New infrastructure plans need to consider the impact of climate change

House Representative Clay Higgins, Republican of Louisiana, was on the NewsHour to discuss the devastation Harvey wrought upon his district, the most southwestern in the state. When Miles asked him about his thoughts on the storm’s climate change connection, this is what Higgins said:

MILES O’BRIEN: A year ago this time, your district dealt with some historic flooding. And I know that you are a skeptic about the human impact on global climate change. I’m curious if this entire experience has changed your view in any way?

REP. CLAY HIGGINS (R-LA): Well, I certainly do not disagree with the fact that climate change happens, but I do think that it’s reasonable to question very carefully the science that has used models which have sometimes come under fire for having been sort of fraudulently manipulated, you know, to produce a result.

When we talk about spending the people’s treasure, and the very concept that we can fix climate change with some sort of a tax, is something that I certainly take, you know, very seriously with regards to having a very intelligent debate about. In other words, I will not follow blindly into any endeavor that mandates the harvesting of the people’s treasure.

Climate change has existed from well before human history. So, the question is not whether or not our climate changes across our planet nor is it really a question that the human race does have some sort of impact upon climate change, the question becomes to what degree and to what extent and what sort of timeframe and how can we really best address that. And does it call for, you know, harvesting of the people’s treasure.

MILES O’BRIEN: So, Congressman, I guess, would you concede then that it’s happening and you’re living through it.

REP. CLAY HIGGINS (R-LA): Yeah, well, climate change is always happening, that’s my argument. It has well before, you know, we had four-wheel drive trucks, boats, and Suburbans rolling around, or, you know, large industrial plants and whatnot. Climate change has happened since before recorded history.

MILES O’BRIEN: Wouldn’t it be worth spending a little bit of treasure on fixing our infrastructure to harden ourselves against this kind of storm?

REP. CLAY HIGGINS (R-LA): I’m for that. I’m all for wise investment of people’s treasure to harden our infrastructure to correct things like drainage. Right now, brother, we are experiencing some flooding that is gonna be catastrophic to many Americans. And let us recognize that flooding does not care if we’re Republicans or Democrats, or what color, or creed, or ethnicity we are, or where we are on the social strata, or how much money we make. Water just comes, and this is universally predictable across the country. Flooding is happening everywhere.

And here, in the southern portions of the United States, especially the districts that I represent, the maintenance of dredging projects has been neglected for decades. And so, some of the flooding that we’ll experience will be due to improper maintenance of water control projects that were established, in some cases, you know, a hundred of years ago, manmade projects that must be maintained.

So, yeah, I’m all for improving our infrastructure, including our waterways and water management control mechanisms so that American lives and property is protected in the most efficient manner. To me, I would much rather be proactive, and get involved with improving of infrastructure, as opposed to reactive, and spending, you know, untold billions of dollars in an emergency procedure—like we’re about to do! We’re about to pass emergency appropriations just in a couple of weeks to respond to this disaster here and some of that could have been mitigated by the careful spending of federal and state and local monies to improve water management and control systems.

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Creating better infrastructure is all well and good, but it will all be a moot point if new infrastructure plans do not include predicted impacts of climate change.

Higgins seemed to be slightly more amenable to discussing climate change impacts with Miles. This sort of waffling on climate change’s impact comes in stark contrast with Higgins’s brusque treatment of renowned climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann during a House science committee hearing in March:

As discussed at length in the recent news cycle, no climate scientist contends that hurricanes are increasing in frequency--but it is becoming more and more clear that climate change is providing warmer waters for more intense storms. Watch our Leading Edge segment from a few weeks back on the subject:


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Fedor Kossakovski is a production assistant for Miles O'Brien Productions.