Oklahoma Burning Again

Image of Kandinsky work

Wildfires are starting to crackle again through the state destroying homes, 108-degree days are the new norm these days and Gov. Mary Fallin has declared a state of emergency for all 77 counties because of the drought, but global warming isn’t even a modicum of the official discussion.

It has to be one of the great historical ironies ever that a place that elects someone like U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who calls climate-change science a “hoax,” is suffering some of the worst results of its insidious effects. Here in Oklahoma, the fossil-fuel industry fuels cars, the tax base and political campaigns, and no claims of global-warming science will be tolerated. Period.

According to the local corporate power structure’s official newspaper, The Oklahoman, “The evidence is scant that humans can significantly affect the climate. Proposed ‘remedies’ would be economically devastating.” Inhofe puts it this way, “ . . . my point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

So that’s the official word. For the record, an ethical newspaper would provide a variety of positions about global warming on a consistent basis and Inhofe, a relic of our broken political system, remains a spokesperson for the oil and gas industry, which has given him $509,250 in campaign contributions since 2007.

The view on the street tells us something. Several mobile homes were burned Monday as two wildfires moved through Payne County near Stillwater, according to the Enid News and Eagle. KOCO television forecasts that high temperatures in central Oklahoma are going to range from 106 to 108 degrees over the next few days with no rain in sight. Gov. Mary Fallin, noting the “extreme heat and dry conditions,” is setting the state up for collecting yet more federal disaster aid money by declaring an official state of emergency.

Outside of Oklahoma, in places where there’s actually an official and public acknowledgement of science beyond school systems and universities, the numbers are adding up and the predictions are coming true. Yes, the caveat holds true that one weather event doesn’t prove or disprove global warming (as if we even need such a caveat), but the current patterns, locally and elsewhere, are extremely frightening.

Bill McKibben, in a long, insightful article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” published in Rolling Stone, points out that 3,215 high temperature records were broken in June across the country, which followed the warmest May on record in the Northern Hemisphere. The numbers are astonishing.

According to McKibben:

Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the "largest temperature departure from average of any season on record." The same week, Saudi authorities reported that it had rained in Mecca despite a temperature of 109 degrees, the hottest downpour in the planet's history.

It should go without saying that in a weather-sense, especially in Oklahoma, these are unusual times, even when compared to the droughts and heat in the 1930s, but that, too, is probably an underestimation of the global warming problem.

McKibben writes, “Since I wrote one of the first books for a general audience about global warming way back in 1989, and since I've spent the intervening decades working ineffectively to slow that warming, I can say with some confidence that we're losing the fight, badly and quickly – losing it because, most of all, we remain in denial about the peril that human civilization is in.”

And that denial is, according to McKibben, a failure of people to do or recognize “a little math,” and the culprit is man-made carbon emissions. As McKibben states, “. . . the more carefully you do the math, the more thoroughly you realize that this is, at bottom, a moral issue; we have met the enemy and they is Shell.”

Here’s the bottom line: The planet is getting warmer and this will cause catastrophic problems for most of us.

Perhaps, nowhere else in the U.S., besides Texas, is there such an official systematic denial of global warming and its effects than in Oklahoma. The fact that its senior United States Senator and its largest newspaper have to resort to sweeping generalizations and religious rhetoric about global warming shows just how strong the denial remains, but as the summers grow longer and hotter here, and as severe weather events dominate our lives even more in Oklahoma, people will discover the truth. Unfortunately, by then it will probably be too late to do anything about it.