May 21, 2018

Quick Takes (v24): The Erosion of Science

Quick Takes
We had another rocket science moment in Congress recently - there should be as little surprise about that as there was about another school shooting, right?

Republican Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama tutored a scientist from the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) about rising oceans.

The gentleman from Alabama wanted to know, at a meeting of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (which, under the current state of things, is kind of a science denying committee),  if there were things other than climate change, which is melting ice, causing the oceans to rise.
What about erosion! Every single year that we're on Earth, you have huge tons of silt deposited by the Mississippi River, by the Amazon river, by the Nile, by every major river system - and for that matter, creek, all the way down to the smallest systems. And 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.
What about the White Cliffs of Dover? California, where you have the waves crashing against the shorelines and time and time again you have the cliffs crashing into the sea. All of that displaces the water which causes it to rise, correct?
Um, well, from a scientific perspective, that's ridiculous. Philip Duffy, president of WHRC, noted.
I'm pretty sure that on human time scales, those are minuscule effects.
In fact, according to folks who did the math using long-accepted theories on measuring the displacement of water, it would require the top five inches of the 9.1 million squares miles of the US land mass  - about 6.6 quadrillion pounds worth - to be dropped into the ocean to create the same change in all of the world's oceans as we currently see.

Not just one time dropping that 6.6Q pounds of dirt, and rocks, and and asphalt, of plastic bags and Styrofoam cups and disposable diapers and cat litter and manure and tires and cans and bottles and whatever else we have in the first five inches of the earth -- all of that, every year - to equal what we're seeing in ocean level rise. All of that and more, actually, since the level of ocean rise is increasing each year.

There was a scathing editorial on AL.com, which said, in part, about the rocks falling into the ocean comment,
It would have been comical if it had come from a middle school science fair, but it didn't. It came from a guy on a committee making decisions for the most powerful country on earth about the future of the planet. 
In his response, Brooks used additional logic about increasing ice in one part of the earth but not mentioning decreasing ice somewhere else, logic that one person described along the lines of figuring out how much money you have in the bank by only counting deposits and not withdrawals.

About that particular bit of logic Politifacts waves a 'mostly false' flag.