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The exchange was awkward, to say the least.
A Republican lawmaker on the House Science Committee sought to inform a professional scientist of his personal theory on climate change during a hearing Wednesday, that sea levels were rising because oceans are filling it up with rocks and not due to melting ice caps.
The debate occurred during a House hearing on “Using Technology to Address Climate Change,” which was frequently derailed by a fundamental disagreement on whether global warming was happening at all.
Skeptic Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) decided to challenge the scientific assessment of Philip Duffy, Ph.D., a former senior adviser to the White House National Science and Technology Council.
“Ever since human beings have been on the planet, sea levels have risen,” Brooks began.
In response, Duffy clarified that studies have shown evidence that sea levels have fluctuated since humans appeared.
“Let’s assume for a moment that what you’re talking about has some kind of factual, rational basis for it, that ice has melted. Are there other factors?” Brooks asked, continuing, “Every time you have that soil or rock deposited into the seas, that causes the sea level to rise, because now you’ve got less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up.”
“I’m pretty sure that—” the scientist stuttered.
“What about the white cliffs of Dover, California,” Brooks interrupted, “where time and time again you’re having the waves crash against the shorelines, and time and time again, you’re having the cliffs crash into the sea. All that displaces water, which forces it to rise, does it not?”
“I’m pretty sure that on human time scale those are minuscule effects,” Duffy replied. “We have satellite records clearly documenting a shrinkage of the Antarctic ice sheet and an acceleration of that shrinkage.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t know where you’re getting your information, but the data I have seen suggests…” Brooks said.
“The National Snow and Ice Data Center and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration,” the scientist responded, citing his sources.
Scientists assert that the marked rise in sea levels over the last century has been directly due to human activity pushing heat-trapping emissions into the atmosphere which is causing rising temperatures as well as rising seas. Many Republicans, however, disregard that evidence and believe climate change is a ploy to increase federal regulation on the energy industries.
President Donald Trump’s administration has taken numerous regressive actions regarding climate change and the environment. Trump himself expressed his belief in 2012 that the whole thing was a giant hoax “created by and for the Chinese” to damage the U.S. economy.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
Since the beginning of his term, the president has withdrawn the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, a global action on greenhouse gas emissions plan signed by 164 countries, and made climate change denier Scott Pruitt head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology. He previously covered civil liberties, crime, and politics for Vice.