Pro-Trump Mayor vs. Al Gore: "Why Am I Not Seeing Signs Of Sea Level Rise?"

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At a CNN town hall on climate change with former Vice President Al Gore Tuesday evening a pro-Trump mayor and commercial fisherman from Virginia said Tangier Island is disappearing but it's not due to sea level rising but because of erosion.

"If sea level rise is occurring, why am I not seeing signs of it?" Mayor James Eskridge asked.

"I mean our island is disappearing, but it's because of erosion and not sea level rise and unless we got a sea wall we lose we will lose our island, but back to the question, why am I not seeing signs of the sea level rise?" Eskridge added.

"What do you think the erosion is due to, Mayor?" the former vice president asked.

"Wave action, storms," Eskridge answered.

He noted the erosion has occurred since Captain John Smith discovered the island and named it, however, there has been no rise in sea level.

Gore eventually gave up on debating the providence of erosion and told the man, "arguments about science aren't necessarily going to be of any comfort to you."

MAYOR JAMES ESKRIDGE, TANGIER ISLAND, VIRGINIA: Thank you.

Vice President Gore, Mr. Cooper, I'm a commercial crabber and I've been working the Chesapeake Bay for 50 plus years. And I have a crab house business out on the water.

And the water level is the same as it was when the place was built in 1970.

I'm not a scientist, but I'm a keen observer. And if sea level rise is occurring, why am I not seeing signs of it?

I mean our island is disappearing, but it's because of erosion and not sea level rise and unless we got a sea wall we lose we will lose our island, but back to the question, why am I not seeing signs of the sea level rise?

GORE: What do you think the erosion is due to, Mayor?

ESKRIDGE: Wave action, storms.

GORE: Has that increased any?

ESKRIDGE: Not really. I mean it...

GORE: Well, so you're losing the island even though the waves and -- haven't increased?

ESKRIDGE: Yes. This erosion has been going on since Captain John Smith discovered the island and named it.

GORE: Yes, well...

ESKRIDGE: And it's gotten to our doorstep now and we focus on it more.

GORE: Well, arguments about science aren't necessarily going to be of any comfort to you and I'm sorry for what you're going through and your neighbors on Tangier Island.

I read about you in the paper. There was an article in the "Washington Post," I believe...

ESKRIDGE: Yes.

GORE: -- after President Trump called you up. And it won't necessarily do you any good for me to tell you that scientists do say that the sea level is rising in the Chesapeake Bay and that you've lost about two thirds of your island already in -- over a longer period of time and that the forecast for the future is another two feet of sea level -- what would another -- if there was another two feet of sea level rise, what would that mean for Tangier Island?

ESKRIDGE: Tangier Island is -- our elevation is only about four foot above sea level.

GORE: Yes.

ESKRIDGE: And if I see sea level rise occurring, I'll shout it from the house top.

GORE: OK.

ESKRIDGE: I mean we don't have, you know, the land to give up. But I'm just not seeing it.

GORE: Yes. OK. Well, one of the challenges of this issue is taking what the scientists say and translating it into terms that are believable to people where they can see the consequences in their own lives. And I get that and I try every day to figure out ways to do that.

It reminds me a little bit of a story from Tennessee about a guy that was trapped in a flood and it -- he was sitting on the front porch and they came by in an SUV to rescue him and he said, no, the lord will provide.

And the water kept on rising. And he went up to the second floor and they came by the window in a boat and said come on, we're here to rescue you.

He said, nope, the lord will provide.

And then he went on up to the rooftop as the water kept rising and they came over in a helicopter and dropped a rope ladder. He said, nope, the lord will provide.

Well, he died in the water and went to heaven and he said, God, I thought you were going to provide.

And he said, what do you mean, I sent you an SUV, a boat and a helicopter.

And I think that what we -- we have heaven sent, so to speak, enough solar energy in one hour to provide what the entire world uses for a full year. And from wind, we get 40 times as much energy as the entire world needs.

We have the tools available now to solve this crisis. And whether you attribute what's happening to Tangier to what the scientists say it's due to or not, I'm assuming that if you could get cheaper electricity from the sun and the wind, that would be a pretty good deal for you, right?

ESKRIDGE: Yes.

GORE: OK.

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