Tuesday, April 21, 2015

White House Graphic Distorts Impact of Climate Change

    As Earth Day approaches, the White House is once again pushing action on climate change, presenting a rather stark contrast between action and inaction on carbon emissions. Monday, the following graphic appeared in a White House tweet, presenting almost a night-and-day difference between the status quo and adopting the president's policies:

    The way in which the White House chose to present the alternatives, however, seems to be designed to exaggerate the difference between the two.
     Although both the graphic and tweet display a link to the Climate Change page on the White House website, the map showing worldwide temperature variances does not appear there, although the same graphic has appeared several times in the past on the White House Twitter account. 
     The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), however, does present similar maps on its website. The following graphic shows low emissions, medium-high emissions, and high emissions scenarios during three time periods: 2011-2030; 2046-2065; and 2080-2099:

     The White House apparently chose to present only the longest range projection, the one extending to the end of the 21st century. But by using a different color scheme than the EPA and by leaving out any actual reference to the period of time being portrayed, the White House overdramatizes the comparison. Rather than a more gradual transition from greens and yellows to oranges and reds, the White House scale abruptly changes at the seven-degree mark from a dull gold to a rather dark orange that is almost indistinguishable from the next color, a dark red that represents the nine to eleven degree range. The result is striking. Here again is the White House map:

And here is a composite map representing the world split in half like the White House map, except using the EPA maps for low emissions versus high emissions:

     The difference is still apparent, yet far different from the extraordinary contrast implied by the White House graphic. The White House did not respond to a request for the source of the map using for its graphic.
     Of course, those who question the models and projections that the White House, the EPA and others rely on to press their case for draconian reductions in emissions reject the premise that human activity is driving a catastrophic increase in global temperatures. These skeptics are not likely to be swayed by the above maps in any case. But by presenting nearly a century of projections in such a misleading way, the Obama administration appears to be trying to manipulate those sitting on the fence to buy into a doomsday scenario that calls for the president's policies to avoid endangering the entire planet.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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