After Getting Sick From Algae Bloom Exacerbated by Heat Wave and Drought, Inhofe Jokes the “Environment Strikes Back”

Irony can be so ironic. A day after cancelling his keynote address at the Heartland climate denial conference because he felt “under the weather,” Republican Senator Jim Inhofe today insisted his sickness was due to a toxic algae bloom on the Grand Lake in Oklahoma where he has a home — joking to a local newspaper that “the environment strikes back” and ‘’Inhofe is attacked by the environment.’’

“There is no question,’’ the Oklahoma Republican said, linking what he thought was a routine dive into the lake last Monday morning to a severe upper respiratory illness.

“That night, Monday night, I was just deathly sick.”

Inhofe and his wife, Kay, have had a home on the lake for decades, and he has never seen that kind of algae in the water previously.

Inhofe’s run-in with algae comes as his state deals with a record-setting heat wave and drought not seen since the 1930’s — creating perfect conditions for blue-green algal blooms that can cause respiratory problems, diarrhea, skin irritation and, in rare cases, death. In Texas, cattle have been dying from drinking blue-green algae that scientists explain have blossomed due to severe drought conditions.


A University of North Carolina researcher described the impact that extreme temperatures exacerbated by a changing climate could have on algae growth:

“It’s long been known that nutrient runoff contributes to cyanobacterial growth. Now scientists can factor in temperature and global warming,” said [Hans] Paerl, who, with Professor Jef Huisman from the University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, explains the new realization in Science paper.

“As temperatures rise waters are more amenable to blooms,” Paerl said.

On our current GHG emissions path, such extreme weather will become more common in the coming decades — creating the perfect conditions for more frequent dangerous algal blooms. According to NOAA’s 2009 impact report, current extreme heat and drought conditions will be normal for a state like Oklahoma.

Inhofe, of course, has famously called climate change a “hoax” and has fought bitterly against any action on reducing GHG emissions. He has also been opposed to regulation of phosphorus and nitrogen run-off under the EPA’s Clean Water Act.

[P]hosporus and nitrogen lead to the formation of blue-green algal blooms, which choke off oxygen to other forms of marine life, leading to widespread fish (and sometimes mammal) kills.

Inhofe says he’s worried about the economic impact of increased regulation of run-off. But in Oklahoma, the Governor is worried about the decreased tourism activity over the holiday weekend.


Environmental officials in Oklahoma sent out a warning today about major blue-green algal blooms around the Northeastern portion of the state, saying this is the largest bloom the area has ever seen. Because “toxins harmful to humans and animals can be produced in some algae blooms,” it is strongly recommended you do not swim in places where there are visible blooms. Ironically, Inhofe, who has chaired the Senate Environment Committee, didn’t know that, but even his teenage granddaughter figured it out.

“I didn’t think anything about it,’’ he said, recalling that he had encouraged his 13-year-old granddaughter to join him in the water but she declined.“She didn’t want to get in that green stuff.’’

Maybe she should be Senator.

— Stephen Lacey, with Joe Romm

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Below are the earlier comments from the Facebook commenting system:


Climate-change denier gets climate-related illness as a direct result of his own stupidity and carelessness. In recognition of this achievement, plus his status as dominionist and evolution denier, I hereby nominate him for a Darwin award 🙂

July 1 at 9:17pm


Well, it looks the likely winner of a “top of the food-chain” contest between Inhofe and algae wouldn’t be Inhofe!

July 1 at 8:44pm

John Tucker

That’s really dangerous — what I cant understand is how he didn’t know that.There were several instances of animal deaths over the last few years from it — IN HIS GENERAL AREA and also while controversial and probably needing more research there are studies linking ALS, Alzheimer’s and a host of neurological diseases to it in print recently.


He must be one of the most scientifically incompetent members of congress. I think it would actually be difficult to intentionally find someone as unqualified as he is to deal with scientific issues.

July 1 at 10:50pmLionel Smith

‘iit would actually be difficult to intentionally find someone as unqualified as he is to deal with scientific issues.’

RohrabacherSensenbrennerBachmannPalinBartonGingrichR PaulR PaulR Halland the list goes on andon andon.

July 2 at 3:20pm

John Tucker

Ok, you have a point there. I was thinking that I shoudl have added ¨that they would put in that position¨ but realistically if they put him in there they would put anyone in there.

July 3 at 12:22am

Peter S. Mizla

For Inhofe and his ‘climate related’ illness, I have no sympathy.

July 1 at 8:27pmTed Gleichman

Once in a while a real-world event becomes the perfect-storm metaphor for a set of functional realities.

Think: Dick Cheney shooting a lawyer in the face.Add: James Inhofe drinking toxic algae.

It is to be hoped that his granddaughter is studying genuine biology in middle school. Thank goodness she was smart enough to avoid exposing herself to these toxins. My poetic-justice fantasy out of this: Someday she will look back at this event as a turning point in her life, and become a leader for climate protection and climate justice.

July 2 at 9:00pmJulia Bunnell

He is enraging. And dumber than a 13 year old. But that comes as no surprise.

July 3 at 3:24pm

Richard Brenne

Maybe Inhofe’s grandchildren can build an igloo out of the algae and put a sign on it saying “Senator Inhofe’s New Home” although I’m confident his will have two hockey sticks.

When Inhofe tried to coax his granddaughter into the literally sickening water did he shout, “Come on, I’m going to kill you and your generation off anyway!”

And one of the symptoms of exposure to such algae is the diarrhea that has come out of Inhofe’s mouth for years. As Joe so acerbically noted, this self-induced sickness (“I’m under the weather” [!] — Senator, we’re all under your weather) kept Inhofe from attending the collection of amoral idiots comprising the Heartland Institute’s “International (as in one attendee has been to Tijuana and two to Canada) Climate Change Convention” of climate change deniers (and please see my overjoyed response to the illegendary Pat Michaels who commented two posts below and here:​omm/2011/07/01/258943/hear​tland-institute-denier-con​ference/#more-258943).

Inhofe wrote to those attending the Heartland Conference: “It is my hope that over the next two days you will take a little time to note the tremendous successes we have enjoyed.”

Inhofe’s revised quote (my words, not his, at least not yet):

“It is my hope that over all eternity you will take a little time (and you will have it) to note the tremendous successes we have enjoyed, enriching ourselves and our fossil fuel cronies, permanently corrupting the democratic process and promoting an absolutely horrific climate that will ensure our immediate descendant’s suffering and starvation locally as well as that of all children globally. We have earned the right to enjoy our time here, including customized golf hats, pants and shoes for our horns, tails and cloven hooves.”

July 2 at 12:33pmTravis Hunting

.. This comment is retarded

July 3 at 6:35pm

Richard Brenne

The use of such a word is unacceptable and congratulations, the dumbest of thousands of Climate Progress comments.

July 3 at 11:08pm

Travis Hunting

.. This comment is retarded

July 3 at 6:35pm

Richard Brenne

The use of such a word is unacceptable and congratulations, the dumbest of thousands of Climate Progress comments.

July 3 at 11:08pm

Siri Vita

While I certainly don’t wish anyone ill and I hope he has a speedy recovery, this just seems like poetic justice. I wonder if this kind of direct impact will finally turn him around or if the call of those campaign dollars will continue to blind him to the truth. Maybe if these blooms have a direct impact on the property values around the lake, the residents there will put pressure on him. It seems they don’t react to anything but financial impact.

July 2 at 10:48amPeter Sergienko

The headline made me think this was a repost from The Onion. I’m tempted to make a joke about Oklahoma’s tourism industry as well, but folks down there are suffering enough. Will they connect the dots and elect a new senator, though?

July 1 at 6:44pmPatricia McCauley

probably not, we Okies don’t know squat.

July 5 at 3:32am

Billy Jackson

Patricia — Don’t say we. You might not know squat, but I know plenty.

July 7 at 2:31pm

Jean Mcmahon

Inhofe, in doing the bidding for the fossil fuel industry as done more than most to harm us all the “Global Warming is a Hoax”lie.Personal attacks and bad wishes for another creature on this Earth does no good..He could redeem himself by admitting the Keystone XL for dirty Tar Sands is a burden our aquifirs cannot take and will cost Okies dearly.

July 2 at 12:20amTimothy Chase

I am reminded of Oedipus the King. While Oedipus is king, Thebes suffers droughts, famine and plague. He is what poisons Thebes, and his inability to recognize his role is what prolongs and deepens the suffering of its citizens. The story of Oedipus, through three plays, is the story of his overweening pride, discovery of his crimes, regret, and ultimately, redemption. Despite the similarities I somehow doubt this will turn out the same way.

July 2 at 1:31am

Patricia McCauley

Yes, the Keystone XL will cost Okies and many other Americans a lot; spilled oil, land taken by eminent (sp?) domain, contaminated H20, terrible.

July 5 at 3:31am

Lou Grinzo

A 2-page fact sheet on cyanobacteria, from the NOAA:​res/Centers/HumanHealth/do​cs/bluegreenalgae_factshee​t.pdfJuly 2 at 7:47am


Toxins Producted by blue green algaeBlue-green algae can produce a wide array of neurotoxins, liver toxins (hepatotoxins), celltoxins, and skin irritants. Neurotoxins include anatoxin-a, anatoxin-a(s) and saxitoxin, andare commonly produced by the Anabaena and Oscillatoria species. Consumption of largeamounts of these toxins by animals or humans can result in muscle cramps, twitching,paralysis, and cardiac or respiratory failure.Hepatotoxins (liver toxins) include microcystin and cylindrospermopsin, and are producedby the Microcystis and Cylindrospermopsis species. These toxins produce symptomsincluding nausea, vomiting, and acute liver failure.Dermatotoxins (skin irritants) include aplysiatoxin, lyngbiatoxin-a, and lipopolysaccharides.Nearly all blue-green algae produce dermatotoxins. These toxins produce symptomsincluding skin irritation, rashes, and gastrointestinal distress. Sensitivity to these toxinsvaries widely among individuals.

July 3 at 1:05am