The truth about sea level rise

The White Cliffs of Dover have nothing to do with sea level riseThe White Cliffs of Dover have nothing to do with sea level rise. (Photograph: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)

Mo Brooks must operate on a “need to know” basis, because the Republican congressman from Alabama clearly needs to know more about what has been causing sea level to rise since the Industrial Revolution.

Hint: It’s not sediment.

In fact, sea level rise is well documented, and caused by two primary factors:

  1. Rising global temperatures: water expands as it warms, and rising global temperatures are causing ocean temperatures to rise.
  2. Increased melting of land-based ice: the melted ice has got to go somewhere, and it goes into the sea, adding more water volume, and therefore raising sea level globally.

Brooks, perhaps to demonstrate the shortcomings of the American public education system, challenged a scientist on what is causing sea level to rise. As a misinformed member of three Congressional committees — which embarrasingly  includes Science, Space, and Technology — it is his duty to dutifully question those who are called to testify before said committees.

However, at a recent hearing, Brooks suggested the cause of sea level rise — worldwide sea level rise — can be traced to the snail-pace erosion of the White Cliffs of Dover, as well as “waves crashing against the shorelines” in California.

Yes, beach erosion is a thing, but, as Phil Duffy, a scientist from Woods Hole Research Center, noted, “I’m pretty sure on human timescales, those are minuscule effects.”

We are at a critically pivotal moment in human history, and dismissing the effects of climate change is irresponsible, especially from elected officials who are determining policy.

Get the facts: