US lawmaker says falling rocks could be pushing up sea levels

Republican climate change sceptic Mo Brooks uses white cliffs of Dover as an example of erosion

Mo Brooks
Brooks speaking at a March for Jobs rally in Washington, DC in July 2013
(Image credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Image)

A US lawmaker has been ridiculed for suggesting that rising sea levels could be caused by falling rocks rather than climate change.

Alabama congressman Mo Brooks, who sits on the House of Representatives’ science committee, was one of several members to grill Dr Philip Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center for climate change at a hearing on Wednesday.

Even though the subject of the hearing was how technology could be used for climate change adaptation, “the hearing frequently turned to the basics of climate science”, Science magazine reports. Several Republican members expressed scepticism about global warming.

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The tone was set by committee chairman Lamar Smith of Texas, who opened the hearing by stressing the need to “acknowledge the uncertainties that exist”.

He later cited a Wall Street Journal opinion piece claiming that rising sea levels are not linked climate change - “a view that rejects thousands of scientific studies”, says Science.

Fellow Republican Dana Rohrabacher said he was “disturbed” by the implication that climate change was an established fact, telling committee members: “We should all be open to different points of view.”

It was Brooks’ interjection which drew the most comment, however, as the lawmaker challenged Duffy’s assertion that rising sea levels have “clearly been attributed to human activities, greenhouse gas emissions”.

“What about erosion?” Brooks said, before suggesting that silt build-up in the world’s rivers could be to blame.

“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,” he said.

He also cited the white cliffs of Dover as a potential site of erosion, “where you have the waves crashing against the shorelines" and “cliffs crash into the sea”.

“All of that displaces the water which forces it to rise, does it not?” Brooks asked.

Duffy replied that “on human timescales those are minuscule effects”.

According to an investigation by The Washington Post, it would take “a volume of earth equivalent to taking the top five inches of every one of the United States’ 9.1 million square miles of land area and using it to coat the bottom of the world’s oceans” for erosion to be responsible for rising sea levels.

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