Alabama Republican Representative Mo Brooks asks if rocks cause sea level rise, 17 May 2018. Photo: CNN

By Scott Waldman
17 May 2018

(E&E News) – The Earth is not warming. The White Cliffs of Dover are tumbling into the sea and causing sea levels to rise. Global warming is helping grow the Antarctic ice sheet.

Those are some of the skeptical assertions echoed by Republicans on the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology Committee yesterday. The lawmakers at times embraced research that questions mainstream climate science during a hearing on how technology can be used to address global warming.

A leading climate scientist testifying before the panel spent much of the two hours correcting misstatements.

The purpose of the hearing was to focus on how technology could be deployed for climate change adaptation. But the hearing frequently turned to the basics of climate science. Many of the questions by Republicans and Democrats alike were directed to Philip Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts and former senior adviser to the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said he was bothered that established climate science has not been questioned more by the committee, which has accused federal climate scientists of fraudulently manipulating climate data and subpoenaed their records.

"I'm a little bit disturbed by, No. 1, over and over again, I hear, 'Don't ever talk about whether mankind is the main cause of the temperature changing and the climate changing,'" he said. "That's a little disturbing to hear constantly beaten into our heads in a Science Committee meeting, when basically we should all be open to different points of view."

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the committee, entered into the record an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal yesterday that claimed sea levels are not rising because of climate change, a view that rejects thousands of scientific studies. The piece was written by Fred Singer, who is affiliated with the Heartland Institute in Chicago, Illinois, which promotes the rejection of mainstream climate science.

"To solve climate change challenges, we first need to acknowledge the uncertainties that exist," Smith said in his opening remarks. "Then we can have confidence that innovations and technology will enable us to mitigate any adverse consequences of climate change."

At one point, Smith showed a slide of two charts that he said demonstrated how the rate of sea-level rise does not equal the sharp spike in the consumption of fossil fuels. When Smith pointed out that rates of sea-level rise have only increased slightly compared with the rate of fossil fuel use, Duffy pointed out that his chart was from a single tide gauge station, near San Francisco, and that sea levels rise at different rates around the world. Smith did not show rising atmospheric CO2 levels or temperatures, both of which have climbed steadily in recent decades as emissions have increased.

"The rate of global sea-level rise has accelerated and is now four times faster than it was 100 years ago," Duffy told Smith in response to the charts.

"Is this chart inaccurate, then?" Smith asked.

"It's accurate, but it doesn't represent what's happening globally; it represents what's happening in San Francisco," Duffy said. [more]

Republican lawmaker: Rocks tumbling into ocean causing sea level rise

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