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Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. Last week's snowfall provided conclusive proof of Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe's assertion that climate change is a hoax.

As chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Inhofe holds considerable power in setting national environmental policies. We'd assume that someone in that position would compile information from many diverse sources, consult with experts and look at long-range patterns before coming to any conclusions about man's impact on the planet, and last month on the Senate floor he produced the conclusive evidence to support his view.

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Reaching in to a clear plastic bag he'd brought with him Inhofe said, "It's a snowball. And it's just from outside here. So it's very, very cold. Very unseasonable," he said prior to hurling the snowball at Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, who was presiding over the debate.

And if the actual physical evidence of seeing a snowball wasn't enough to convince doubters, Inhofe also had a blown up photograph of his family standing in front of an Igloo.

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What more evidence could these climate change fanatics want?

Inhofe also took President Barack Obama to task for saying that climate change was a greater threat to most Americans than terrorism. "It's just another illustration that the president and his administration are detached from the realities that we are facing today and into the future," Inhofe said.

Talk about being detached from reality.

If you truly believe that dumping tons of pollution into the atmosphere has no negative impact, then please close all the windows in your house and light a campfire in the middle of your living room.

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Inhofe is just one example of an extreme view. There are plenty of extremists on the other side who look at each weather event and scream that the end of the world is at hand. Neither view is accurate. Most people who have done any research at all into long-term weather patterns and what is happening agree that the things we are doing to the environment are having a negative impact. The biggest argument about doing anything or not comes down to economics. One side argues we have to reverse course at all costs; the other says doing that would cripple or destroy the world economy and we can't afford to do anything.

The real answer, as is usually the case, is somewhere in the middle.

Those who say that we can't afford to make incremental changes now are, ironically, setting us up for a scenario down the road where we will be forced to take drastic action that could, in reality, have a severe negative consequence on world economies. If there is a small leak in your roof and you are on a tight budget, you figure out a way to pay for the repair now at a small cost because you know waiting until your roof collapses will result in a much larger bill.

There are things we can do to promote clean energy. Advances in fuel mileage are saving us tons of money in gas costs. Hybrid vehicles run cleaner. Promoting more use of solar power and increasing recycling efforts are things we have been doing to reduce our impact on the environment.

If you look back, in most cases where policies were enacted – such as higher fuel standards for vehicles – opponents claimed the end of the industry was afoot because of the regulations. That didn't happen.

The key, of course, is in making incremental changes that keep moving us forward. Sadly though, nations across the world seem to be moving much too slowly in that direction, paralyzed by the all or nothing extremists on each side of the debate.

The battle isn't made any easier when there are people like Inhofe in positions of power who believe that, just because it snowed outside their house today, that is conclusive proof that climate change isn't happening.

It would be one thing if he was arguing that the problem was not as severe as some say it is. Debating the severity of the issue and considering the costs vs benefits of any action would be a wise use of time by his committee. But that doesn't seem to be the case. Based on his statement, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, he doesn't think we have had any negative impact on the environment. He even brought the snowball to prove it.

How he became the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee is anyone's guess, but having him there doesn't bode well for our country, or our future.

Jim Lee is the Carroll County Times' Editor. Email him at jim.lee@carrollcountytimes.com.

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