A web site called “Information is Beautiful” has an infographic it claims demonstrates the damage being done by carbon dioxide emissions and climate change. The graphic, however, shows how disingenuous the environmental left can be when it comes to climate science. Rather than using the “consensus” science, the graphic goes out of its way to cherry pick data from a range of sources. Ironically, some of the sources used contradict other sources.
For example, look at this estimate of sea level rise from the graphic.
The graphic claims sea levels will rise more than 33 inches by the end of the century, calling it “inevitable.” The source for this claim, however, is not the “consensus” science of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The source they list is a study from Vermeer and Rahmsdorf. Ironically, that study specifically admits it is out of the mainstream when it comes to sea level projections. They include this graphic (right) showing how different their projections are from the IPCC’s projections. Along the right hand side of the chart, the study’s authors list the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (listed as “AR4″ in the graphic). Note that the projections in the study, repeated in the graphic, are much higher than the IPCC’s assessment.
The irony is that the “Information is Beautiful” web page with the graphic specifically cites the “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007″ as a source. Given the chance, however, the graphic designer ditches that source in favor of a more alarmist study. The creators of this graphic have chosen their source not because it is consensus science but because it is alarmist. Politics trump science.
Of course the creators of the graphic would respond that the study on sea level is more recent than the IPCC report. They would claim it is “newer” science and therefore more accurate. That, however, is a phony excuse because elsewhere in the graphic they use sources that are older than the latest IPCC report.
For example, the authors claim certain cities would be “drowned” by 2100. The source is not the IPCC but the “Stern Review,” a report from the U.K. government published in 2006 prior to the most recent IPCC report. The Stern Review has been widely criticized for doing much of what the “Information is Beautiful” graphic does — using cherry-picked and outlying science rather than the consensus science.
Perhaps the best example of choosing old and politicized claims over the scientific consensus is the claim about increased rainfall. The graphic claims an increase of “heavy rain over land” of 7% is inevitable. The source? A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2011. They didn’t use the consensus science, but instead selected a highly biased and politicized source. They also claimed that hurricanes will become more destructive, saying a 7.5% increase in “hurricane destructiveness.” They cite the Natural Resource Council Report as the source. But before we even look at the actual consensus science, the number “7.5%” should raise a red flag. Using decimal points in an area where there is a great deal of uncertainty shows false precision.
Contrast that with a more recent, 2012, report by the IPCC itself on extreme weather and climate change. In contrast to the Information is Beautiful claim, the IPCC reports there is “low confidence in projections of changes in large-scale patterns of climate variability. Confidence is low in projections of changes in monsoons (rainfall, circulation) because there is little consensus in climate models regarding the sign of future change in the monsoons.” (Italics in the original) In other words, the IPCC says it is hard to know what the impact will be on the impact of hurricanes. In contrast with the false precision of the graphic, the IPCC admits it doesn’t even know whether the number and intensity of hurricanes will increase or decrease.
The most common source cited by Information is Beautiful, in fact, is not a scientific source at all but Mark Lynas’ book “Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet.” Interestingly, Lynas is most known recently for his abrupt reversal on the issue of biotechnology crops, now arguing that opponents of such foods are anti-science.
The environmental left loves to lecture about their adherence to the consensus science, but graphics like this show their commitment to honesty is pretty thin. Given the chance to distort the science, they hide behind infographics like this one that ignore the consensus and cherry-pick the most political and alarmist claims.
Such manipulation isn’t an error. It is dishonest and is fundamentally disrespectful of the scientific process.