Rocks from the White Cliffs of Dover and the California coastline paired with silt from the world’s largest rivers are driving the global rise of sea levels. That is, if you live in some alternative universe where Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican from Alabama, is in charge of all the science.
In a hearing Wednesday, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology met to discuss how technology might be used to address climate change. Instead, the two-hour affair turned into an all-out debate on whether climate change can be attributed to anthropogenic factors.
Philip Duffy, President of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts and a former senior adviser to the US Global Change Research Program, explained to the panel that it’s no coincidence sea levels have fluctuated since humans appeared on the planet.
"The rate of global sea-level rise has accelerated and is now four times faster than it was 100 years ago," Duffy told the panel.
Brooks wasn’t picking up on the data Duffy was throwing down.
“Let’s assume for a moment that what you’re talking about has some kind of factual, rational basis for it, that ice has melted. Are there other factors?” he asked.
These “factors” Brooks is referring to is apparently that of rivers carrying dirt and rocks into the sea and causing levels to rise.
"Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up," he said.
The hearing quickly turned into a verbal sparring match when Duffy told Brooks his dirt theory would have “miniscule effects” on “human time scales”. Here's a quick snapshot:
- PD: "We have satellite records clearly documenting a shrinkage of the Antarctic ice sheet and an acceleration of that shrinkage."
- MB: "I'm sorry, but I don't know where you're getting your information, but the data I have seen suggests – "
- PD: "The National Snow and Ice Data Center and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration."
- MB: “I’ve got a NASA base in my district, and apparently they're telling you one thing and me a different thing."
Brooks went on to say that, with respect to Antarctica, the total ice sheet is increasing. To be fair, he's not totally wrong. Sea ice surrounding Antarctica reached a record high in 2014, but at the time it was only about a third of the magnitude of rapid loss. Annually, the planet has been shedding sea ice at a rate of 35,000 square kilometers (13,500 square miles). A NASA report last year showed sea ice around Antarctica hit its lowest extent ever recorded by satellite. In fact, NOAA just confirmed that April was the 400th consecutive month with warmer-than-average temperatures.
The two major causes of global sea level rise, according to NOAA, are thermal expansion caused by the warming of the ocean and increased melting of ice on lands, like glaciers and ice sheets.
See for yourself. Brooks comes in at 1:23:57.