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GOP Senator Invents a Completely New Form of Climate Change Denial

Mandel Ngan, AFP/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Obama announced an agreement with China that commits both countries to lower greenhouse gas emissions. This has infuriated climate-change deniers in Congress and provoked a fresh round of arguments from Republicans about why we shouldn't do anything to stop global warming.

But one senator topped them all by inventing a whole new form of denial.

James Inhofe, who calls global warming the "greatest hoax," said the agreement with China is itself a kind of hoax—and that America is being played for fools.

"Even if they did agree to reducing emissions, we wouldn't believe them because they ... don't end up doing what they say they're going to do in these agreements," he said in a Senate floor speech on Wednesday afternoon.

"Why would China ever agree unilaterally to reduce its emissions when that’s the only way that they can produce electricity?" he later asked. "Right now—and I have talked to them before, I’ve talked to people from China who kind of smile. They laugh at us and say, 'Wait a minute, you say that you’re going to believe us that we’re going to reduce our emissions? We applaud the United States. We want the United States to reduce its emissions, because if they do that, as the manufacturing base has to leave the United States looking for energy, they come to China.' So it’s to their advantage to continue with their increases in emissions."

In his speech, Inhofe called himself a "one-man truth squad"—twice. And this is the man who's about to take over the Senate's environment committee.

Inhofe takes the extreme view on climate change, certainly, but his comments are not very far off from the view many Republicans take of China. Before Wednesday, Republicans often argued that China would never take action to control its rising emissions, so the U.S. has no moral obligation either. Obama ruined that talking point for them with this deal. Now, Republicans intend to cast new doubts about China.

There are legitimate questions of how China intends to lower its fossil-fuel dependence and achieve ambitious goals on expanding renewables and nuclear energy. There's also the question of whether any of the commitments will be enforceable. We should get some answers by the time countries gather in Paris next year to formalize these plans. But to claim that China, which has very good reasons for reducing emissions, has no intention of doing so? That's Nth-degree denial.