By David Allison / May 29, 2015 / American Thinker
In a recently published info-graphic, entitled “Climate Change By The Numbers”, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream serves up a seamy confection of poor analysis, misleading truths, and downright falsehoods. The bright and breezy assemblage (one in a series promoting “Climate Justice”) approaches the topic with such childlike simplicity it practically spoon-feeds us its ‘factual’ memes. In the very first sentence, we’re told that the science of climate change is a “story” that is “told with numbers”. Thus, it seems only fair to count the errors in this shoddy work.
Predictably enough, the graphic begins with a frightening pronouncement:
To support the claim, they tell us that “9 of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000”. At best, the assertion is cavalier; at worst, it is untrue. In order to believe it, we must first forget that the temperature records in question are a brief 160 years old (a relative eye-blink compared to the 4.5 billion years of earth’s total existence). We must then play ignorant to a host of recent studies that have suggested the Medieval Warm Period was global in scope. Thirdly, we have to ignore the fact that earth’s temperatures have NOT risen, hand-in-glove, with CO2 emissions. Indeed, even reliable Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) alarmists like Michael Mann have felt obligated to try to explain the seventeen-year hiatus in global warming. And lastly, in order to swallow the fear inspired by the headline, we must pay no attention to the scientific evidence that CO2 levels have historically lagged behind corresponding changes in temperature.
The info-graphic goes on to give us reasons for this supposed temperature rise…
Naturally, it’s “Greenhouse Gas Emissions”. Not greenhouse gases in general, mind you, but specifically greenhouse gas emissions. Hmmmm. That’s curious…. If all greenhouse gases, regardless of their source, were potential climate-change offenders, why would the graphic focus solely on emissions? I can only speculate that the answer is to discourage us from contemplating a couple of salient truths. The first truth is the percentage of our atmosphere comprised of CO2 — roughly 400 parts per million. 400 ppm is 0.04%, which is 0.04 parts per hundred, which would be written in fraction form as 4/10,000. The second truth is the percentage of atmospheric CO2 that we know results from human activity, which is about 4%. Since 4% of the numerator, 4, in the above fraction is 0.16, we adjust it to be 0.16/10,000. And now we see that the entire climate-change debate involves a portion of our atmosphere represented by the figure 0.0016%.
While this knowledge does not, in and of itself, discredit any or all of the alarmists’ claims, it is helpful to keep it in mind as we return our attention to the next part of the info-graphic:
Yikes! This looks pretty ominous. I mean… that’s a scary amount of red! But what on earth does it represent? Well, let’s consider it carefully. Since the circle purports to represent 100% of the greenhouse gas emissions humans have put into the atmosphere, we only need leverage our previous math to learn that the entire pie chart represents 0.0021% of earth’s entire atmosphere. (Math check: if human-generated CO2 was 0.0016% of the atmosphere, but merely 76% of all human-generated emissions, then 100% of all human generated emissions would be 0.0021% of the atmosphere).
So, yeah, pretty darn misleading to say the least… but stay with me, because it gets worse: Notice that the wedges of this numerical pie DON’T EVEN ADD UP TO 100%! Whoops! That’s embarrassing! And though I can’t possibly know what is behind such a glaring error, I think it’s safe to say this info-graphic was not the work of M.I.T. math wizards.
Ah, but there’s more… Perhaps in an effort to raise the fear quotient, the graphic’s authors go out of their way to instruct us of the dangers of methane and nitrous oxide. And, sure enough, these two gases seem to be wickedly bad actors, indeed! It appears that methane causes 20X more warming… and nitrous oxide, a whopping 310X more warming than equivalent amounts of CO2! This information is not expounded upon, however, but is treated more like a minor aside than a considerable fact to reckon with. So let’s grapple with it on our own… Some quick napkin math tells us that this data is terribly pertinent to any discussion of climate change, for even when we adjust for methane’s lower, overall prevalence, it is still more than 4X more damaging than CO2. Respectively, nitrous oxide is more than 24X more damaging than CO2! This raises the obvious question: “Why place so much focus and attention on CO2 when methane and nitrous oxide (in both relative and actual terms) are responsible for significantly more man-induced warming?” While I can’t know precisely why most alarmists ignore this question, I imagine it has something to do with the fact that methane and nitrous oxide emissions are generally by-products of (the relatively poor) agriculture industry, while CO2 emissions are generally by-products of (the relatively rich) petroleum industry.
Underneath the laughably dubious pie chart, we come to our next visual factoid:
What’s that?! “87% of CO2 comes from fossil fuel sources”? Really? Um… sorry, but ‘no’ — that is not even in the zip code of the parking lot of the ballpark of truth. As already stated, humans produce 4% of all atmospheric CO2. So, being charitable, I’ll suggest that what the authors actually meant to communicate was this: “87% of human emitted CO2 comes from the burning of fossil fuel.” Using honest (i.e. real) math, we arrive at this: Of the portion of atmosphere that is the CO2 specifically emitted by humans (i.e. 0.0016% of the entire atmosphere), 87% comes from fossil fuel sources. In other words, 0.0014% of the entire atmosphere is the result of humans digging up and burning fossil fuels. So let us now compare and contrast —
Ben & Jerry’s info-graphic claim: “87% of CO2 comes from Fossil Fuel Sources.” (Scary! Bad! And FALSE!)
Your Humble Author’s claim: “0.0014% of the entire atmosphere comes from fossil fuel sources.” (Not nearly so scary, but has the added benefit of being TRUE!)
SHEESH! — are there NO laws in Vermont about soberly disseminating blatant lies disguised as errors posing as truths?!!
No? Really? Ah, well, moving on…
Adjacent to the 87% error/lie/folly is this charming little graphic:
Though the wording is accurate, the imagery creates an impression that grossly distorts reality. I would guess most people looking at this picture would conclude that human activity has directly caused a 42% increase in atmospheric CO2. But, as we’ve already established, human-created CO2 is responsible for just 4% of current atmospheric CO2, so the implied claim is simply not possible. While it is true that we have seen CO2 concentrations go from about 280 ppm (in 1750) to about 400 ppm (today), it is probable that a huge percentage of this increase is natural — and has nothing whatsoever to do with smokestacks.
Further into the info-graphic, we are alerted to the general effects climate change will have on the earth. Among these is an enormous increase in severe (Category 4–5) Atlantic hurricanes:
This type of prediction is hardly new — so while it is impossible to test it against an unknowable future, we can test the validity of similar, past predictions. When we do, we find it leads to a troublesome disconnect for climate alarmists. Remember, the premise to all such predictions is this: with hotter temperatures, more and stronger Atlantic hurricanes will ensue. By employing the graphic’s own internal logic, if “9 of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000”, then we should surely be able to see a commensurate increase in severe Atlantic hurricanes in the past 15 years. However, we don’t.
A deep dive into the National Hurricane Center’s archives reveals the following:
- The decade with the greatest number high-intensity hurricanes (≥ Cat. 3) remains the 1950s.
- The decade with the most total hurricanes remains the 1940s.
- Ranking individual years for hurricane-caused fatalities, only two post–2000 years make the list of the TOP 50.
- 2000, 2001, 2009 and 2010 were among those very rare years in which no hurricanes struck ground in the U.S.
Next up, the Ben & Jerry’s info-graphic informs us of ways in which the problem of climate change can be ‘solved’. When touting the benefits of solar energy, the graphic makes the following, remarkable point:
Wow! “1 hour of sun = more energy than we use globally for a whole year.” Upon reading this, two thoughts quickly ran through my mind: 1) If an hour of the sun’s energy exceeds the amount of energy the world uses in a year, it must be an incredibly powerful energy source! 2) If the sun is, in fact, such a powerful energy source, then isn’t it likely that it is a major, MAJOR factor in the story of earth’s climate?
I’m just askin’…
Finally, as the info-graphic begins to wrap-up, we are reintroduced to the mother of all “climate change” memes: the “97% of Climate Scientists Agree…” meme. In the case of the Ben & Jerry’s info-graphic, AGW skeptics are apparently even rarer — representing 0% (when rounded down) of the climate science community!
For starters, consider that NO climate change deniers deny “climate change” properly understood. To the contrary, skeptics know there has been significant, radical climate change throughout the entire history of our earth. It is only when “climate change” comes to be synonymous with “anthropogenic climate change that is 100% man-made, indisputable, devastating, and evil!” that the skeptic becomes, well… skeptical.
Another important factor regarding this meme is that a “peer-reviewed climate article” is considered to be the work of a denier ONLY if it utterly “rejects climate change”. But evolved scientific debate is almost never a matter of dramatic and complete rejection, but rather one of smaller degrees, observations, and concerns. (Nibbles, not bites, one might say.)
Thus, it should surprise no one that of the hundreds of articles I’ve read over the years that cast serious doubt on specific and various aspects of anthropogenic global warming, not one of them rejected climate change, outright. The reason? Because, as with the previously referenced Syracuse study, the back-and-forth of scientific debate is never a sumo wrestling competition, it’s more of a tennis match. A scientific article that “rejects climate change” would be as pointless as an article about a very long tennis match that dealt only with a single point. The “97%” meme is much ado about nothing because it sets about looking for something that could never be common and screams “Aha!” when it cannot be found.
For its finale, the Ben & Jerry’s info-graphic sets an audacious goal for the relatively near future:
Doesn’t that sound inspiring? “100% renewable energy by the year 2050…” Who on earth would ever be against such a lofty and noble goal? Well, I am, for one. And I’m guessing that the 1 in 7 people who currently don’t have access to the life-enhancing wonders of electricity might well agree with me. Indeed, I suspect those very same people — all 1 Billion of them — might be inspired to ask the climate-obsessed Ben & Jerry’s” of the world: Excuse me, but wouldn’t it make far more sense for humanity to focus its collective attention and money on those known problems that are truly killing us, now, before we go ‘solving’ a problem that someday — might?