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Will Harvey's Damage Shift How Congress Sees Climate Change and Budget Cuts?

With the Texas home of the U.S. oil industry now in distress, Congress and the president may have to rethink their federal budget-slashing strategy.

Even as the floodwaters continue to rise in East Texas, it's clear that Hurricane Harvey will force a new reckoning over major energy and climate policy questions.

The immediate priorities—rescue operations, disaster assistance, flood insurance, and the like—will be followed by broader questions involving the vulnerability of infrastructure, the energy industry and communities to extreme weather, and the need to balance mitigation of the pollution that causes climate change with adaptation to global warming's inescapable impacts.

In this region, some of these issues have been pushed to the side as the Gulf Coast served as handmaiden to the North American oil and gas boom. Now, the oil and gas industry's prime processing and export center is partially under water.

Also running through the debate is the question whether this storm, beyond even the experiences of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, will lead to broader acceptance of the scientific consensus surrounding climate change, a crisis that offers no convenient escape route.

Harvey's rainfall was on track to break national records, the Texas state climatologist said. By midday Tuesday, parts of the Houston area were reporting more than 49 inches of rain had fallen, and the storm wasn't finished. The National Weather Service said another 10 to 20 inches was expected over parts of the upper Texas coast and into Louisiana. Thousands of people had to be rescued from the flooding. 

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