Energy & Environment

GOP lawmaker says rocks falling into ocean to blame for rising sea levels

Greg Nash

A Republican lawmaker on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee said Thursday that rocks from the White Cliffs of Dover and the California coastline, as well as silt from rivers tumbling into the ocean, are contributing to high sea levels globally.

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) made the comment during a hearing on technology and the changing climate, which largely turned into a Q&A on the basics of climate research.

{mosads}Climate scientist Philip Duffy testified before the panel, addressing lawmakers’ questions about climate change, according to E&E News.

“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 said that erosion played a factor in that.

“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,” Brooks said at the hearing.

“I’m pretty sure that on human time scales, those are minuscule effects,” responded Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts and a former senior adviser to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, responded.

The committee, led by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), in recent years subpoenaed climate scientists in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for documents related to climate research, accusing the agency of pushing a “political study” that concluded there has not been a 15-year pause in global warming.

NOAA scientists determined Thursday that April was the 400th consecutive month with higher-than-average temperatures, a result of global warming.

“To solve climate change challenges, we first need to acknowledge the uncertainties that exist,” Smith said in his opening remarks. “Then we can have confidence that innovations and technology will enable us to mitigate any adverse consequences of climate change.”

Brooks also claimed in the hearing that Antarctic ice levels are growing. While this was true a few years ago, according to E&E, more recent NASA documentation has shown accelerating shrinkage, and scientists have said that it does not contradict global warming because melting rates are affected by other factors.

A NASA report last year concluded that both Antarctic and Arctic sea ice levels were at a record low and that the accelerating loss could be a major contributor to rising sea levels. 

Brooks and Duffy sparred over the validity of each other’s data.

“We have satellite records clearly documenting a shrinkage of the Antarctic ice sheet and an acceleration of that shrinkage,” Duffy said.

“I’ve got a NASA base in my district, and apparently they’re telling you one thing and me a different thing,” responded Brooks, whose 5th District includes the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

Multiple other GOP lawmakers also cited theories that are not accepted by mainstream climate scientists, according to reports.

Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) referenced a debunked theory popular with climate skeptics, which is that scientists in the 1970s said the Earth was cooling. Duffy disputed that position.

And GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.) told Duffy that it was “disturbing”  to constantly be told not to question whether humans are the main cause of climate change, and that the committee “should all be open to different points of view.”

Tags Bill Posey Climate change Climate history Climatology Dana Rohrabacher Environmental skepticism Global warming Lamar Smith Mo Brooks
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