Scalise sidesteps climate change debate: Earth's temperature "goes up and down"

Steve Scalise: Earth temp "goes up and down"

House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise sidestepped questions about whether humans contribute to the growing climate change crisis. During an exchange with "CBS This Morning" co-anchor Tony Dokoupil on Friday, the GOP Louisiana representative was pressed on whether the climate problem facing the country was man made or not.  

"Scientists have agreed that climate change is a catastrophic risk, do you have a plan, as some other members of your party are beginning to to address it?" Dokoupil asked. 

"First of all, we do know that the earth's temperature changes -- it goes up and down," said Scalise. Dokoupil asked, "So you don't accept the science?"

"In the 1970's, they said we were entering a new cooling period," Scalise replied, without offering any firm plans to address global warming. NASA points out that Earth's average surface temperature has risen 1.62 degrees since the late 19th century and states that most of the warming took place "in the past 35 years, with the five warmest years on record taking place since 2010."

Lawmakers have recently turned their attention to climate, as scientists grow more concerned about the rise in Earth's temperature. The House of Representatives has formed a new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis to address potential legislative fixes to the climate crisis. 

Dokoupil also pressed Scalise on findings by the Environmental Defense Fund that his own state of Louisiana is slipping into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate equivalent of a football field of land per hour. Scalise countered that the startling statistic is more an effect of "coastal erosion," and not explicitly an effect of climate change. 

"Your own scientists say it's manmade," Dokoupil said, referring to research based in Louisiana.  

With consistently warming oceans and climates, particularly in the Gulf, residents have recently seen devastating flooding and hurricanes take effect. But Scalise declined to attribute the rise in extreme weather events to any human action. 

"Let me tell you what we're doing -- we're actually taking revenues from drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and using that to rebuild land to rebuild our coast," Scalise replied.  "I think it's a real important step to show people how to take ownership of the problem that they have in their own community."

But it's this drilling, Dokoupil argued, that is a leading cause of the harmful effects of climate change. 

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital