Oklahoma, the home base of Republican Senator James Inhofe, Congress' most outspoken denier of global warming, is ironically in the throes of the worst drought in decades. It is ironic because scientists increasingly believe there is a linkage between the prolonged dry spell and climate change.
Where does that leave Inhofe, who unabashedly calls global warming a gigantic "hoax"? How long will his sweltering constituency tolerate someone who scoffs at a phenomenon ever more convincingly implicated as a significant factor in diminishing Oklahomans' water supplies, crops, and daily quality of life? Keep in mind that if the dry spell persists much longer as it is projected to do, conditions will vie with or possibly even exceed the devastation of the notorious 1930s Dust Bowl.
According to the Oklahoma Climatological Society, almost the entire state is experiencing severe drought that is expected to last at least through the fall. The period from May to July was the third driest for that time span in Oklahoma since records began being kept back in 1895. In conjunction with the drought, the year 2012 is on track to be the hottest on record. Just since the beginning of August, more than 100,000 parched acres in the state have been scorched by wildfires.
Temperatures in Oklahoma City have soared to historic levels, with a recent 113 degrees reading equaling the Dust Bowl record set in 1936. Mandatory water rationing has been instituted in the city as a response.
Not surprisingly, Oklahomans are beginning to draw a connection between the drought and global warming. A recent survey of residents in six neighboring drought-stricken western states found more than half of the respondents associating the prolonged dry spell with climate change.
If severe drought becomes more commonplace in Oklahoma, as in all probability it will, an unrepentant Inhofe would at some point tax the patience of his constituents. He would then face the prospect of having to recant his climate stance or be replaced in Congress. Either way, the choice would be painful.