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.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

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.