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The Nation

A global warming skeptic's parting shot

Sen. Inhofe, soon to be replaced as panel chair, airs his view once more.

December 07, 2006|Richard Simon | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Sen. James M. Inhofe has been one of Capitol Hill's leading skeptics on global warming, famously dismissing as a "hoax" the notion that human activity is the cause.

And so Wednesday, while most of official Washington was focused on the findings of the Iraq Study Group, the Oklahoma Republican used one of his final days as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to once again press his case.

He convened a hearing with witnesses who share his view that the media has hyped coverage of climate change.

"Hysteria sells," the chairman grumbled at one point.

"Scare tactics should not drive public policy," he said at another, pressing his view that rising Earth temperatures are mainly a natural, cyclical phenomenon.

And so, Inhofe had his day in the sun, as it were.

But at the same time, the hearing underscored the change that is coming to Congress following the election last month that ousted Republicans from the majority in the Senate and House.

Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, the Democrat who will take over as committee chair when her party assumes control in January, gave no ground to Inhofe at Wednesday's session, making clear her stark disagreements with him.

But she did so in a polite, somewhat detached fashion, secure in the knowledge that a month from now, she will be deciding what issues the panel will tackle. How big a change is coming? Well, Boxer has termed global warming "the greatest challenge of our generation," and pledged to try to draft legislation to combat it.

Early this week, she had called Inhofe's hearing a waste of time.

During it, she told her longtime rival, "Attacking the press doesn't make the truth go away."

Inhofe asserted that the media have become "advocates for hyping scientifically unfounded climate alarmism."

His staff distributed a 64-page booklet that included a speech by Inhofe in September that he characterized as "a skeptic's guide to debunking global warming alarmism."

One of the hearing's witnesses, Dan Gainor, director of the Business & Media Institute, said that scientists who "dare question the almost religious belief in climate change ... are ignored or undermined" in news reports.

The Business & Media Institute, according to its website, was established to "audit the media's coverage of the free enterprise system."

David Deming, a geologist who teaches at the University of Oklahoma, contended that the media coverage of global warming had developed into "an irrational hysteria."

"Every natural disaster that occurs is now linked with global warming, no matter how tenuous or impossible the connection," he said.

Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.) used the hearing to complain that the media had neglected to adequately cover the cost of regulation that some promote as the means to combat global warming.

Discussing former Vice President Al Gore's movie on global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," Bond said, "In it, you will find about an hour and 20 minutes on global warming and its environmental impacts, 10 minutes of what to do about global warming and about five minutes on how much those proposals might cost."

Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) appealed to both sides to try to find common ground on the issue.

"The reality is that not all climate change skeptics are denialist ideologues, and those in the environmental movement are not all alarmists," he said. "We can learn a lot, and achieve more, if we could listen a little more to each other."

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), unwilling to concede any ground to Inhofe, asked the witnesses whether they agreed with the chairman's assertion that man-made global warming is a hoax.

Deming said he preferred to use the expression "mass delusion."

Inhofe, pleased to find support for his position, chimed in: "I kind of like 'mass delusion.' That's a good one."

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richard.simon@latimes.com

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