Climate change-denying Congressman Steve King may have gotten his facts about sea level wrong, but he was right about one thing—well, sort of right.
“I know that the temperature of this Earth, if it went up, there’d be more evaporation of the 70% of the Earth that’s covered by water,” King said at a Wednesday event in Iowa. “So I know by Newton’s first law of physics, what goes up must come down. It’s got to come down in the form of rain, so if the Earth is warm, it’ll rain more and more places.”
He added, “I spent a lot of my life cold, it felt pretty good to get warmed up. So what would happen that might be good if the Earth got a little warmer? Well, we’d probably raise a little more corn.”
While it is true that global warming leads to a warmer atmosphere, the accuracy of King’s comments stops there. In an email to msnbc from Penn State Meteorology Professor Michael Mann, author of several studies and books about climate change, Mann explained that a warmer, and thus moister, atmosphere “means that there is more moisture that can potentially produce rainfall if conditions are conducive to the condensation of moisture.”
He added that rainfall is much more complicated than King’s comments suggest. ”There are regions of the world, like the subtropical deserts, that have more moisture in the atmosphere on average than even some of the rainiest parts of the U.S. The reason they are dry is not related to the amount of moisture in the atmosphere, but instead is due to the fact that there is a tendency for sinking atmospheric motion in these regions.”
Mann explained that, without rising motion, there was little possibility for rainfall, regardless of the amount of moisture in the atmosphere.
He also dismissed King’s suggestion that Newton’s laws applies to weather systems. “Newton’s laws say nothing about the key chemical and physical processes involved in the large-scale hydro-logical cycle, such as thermodynamic processes that govern transformations between the various phases of water which determine the distribution of rainfall over the surface of the Earth.”
But King’s remarks are hardly an isolated case. According to ThinkProgress, there are at least 157 members of Congress, including the majority of those who make up the House Science Committee, who deny the occurrence of climate change—or, if they do acknowledge it as a reality, don’t see it its negative impact on the Earth.
“Unfortunately, the congressman’s embarrassingly simplistic reasoning gets just about everything wrong,” Mann said. “He should stick to what he knows–whatever that is–and leave science to those who actually understand and respect it.”