Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) has figured out what is causing sea levels to rise, and it’s not the Earth’s rising temperature: Rocks along the coast that fall into the ocean are displacing sea water.
That, along with silt deposited by rivers, is causing the sea bed to rise, bringing the water level with it.
Brook’s comments came during a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing intended to address how technology could be used to adapt to the changing climate; but Republicans spent a fair amount of time disagreeing over the basics of climate science.
Brooks then said that erosion plays a significant role in sea-level rise, which is not an idea embraced by mainstream climate researchers. He said the California coastline and the White Cliffs of Dover tumble into the sea every year, and that contributes to sea-level rise. He also said that silt washing into the ocean from the world's major rivers, including the Mississippi, the Amazon and the Nile, is contributing to sea-level 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," Brooks said.
Philip Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts and former senior adviser to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, explained to Brooks that while he isn’t entirely wrong, he’s “pretty sure that on human time scales, those are minuscule effects."
Brooks also debated Duffy on the Antarctic ice sheet, questioning whether it has been shrinking and asserting that his sources tell him it has been growing:
"We have satellite records clearly documenting a shrinkage of the Antarctic ice sheet and an acceleration of that shrinkage," Duffy said.
"I'm sorry, but I don't know where you're getting your information, but the data I have seen suggests — " Brooks said.
Duffy answered: "The National Snow and Ice Data Center and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration."
But Brooks was not derailed, saying instead that Duffy must be getting different information from his NASA contacts and arguing that studies show Duffy to be wrong:
"Well, I've got a NASA base in my district, and apparently, they're telling you one thing and me a different thing," Brooks said. "But there are plenty of studies that have come that show with respect to Antarctica that the total ice sheet, particularly that above land, is increasing, not decreasing. Now, you could make a different argument if you want to talk about Greenland or the Arctic."
What has NASA concluded on the issue?
Earlier this year, NASA researchers determined that Antarctica's ice loss has accelerated in the last decade. More broadly, sea ice extent at both poles set a record low last year. Scientists are racing to better understand the changes occurring in Antarctica because much of its ice is land-based, meaning it could drive sea-level rise around the world as it melts.