Recently, Philip Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Centre in Massachusetts testified before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee about rising sea levels and Republican representative Mo Brooks (R-AL) took the opportunity to showcase his vast scientific ignorance.
“Ever since human beings have been on the planet, sea levels have risen relative to ground level. Why is that?” Brooks asked.
Duffy responded by trying to tell him about global climate change, “The last hundred-year increase in sea level rise, as I mentioned earlier, has clearly been attributed to human activities, greenhouse gases—”
That’s where Brooks cuts him off.
You see, Mo Brooks didn’t come to this hearing to find out more about global climate change and the environmental havoc it will wreak, he came to browbeat scientists into saying what he wanted to hear. Which is why he launched into this bonkers theory for global sea level rise:
“Every single year that we’re on Earth, you have huge tons of silt deposited by the Mississippi River, by the Amazon River, by the Nile… and 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’ve got less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up. What about the White Cliffs of Dover? California, where you have the waves crashing against the shorelines and time and time again you having the cliffs crash into the sea? All of that displaces water and forces it to rise, does it not?”
When finally permitted to respond to Brooks’ lengthy statement masquerading as a question he said, “I’m pretty sure that on human timescales, those are minuscule effects.”
Which… makes sense! The contribution of erosion to rising sea levels is literally sand off a beach—a drop in the bucket! It would be like saying, “Well, there are more people alive than ever before, which means more people are swimming in the ocean, which means it’s going to make sea levels rise.” Yeah, sure, an infinitesimal amount.
Phillip Bump at the did some back-of-the-envelope calculations for how much dirt it would take to make the sea level rise at the level measured by scientists, and it’s roughly the equivalent to taking the top 5 inches of soil off of the United States and dropping it in the ocean—every year. That is not what’s happening! Additionally, if erosion is to blame for rising sea levels than we could expect them to rise at roughly the same rate every year, but sea level rise is accelerating.
Of course, the real reason the sea levels are rising is because human-caused global climate change is melting ice sheets. Climate change deniers have plenty of theories for why the scientific community is somehow off-base on global climate change, and they’ve all already been disproven by the scientific community.
In the end, there’s no point in arguing with Mo Brooks or the rest of the climate change deniers. They have adopted a position out of ideology and tribalism with no basis in reality and any attempt to educate them just gives them an opportunity to spread their willful ignorance. It’s not erosion from the White Cliffs of Dover we need to worry about muddying the waters—it’s them.