GOP congressman asks if rocks are causing sea levels to rise

A member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology evinced skepticism about climate change during an ex...

Posted: May 18, 2018 8:54 AM
Updated: May 18, 2018 8:54 AM

A member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology evinced skepticism about climate change during an exchange with a witness about rising sea levels.

Instead, Alabama Republican Rep. Mo Brooks offered an additional culprit: soil or rock deposits into the world's waters.

A study released in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in March documented accelerating sea-level rise driven by climate change.

E&E News reported on the comments of Brooks and others at the hearing, including California GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher who said he was "disturbed" that he heard people warning against questioning the link between human activity and climate change.

On Wednesday, at a hearing titled "using technology to address climate change," Brooks began by raising a broad question about rising ocean levels to the witness panel.

Philip Duffy, president of Woods Hole Research Center, said in response to the question that "the last 100-year increase in sea-level rise, as I mentioned earlier, has clearly been attributed to human activities, greenhouse gas emissions."

Brooks interjected and rephrased his question again, asking if there "are other factors."

"What about erosion?" Brooks offered during the exchange. He added: "Every time you have that soil or rock, whatever it is, that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise because now you've got less space in those oceans because the bottom is moving up."

Duffy responded that he did not believe that explained sea-level rise.

"I'm pretty sure that on human time scales those are minuscule effects," Duffy said.

Brooks then moved to ice levels and asserted that Antarctic ice is growing, to which Duffy responded that satellite records have documented "shrinkage of the Antarctic ice sheet and an acceleration of that shrinkage."

Brooks wrapped up his questioning by saying he had heard differently from NASA, and said there were "plenty of studies" showing an ice sheet increase in Antarctica.

"I've got a NASA base in my district," Brooks said. "And apparently, they're telling you one thing and me a different thing."

A day after the hearing, the committee tweeted a link to an op-ed from The Wall Street Journal denying climate change caused sea-level rise.

According to NASA, Antarctica's ice sheets have lost mass since 2002.

The agency's site also said, "Sea level rise is caused primarily by two factors related to global warming: the added water from melting ice sheets and glaciers and the expansion of seawater as it warms."

Duffy, who worked on climate change policy in the Obama administration, told CNN on Thursday that while he had "never heard that particular line" on sea level rise before, he essentially had expected the tone of the hearing to feature climate change skepticism.

"None of that is new," Duffy said. "They've been doing that forever."

Duffy said he would have hoped a "productive" science committee would seek to formulate aggressive policy on climate change as well as expand the nation's scientific capabilities.

And as for the question of sea level rise, Duffy said, "It's really caused by climate change."

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