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Republican congressman argues that rocks falling into the ocean are causing sea levels to rise

May 18th, 2018 at 12:44 PM
sea level rise rocks

Imagine being a climate scientist. You spend years of your life studying the ebbs and flows of the Earth, gathering data, studying trends, and eventually realize that it’s all pointing towards one indisputable fact: mankind is gradually making the Earth warmer. Then you’re called to explain your findings and those of your many colleagues around the world to lawmakers who proceed argue against humanity’s role in global warming, citing long-debunked theories and claiming that you’re doctoring your data.

That thankless job is what scientist Philip Duffy has chosen to take on, and at a recent meeting of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, he had to repeatedly shoot down inane assertions that the rising sea levels of the past 100 years might actually be due to rocks falling off a coastline. Yikes.

In the recent meeting, Alabama Republican Mo Brooks was the one arguing that last point, suggesting that rivers and coastlines were actually making sea levels rise because debris was falling into the water.

“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, to his credit, avoided busting out into a fit of laughter. Instead, he explained that any effect that erosion might have on sea levels is so small as to be likely immeasurable over a timeline of a single century. Indeed, if rocks falling into the ocean caused measurable sea rise, then fishermen hauling nets full of fish and crustaceans from the ocean — or even a massive whale beaching itself — should be pushing sea levels in the opposite direction, right?

What’s probably most frustrating for the actual scientists is that lawmakers have almost no sense of scale when it comes to the environment. During the same meeting, another GOP congressman, Lamar Smith from Texas, pointed to a report that suggested sea levels were only rising slightly compared to the rate of fossil fuel consumption, Duffy was forced to point out that the report was generated from the readings of a single tide meter in San Francisco.

As anyone who accepts the existence of gravity can grasp, water will not rest uniformly over the Earth due to land masses of different sizes and the uneven nature of the ocean floor. NASA even has a tool to show how sea levels are rising at different speeds in different areas based on the melting of sea ice and the distribution of water across the globe.

At the end of the day, it’s not like lawmakers even really care about the reality of the situation. By spouting false information and cherry-picking tiny data points that seemingly support their argument (while ignoring the mountains of evidence against them) they are praying that oil and coal lobbyists will give them a nice little nudge when election season rolls around. America.

Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering breaking news and trends in VR, wearables, smartphones, and future tech.

Most recently, Mike served as Tech Editor at The Daily Dot, and has been featured in USA Today,, and countless other web and print outlets. His love of reporting is second only to his gaming addiction.

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