Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama doesn’t accept climate change… which is all the more disturbing when you consider he’s on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
On Wednesday, that committee held a hearing all about how technology could respond to climate change, and they had an expert there to answer their questions: Philip Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts and former senior adviser to the U.S. Global Change Research Program.
But when a science committee is led by Republicans who deny basic science, a conversation like that is bound to go nowhere. In Brooks’ case, he attempted to explain to Duffy why climate change wasn’t a good explanation for rising sea levels by offering an alternative theory: Sometimes, rocks fall into the ocean.
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.
Duffy responded: “I’m pretty sure that on human time scales, those are minuscule effects.”
Duffy, of course, is right. While it might seem intuitive to think erosion would lead to a rise in sea levels — like dropping an ice cube in a glass of water — Brooks’ scaling was completely off. What he’s talking about is more like tossing an ice cube into a giant lake — it won’t make a damn bit of difference. Erosion alone can’t possibly account for the rise in sea levels we’ve seen.
How many rocks would it take? Here’s an idea:
— Philip Bump (@pbump) May 17, 2018
But what else would you expect from a man who recently threatened to filibuster the Senate using the King James Bible unless Donald Trump‘s border wall was fully funded? (Brooks ran for Senate last year in Alabama’s special election, but lost the Republican primary to Roy Moore.)
Brooks didn’t stop there, either. We know sea levels are rising due to the melting of ice sheets, but Brooks didn’t buy that because, according to his people, Antarctic ice is growing, not melting.
Duffy attempted to set him straight.
“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.”
“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.”
Brooks wasn’t the only ignorant Republican in the room. Duffy had to correct several of Brooks’ colleagues over the course of two hours.
None of this should strike anyone as surprising. When we elect Republicans, we get a bunch of science deniers in positions of power who serve as nothing more than obstacles to experts who actually understand the subject matter. Instead of focusing entirely on how technology could possibly reverse some of the effects of climate change, Duffy had to correct GOP officials about how climate change even works. He was like a professor trying to teach essay writing to adults who still don’t know how to spell.
I hope Duffy’s forehead is doing better today after all the face-palming he must’ve done at the hearing.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Scott for the link)