The conservative National Review, which has regularly criticized and rejected the scientific consensus on climate change, tweeted the following graph on Monday afternoon.
The graph is correct. It shows the average temperature in each year since 1880, using data from NASA. The problem with it is that it is misleading, using a scale that intentionally hides the actual change in the temperatures. It's akin to suggesting that Shaquille O'Neal and Mini-Me (aka Verne Troyer) are the same height because they're both tiny compared to the planet Jupiter.
Another way of presenting the same data is this:
That shows the gradual increase in global average temperatures over that same time period, which fits with scientific models of a warming planet. If you use a scale similar to the National Review's, though, that change is impossible to see. And there's no reason to show temperatures ranging from -10 to 110, of course. Temperature extremes go outside of those boundaries, too. It's just obfuscation.
So here's a version of that chart going from 0 to 110 degrees. The actual fluctuation over the past 130-plus years is just over 2 degrees, meaning that the scale used in the graph below is about 50 times larger than the fluctuation.
As was noted in the responses to that tweet, applying a similar scale to the national debt changes this ...
... to this.
If the moral of the temperature graph is that we shouldn't worry about warmer temperatures, we then should not worry about the increasing debt, correct?
Or take the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Over the past 100 years, it has shot upward in terms of real dollars.
Or has it?
The scientific consensus on climate change is based on an overwhelming amount of evidence which shows that the Earth is getting warmer. People can refuse to accept that consensus if they wish. But the way National Review is doing it is simply misleading.
Update: Bloomberg Businessweek's graphics team has an entry.