There is some strange, tragic irony here. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the leading voice on Capitol Hill for the "climate denier" movement, just launched a book, "The Great Climate Hoax," rehashing once again several jumbled, twisted facts and general vagaries to justify his central thesis — something akin to the Illuminati (the IPCC) are conspiring to take down democracy by creating a great climate hoax that thousands of unwitting scientists (98 percent of all climate scientists), nearly every Fortune 500 company, 192 world governments, and your grandmother have been duped into believing.
The irony part? Oklahoma is one of the states most dramatically impacted by climate change. In fact, the recent string of record-breaking weather anomalies in the state that Inhofe represents has helped to prove the latest research on the link between climate change and high/low temperature records.
Oklahoma experienced one of its worst weather years on record in 2011, and 100 percent of the state is currently under weather disaster declarations. When asked about the connection between climate change and weather, Inhofe actually took the bait and misinformed at least one reporter by stating that the IPCC has never connected climate change to extreme weather events — apparently ignorant of the IPCC's seminal extreme weather report from November.
Here are some handy facts about Oklahoma and climate change:
- In 2011, the United States experienced 14 extreme weather disasters that each resulted in more than $1 billion in damages, smashing the old record of nine set in 2008. Many of these disasters affected Oklahoma.
- 2011 was the hottest summer on record in Oklahoma.
- July 2011, according the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, was the "hottest month for any state on record, besting more than 67,000 other months."
- 20 people in Oklahoma died in 2011 from extreme heat.
- As of Feb. 21, 2012, more than 41 percent of the state of Oklahoma is under drought conditions classified as “severe,” “extreme” or “exceptional.”
- 2011 crop insurance payments to Oklahoma farmers for their agricultural losses total nearly $400 million.
- As of February 2012, every county in Oklahoma is under one or more weather-related disaster declarations.
- Since 2001, Oklahoma has had 31 federal major, weather-related disaster declarations.
- In 2011, there were 118 tornadoes, the second highest for the state since it began keeping records in 1950.
- Oklahoma City had the rainiest day in its history in 2011, when 8-11 inches hammered the city.
- In the billion-dollar Groundhog Day snowstorm of 2011, Tulsa set a record for the most snow ever recorded in 24 hours in that city.
Think it's a coincidence?
Even the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, mandated by the Oklahoma legislature to provide climate information and expertise, stated in its Statement on Climate Change and its implications for Oklahoma that man-made global warming is unequivocal. And if warming continues according to current models, the survey predicts the following impacts for Oklahoma through the remainder of the century:
- The warm season becomes longer and arrives earlier.
- The cool season warms and shortens, which leads to a longer frost-free period and growing season.
- Earlier maturation of winter wheat and orchard crops leave them more vulnerable to late freeze events.
- Increased year-round evaporation from the ground and transpiration from green vegetation.
- Drought frequency and severity increases, especially during summer.
- Drier and warmer conditions will increase the risk of wildfires.
- Rain-free periods will lengthen, but individual rainfall events will become more intense.
- More runoff and flash flooding will occur.
The U.S. Global Change Research Program reflected these findings in its National Climate Assessment, suggesting that the Great Plains region, including Oklahoma, could face impacts such as increased drought, changing habitats for plants and animals, straining water supplies and contributing to infectious diseases.
I suppose it makes sense that the state hardest hit by man-made global warming would be home to a politician who receives some of the greatest campaign contributions from fossil fuel companies (more than $1 million in the last decade). But ultimately who will pay the price? It will be the residents of the next Oklahoma dust bowl.