Oklahoma senator James Inhofe did the world no favors earlier this year when he brought a snowball onto the Senate floor in order to “disprove” global warming. For one, a blizzard hitting Washington, D.C. tells us absolutely nothing about whether man-made climate change is indeed occurring. His stunt also was a gift to the left, who have, predictably, referred to the incident over and over again as if it were the ne plus ultra of right-leaning thinking on climate. Inhofe, after all, serves the narrative – that conservatives are anti-intellectual cretins, of course – in a way that, say, Irwin Stelzer does not.

Take New York Times columnist Timothy Egan. In his most recent column, which uses unusually hot weather in Seattle as a peg to discuss climate change, Egan predictably goes back to the Inhofe well.

“Inhofe is famous for bringing a snowball to the floor of the Senate to prove his point,” Egan dutifully recounts. “What he proved is that there are Labradors with more common sense than a senator with a peanut for a brain.”

Egan’s column is mostly taken up with discussing the current heat wave in the Pacific Northwest. “[Seattle] had eight days at 85 degrees or higher in June. On Sunday, east of the Cascade Mountains, it hit 113 degrees in Walla Walla,” he notes.

Oh sure, he concedes, “The experts . . . do not think the broiling of the Pacific Northwest can be attributed to climate change . . .but they say that what we’ve experienced over the last 16 months is an indication of what this part of the world will be like after the earth has warmed by several degrees.”

There are two problems with this passage. First, the blog post that Egan cites makes no such argument. But in any event, even if it did, this is pure tautology: Egan is saying that Seattle will be warmer if Seattle is warmer. The question is: Will Seattle be warmer? And if so, why?

The columnist then goes on to lay out the cascade of horribles that will occur in the years ahead. “We could face major wildfires, in places where 500 year-old trees are draped with tendrils of green,” he warns, “Salmon-spawning rivers could be shallow and warm in early fall — lethal to this region’s iconic symbol.” 

So, let’s boil Egan’s column down to its essence: he has taken a case of unusual weather and used it, speciously, to make a broader argument about the state of the climate. That is to say, Egan’s column is nothing more than mirror image Inhofe-ism. The distinguished New York Times columnist has thrown a snowball, and he apparently doesn’t even realize it.