Former Sen. Jim Inhofe, Prolific Climate Denier, Dies At 89

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is pictured in the U.S. Capitol during a senate vote in February 2022.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is pictured in the U.S. Capitol during a senate vote in February 2022.
Tom Williams via Getty Images

Longtime former Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, one of the most vehement climate change deniers to ever walk the halls of Congress, has died at age 89, the Tulsa World reported Tuesday.

Inhofe’s death comes one year after the staunch Republican retired following nearly six decades in elected office, including nearly three decades in the U.S. Senate.

Inhofe died early Tuesday after suffering from a sudden illness over the July 4 holiday, KOCO-TV reported.

Few if any Republicans did more to sow public doubt about or stymie action to confront the growing deadly impacts of fossil-fuel-driven planetary warming.

As HuffPost reported when he retired from office, Inhofe was much more than a climate skeptic, dismissing the mountain of climate science as the “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”

Inhofe repeatedly attacked climate scientists, calling for them to be criminally prosecuted; accused the Environmental Protection Agency of “brainwashing our kids” with climate “propaganda”; and dismissed planet-warming carbon dioxide as little more than “fertilizer.” Over his career in the House and Senate, he raked in a whopping $2.32 million in oil and gas industry donations. Only nine members of Congress have received more fossil fuel cash over their careers.

In a famous stunt on the Senate floor in February 2015, Inhofe held up a snowball in an embarrassing attempt to prove that climate change is not real.

“Remarkable — and just — that after 89 years of public life, Inhofe will be remembered for precisely one thing — bringing a snowball to the Senate to ‘prove’ that the world’s scientists are wrong,” environmental activist and author Bill McKibben wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday.

Inhofe’s legacy of climate denial and disinformation will live on via the many contrarians he mentored during his lengthy career. E&E News identified at least 30 former Inhofe staffers now working in powerful positions in energy and environment, including Andrew Wheeler, the Trump-era EPA chief, and Marc Morano, the founder and executive director of climate denial website Climate Depot.

In his Senate farewell speech in 2022, Inhofe boasted of his anti-environmental legacy.

“It’s no shock to anyone that The Washington Post has dubbed me public enemy No. 1 for the radical environmentalists for decades now,” he said. “I pushed back against the Obama administration’s far-left policies that sought to upend the lives of Oklahomans, like the Paris Climate Agreement, the Waters of the U.S. Rule, the Clean Power Plan, and many others.”