Today’s Dumbest Chart, Presented in Chart Form

“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.


We recently wrapped up the crowdfunding campaign for our ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project, and it was a smashing success. About 10,364 readers pitched in with donations averaging $45, and together they contributed about $467,374 toward our $500,000 goal.

That's amazing. We still have donations from letters we sent in the mail coming back to us, so we're on pace to hit—if not exceed—that goal. Thank you so much. We'll keep you posted here as the project ramps up, and you can join the hundreds of readers who have alerted us to corruption to dig into.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.