03/04/2015 11:32 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When Senators Sabotage Science

Senator Jim Inhofe, who infamously claimed in 2012 that the Bible refutes climate change, was recently given a committee gavel in the newly Republican-controlled Senate. Showing himself to be almost willfully ignorant of the scientific findings regarding climate change, Inhofe was still made chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the very Senate committee meant to deal with this issue upon which the very survival of our human race depends.


In case you think I'm exaggerating the importance of U.S. leadership on climate change, review the Department of Defense report from this past fall, about which Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said, "Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict."

Inhofe is already off to a great start in 2015, spouting pseudo-science and degrading the effectiveness of his new committee with inaccurate diatribes against global warming. Just this week, he made a speech on the Senate floor lambasting the "hysteria" surrounding climate change, while also "disproving" claims that the earth is getting warmer by bringing a snowball into the Senate chamber.

Obviously, Inhofe has a very hard time understanding the difference between changes in weather and changes in climate. And while he and others among the Religious Right may personally believe that the earth is fine due to their god's protection, most other Americans, both theistic and non-theistic, are extremely concerned with what the future holds if our federal government does not maintain a scientifically-accurate environmental policy.

While Inhofe might be the most powerful climate skeptic in Congress, he surely is not the only one. Senator Roger Wicker, a Religious Right politician that recently presided over the National Prayer Breakfast, voted against a resolution which stated that the Senate did not think global warming was a hoax. Senator Marco Rubio, a rising star who sits on the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space, went as far as to say, "I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying. And I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it." Perhaps most shocking is the fact that around 30 percent of all U.S. Representatives deny or question the science behind climate change.

Regardless of their doubts, the science on this issue is clear. According to NASA, "Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities." And while a measly three percent of scientists may not be absolutely sure that climate change is caused in part by human beings, there is near uniform acceptance in the scientific community that climate change itself (regardless of human impact) is certainly happening.

What do these scientists think will happen if we continue to drag our feet on this issue and empower government officials like Inhofe to lead federal environmental policy? According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, we can expect an increase in the number and severity of droughts, an increase in the number and severity of hurricanes and tornados, disruptions to food supplies, rapid extinction of threatened and endangered animal species, and many more terrible events that will fundamentally change the Earth and our existence on it.

Americans, whether we believe in a god or not, are responsible for our impact on the Earth, and we can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand (or snow) and pretend like everything is fine. Everything is not fine, and scientifically-inaccurate reassurances by leading government figures are both counterproductive and dangerous to the long-term welfare of humanity. These misleading statements must be countered by the American voters with a realistic interpretation of what is happening and practical demands of what must be done to protect our only home.