08/20/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Summer Reading: Manmade Disaster II

"Thus there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy," wrote John S. Theon at the beginning of this year. "Add my name to those who disagree that Global Warming is man made."

Theon is one of the few truly distinguished skeptics of human influence on the climate. As "Chief of several of NASA Headquarters' programs (1982-94)," he wrote, "[I} was responsible for all weather and climate research in the entire agency, including the research work by James Hansen, Roy Spencer, Joanne Simpson, and several hundred other scientists at NASA field centers, in academia, and in the private sector who worked on climate research."

Climate change skeptics were on my mind this week as I read an extraordinary book, The Worst Hard Time, by Timothy Egan. The book has nothing to do with carbon. Instead, it's a mostly oral history of the Dust Bowl. But if you have any doubt about the American (human, really) capacity to blithely invite an environmental disaster of biblical proportions in the name of economic progress, personal prosperity, and our national standard of living, you have to learn about the Dust Bowl. The Theons of that era happily rejected the notion that plowing millions of acres of grassland could be detrimental, and when the dust storms began, they were deemed natural, cyclical, and bound to end soon.

That bitter legacy makes a piece of this week's news especially despicable. According to Fox News, "A top Republican senator has ordered an investigation into the Environmental Protection Agency's alleged suppression of a report that questioned the science behind global warming. The 98-page report, co-authored by EPA analyst Alan Carlin, pushed back on the prospect of regulating gases like carbon dioxide as a way to reduce global warming. . . ."

Who was that top Republican senator? One from the epicenter of the Dust Bowl: Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. "He came out with the truth." Inhofe told Fox. "They don't want the truth at the EPA. We're going to expose it."

Now one would think that, when it comes to a concern about human influence on the ecosystem, a senator from Oklahoma would be the most cautious person in the world. Maybe Sen. Inhofe should read the book. Instead, he's helping to write the sequel.