Former Vice President Al Gore squared off this week in a Senate hearing with Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe in what should have been a stimulating intellectual debate.

Instead, by the time Inhofe had finished with Gore, the exchange between the senator and the former VP looked less like “Meet the Nation” than a verbal WWF match.

To say these two disagree on the issue of global warming is an understatement of uncategorical proportions — no fists were thrown, but the kid gloves were off as both hammered their points home, each of them, feeling like the victor.

For those who didn’t tune in to the boxing match, I mean Senate hearing, here are a few of the exchanges between Inhofe and Gore:

Round One:

Inhofe: “Are you ready to change the way you live?”

Gore: “We are facing a planetary emergency — I’m aware that phrase sounds shrill to a lot of people, but it’s accurate.”

Winner: Gore

Round Two:

Inhofe: “(Gore’s) proposed method of reducing carbon emissions would amount in a tax increase; We can’t do that to America, Mr. Vice President, and we’re not gonna do it.”

Gore: “The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor ... If the crib’s on fire, you don’t speculate that the baby is flame retardant — you take action.”

Winner: Draw

Round Three:

Inhofe: “Where’s ‘Global Warming’ when you need it?” (referring to Oklahoma’s unusually cold winter)

Gore: “There is a sense of hope that the United States Congress will rise to the occasion and present meaningful solutions to this crisis.”

Winner: Gore, but points to Inhofe for wishing Global Warming would take care of high heating bills.

Round Four:

Inhofe: “Mr. Gore, you’re using this forum in an attempt to pave your way into the White House — using your recent celebrity status to get the star treatment from Environment and Public Works Committee.”

Gore: (openly polishing his two Oscars and autographing copies of “An Inconvenient Truth: Special Edition” DVDs) “I ... um ... have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Winner: Inhofe

Round Five:

Gore: “If there’s a way I could talk to you that would make a difference, I would do it — maybe we could have breakfast with a mutual friend and discuss the issue? How about my buddy, actor/director George Clooney?”

(Clooney enters the Senate to be met with standing ovation; women swoon)

Inhofe: “What the ...? Hey!! It’s my turn here! Hey!! Wildly exaggerated science! Hey!”

Winner: George Clooney

Round Six (after Clooney leaves to film his next movie project, “Ten Things I Really Don’t Like About President Bush”):

Sen. Barbara Boxer (chairperson): “Mr. Gore has shown us the true danger that global warming poses for the future of the planet.”

Inhofe: “Mr. Gore’s proposed methods of reducing carbon emissions would raise energy prices disproportionate on the poor and amount to the biggest tax increase since the one pushed through Congress in 1993 by then President Clinton, whose vice president was ... (dramatic pause) AL GORE!!”

(collective gasp fills the Senate chamber)

Winner: Inhofe

Round Seven:

Gore: “The bottom line is that the future of the planet is at stake here. We’ve already seen significant climactic changes and they will only accelerate of we don’t take steps to halt the process.”

Inhofe: (fingers in ears) “La-la-la-la-la — not listening — La-la-la-la-la!”

Winner: La-la-la-la-la

Here’s the thing:

While I personally don’t expect Verdigris to become beach-front property overnight because of the melting of the polar ice caps, as the dominant life on the planet (human beings, not Republicans or Democrats), it falls upon us to take care of the place.

While you’ll find scientists on either side of the Global Warming fence arguing diametrically opposed statistics, one thing is undeniable — both sides of the fence are on the same planet and both sides benefit or lose on whether there is or isn’t global warming.

I’m no more support Jim Inhofe than Al Gore, or vice-versa. Someone mentioned in passing to me after the Inhofe/Gore “debate” that they weren’t much of an Al Gore fan.

“Neither am I,” I answered, “but I am pretty fond of the planet.”

The point is, you don’t have to be a “tree-hugger” or Academy-award winning ex-vice president of the United States to appreciate where you live and how you leave things for your children or grandchildren.

The sky may not be falling, but if there’s a chance it could be turning the Earth beneath it into a hothouse, there’s nothing wrong with finding out sooner, rather than later, while there’s still time to do something about it.

In the meantime, though, I’m going to check the listings on Cox to see if I can find the Inhofe/Gore rematch on Pay Per View or maybe Google “Grudge Match” and see what turns up.