maybe it’s time for an intervention by mental health professionals so the poor man doesn’t harm himself—or us.