POLITICS
05/28/2013 10:53 am ET Updated May 28, 2013

Jim Inhofe: Liberals 'Trying To Exploit A Tragedy' By Linking Tornado To Climate Change

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), perhaps the Senate's foremost climate change denier, said over the Memorial Day weekend that members of the "liberal media" had done "a great disservice" to victims of last week's tornado in Oklahoma by suggesting there was a connection between global warming and tornadoes.

"The liberal media is trying to exploit a tragedy to advance and expand its own agenda. And, believe me, the victims all know this," Inhofe said in an interview with Newsmax. "We were being hit by tornadoes long before anyone talked about climate change, and even before it was called 'global cooling,' before it became 'global warming,' and then 'climate change.'"

Inhofe's colleagues, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), both took to the Senate floor in the wake of last week's deadly string of tornadoes -- including a particularly devastating one that killed 24 in Moore, Okla. -- to argue for more urgency in addressing climate change. Whitehouse later apologized about the timing of his remarks, saying they were pre-written.

While it has been argued that there is a connection between changing climate patterns and violent twisters, many articles in the wake of last week's tornadoes have said it is impossible to determine at this point.

"It's a damn difficult thing to predict," Michael Oppenheimer, a climate change expert at Princeton University, told HuffPost's Lynne Peeples.

Oppenheimer and other experts claimed that the energy-building mix of heat and humidity necessary to spawn tornadoes will become more common as the climate warms, but there was less certainty regarding a number of other key factors related to tornadoes. Some climate scientists maintain that we'll see more deadly storms like the ones that swept through the Midwest last week. Others argue that we'll see fewer, and some aren't willing to speculate until there is more data on a possible trend.

Still, the lack of a concrete connection doesn't support Inhofe's broader denial of climate change. While a warming world may indeed end up having no effect on tornadoes, recent studies have found that it has already significantly increased the risk of Hurricane Katrina-magnitude storm surges in the U.S.

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