Before you look at this tweet, please put on the nearest padded helmet you can find. In moments, you will be slapping yourself on the forehead in in frustration and disgust, and we don’t want to be responsible for any concussion-type injuries.
Here you go:
Bill Mitchell is a right-wing radio host and Twitter personality, and he gained notoriety online after steadfastly predicting that Trump would win the presidential election despite polling evidence to the contrary. He got that one right, but this…this is really something. Let me do my best to distill Mitchell's point:
1. Ice takes up more volume than water.
2. Therefore, when it melts, sea levels will go down.
It feels almost degrading to have to refute this, because Mitchell's inexpert opinion has no place in a topic that has been covered by actual scientists for years. Did he really think he'd come up with some “a-ha!” fact that would completely change the debate, and that scientists hadn't thought of before? Deeper question: How can people like Mitchell be so arrogant to assume that they might know more than the experts?
But fine, here's the obvious refutation:
1. Sea levels rise in part because of ice that melts from land masses. It's not already in the water—it's coming from glaciers and ice sheets in places like Greenland and the arctic circles. It's extra water, not just some piece of ice sitting on top of the ocean.
2. The other major cause is thermal expansion due to rising temperatures. In other words, water expands when it's warm.
Again, the problem here isn't so much that Mitchell had this thought—it's the kind of thing that could occur to anyone. It's that he didn't think about it closely enough to come to the obvious conclusion that it was stupid, and—worse—he is so self-assured that he actually tweeted it in the belief that it would be eye-opening. It's an amazing window into a certain kind of self-assured American brain; the kind that assumes there is no subject on which they aren't experts, and that they know better than people who have been studying phenomena like climate change their entire lives. It's an almost impossible arrogance, and it's a microcosm of why we're having such a hard time doing anything about this global disaster. We have too many people like Mitchell who have a political incentive to believe that climate change is overblown, and the sense of intellectual entitlement to believe that they know more than actual scientists.
It's too enraging to think about any more, so let's just feature the people who owned him in the aftermath.
Did Mitchell learn anything from this episode? Nooooope.