This Republican Congressman Seriously Suggested Sea Levels Are Rising Because of Falling Rocks
One of the worst duties of being a top-level American scientist or researcher is that you get summoned before House Republicans so they can explain why, in their minds, the entire collected research that you and tens of thousands of others have participated in is probably wrong because of Shit They Just Made Up.
It might help to imagine Woods Hole Research Center President Philip Duffy as having wandered into a local bar, and Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks as a sloshed-out-of-his-mind patron regaling him with Drunk Guy ideas about the real causes of sea level rise. For example, says Brooks, maybe it's not thermodynamics or melting ice sheets causing our oceans to rise, Maybe it is the goddamn White Cliffs of Dover.
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."
No, no, I am fairly certain that the world's collected best scientific minds did not think about "what if, like, a bunch of rocks are just falling in" until just now, when Alabama Republican Mo Brooks thought it up. Or ever made calculations of how much silt is deposited annually by the Mississippi. Or made a back-of-an-envelope calculation on what the total sea level rise would be if the entire region of Dover, every picturesque bit of it, slid into the sea tomorrow. No, we have stumbled on something here. Perhaps the worldwide melting of land-based ice from Greenland to the Antarctic is not the culprit here, but ... rocks.
Rather than quibble with Mr. Brooks's genius, I say we go with it. Let's science the hell out of this thing. Here are some other things that scientists no doubt have overlooked, when calculating the level of sea level rise we can expect from DEFINITELY NOT THE MELTING OF ICE SHEETS WORLDWIDE unknown, mysterious sources.
Mo Brooks Theoretical Cause #2: Boats. We have a lot more boats these days. What if, like, us building all those boats is what's displacing water and causing Florida to gradually disappear. We should probably keep burning fossil fuels but stop building boats.
Mo Brooks Theoretical Cause #3: No, wait, not boats, whales. What if, and hear me out on this one, rising sea levels can be directly attributed to the international ban on whaling. What if the ban on whale hunting is leading whale populations to rebound so quickly that all the extra whales are causing sea levels to rise, and if we continue to let whales run amok soon we will all be flooded with whales. Whales in the flooded streets, whales in the subways, whales roaming freely through our larger sewer systems, hunting for krill. What if our 19th century shift away from a whale-based economy turns out to be the thing that doomed us all.
Mo Brooks Theoretical Cause #Q: That Chinese satellite that just fell. It fell into the ocean, right? I forget, but it seems like that was pretty big so that's maybe a thing.
Mo Brooks Theoretical Cause #ampersand: The damn kids today. Kids are always throwing rocks into the ocean. Scientists have determined that if all the world's kids gathered at the White Cliffs of Dover to throw rocks in, the White Cliffs of Dover would be reduced to the White Flat Plains of Dover within a single decade.
Mo Brooks Theoretical Cause #DoctorsDon’tWantYouToKnow:Wait, what if the oceans aren't rising at all ... what if the Earth is shrinking? So, like, it's the same amount of water but every year gravity is causing the planet to shrink a little. It could be that. Scientists are dumb and probably didn't think of that because of their dumbness.
Now see there? We could have mocked Mr. Brooks, but we did not. Instead we constructively engaged with him. We're meeting him halfway.
I would like to humbly suggest that if House Republicans set me up with an appropriate source of funding—say, a few billion dollars—I will science the heck out of all these possibilities, definitively answering them once and for all. I will do all the sciences. I will use calculators, and slide rules, and write down numbers and everything, and report back with a definitive header and choice of fonts.
It is, after all, the only way to be sure.