Republican Lawmaker Invents An Absurd New Reason For Rising Sea Levels
It seems almost impossible to believe that the Science and Technology Committee of the world’s leading STEM superpower is an ongoing, slow-motion embarrassment to its nation’s citizens, but sadly, this is indeed the case and on Wednesday, we received yet another reminder of this. In one of Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) ongoing pity parties for climate denialists, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) decided to inform Dr. Philip Duffy, a physicist and former senior adviser to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, that erosion must play a significant role in sea level rise observed by climatologists. In other words, according to Brooks, falling rocks and washed out sand are responsible for oceans invading land, not melting polar ice.
Now, you don’t have to be a geologist to understand why this idea is asinine. Oceans cover 71% of the planet’s surface and have a volume of 322.3 million cubic miles. The amount of rock and sand needed to raise all that water by 0.13 inches per year across 139 million square miles? We would need entire continents shedding mountain ranges the size of the Himalayas right in front of our eyes. Since this is clearly not happening while we see ice sheets the size of states melt on a regular basis, climatology papers tend not to focus on erosion being a major culprit in sea level rise and cite all that melting ice instead. Of course, Brooks’ grasping at unscientific straws is just the latest in a long line of the now almost ironically named committee’s attempts to give bizarre, counter-factual positions favored by right-wing extremists a “scientific” veneer.
In early 2016, Lamar Smith launched a fishing expedition for emails and documents he could cherry pick to prove that climate change was just a UN conspiracy to install a socialist New World Order, which may have had something to do with the $772,347 given to him by the fossil fuel industry over his career. In 2012, Todd Akin, a former committee member, made his infamous “legitimate rape” remark to give a patina of junk science to his support for anti-choice laws. An in the same year, riding high from his 2010 attempt to cast CDC recommendations to eat more fruits and vegetables as a socialist ploy, effectively red-baiting salad, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), dismissed evolution as a Satanic lie and claimed that as a doctor, he found proof that the Earth was created in six days no more than 9,000 years ago. (One wonders if he found an inscription to that effect on a male patient’s rib for that statement to even qualify as a cogent thought.)
While we don’t directly vote for the people who will end up on the Science and Technology Committee directly, the fact that these are the caliber of people being appointed to lead our science and technology initiatives should be horrifying. Surely in a nation with so many intelligent, talented people who are scientists or have a profound respect for the scientific method, Akin and Broun can retire not to be replaced by the likes of Brooks and Smith but by someone like Jess Phoenix. Surely it can’t be too much to ask that the future members of a crucial committee responsible for helping us plan our future as a country and as a civilization respect math, science, and facts, and don’t glibly end a hearing about climate science with a quip about how they’re trying to adopt ignorance about its causes as the government’s official position on the subject.