Today’s Dumbest Chart, Presented in Chart Form

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“Someone on the internet is wrong” isn’t a great mission statement for a blog. I get it. Really. But…National Review posted this in their Twitter feed a few minutes ago:

This is so phenomenally stupid that I figured it had to be a joke of some kind. Or maybe some intern put it up, not understanding how dumb it was. But no. When I backtracked to the PowerLine post that it came from, it turns out that author Steven Hayward wasn’t trying to trick anyone. He was making an explicit argument that this is the right way to view climate change:

When I make charts and graphs, I generally make it a practice to scale the vertical axis of a chart from zero (0) to the upper bound of the range. Compressing a chart’s vertical axis can be grossly misleading…The typical chart of the global average temperature is usually displayed this way [normal chart inserted]…But what if you display the same data with the axis starting not just from zero, but from the lower bound of the actual experienced temperature range of the earth?….A little hard to get worked up about this, isn’t it? In fact you can barely spot the warming…If this chart were published on the front page of newspapers the climate change crusaders would be out of business instantly.

Hayward missed a bet by not using Kelvin and scaling the chart from absolute zero at the bottom to the temperature of molten lava at the top. Then the warming would really be invisible.

We all post stupid stuff sometimes. But things are really going downhill at NR if they post charts like this even though the author explains exactly why he’s doing something so dopey. In case they still don’t get it, though, maybe the chart below will clear things up.

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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