The White House Misleads on Climate

The White House web site includes a section on global warming titled “Why We Have to Act on Climate Now–In One Chart.” Here is the one chart:


Looks pretty persuasive, doesn’t it? The casual observer would think that we are looking at record levels of CO2–which is not a pollutant, but rather makes like on Earth possible–and record high temperatures. How can anyone dispute the causal connection?

The White House chart conveniently begins in 1880, around the end of the Little Ice Age. Happily, things have gotten a bit warmer since then. To display the post-1880 warming trend more fairly, Steve reproduced this chart in a post a couple of months ago:


Doesn’t look quite so scary, does it? Amazing what you can accomplish with misleading chart design!

In geologic terms, of course, the period from 1880 to the present is ridiculously short. Let’s look at temperatures over a more representative period, from the midst of the last ice age to the present. As you can see, we are living in a relatively cool era. It has generally been warmer than the present since the last ice age ended. Click to enlarge:

Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 1.38.43 PM

As for carbon dioxide, it is probably true that current levels are the highest of any point in human history, if you assume that homo sapiens has been around for approximately 200,000 years. But in geologic terms, current CO2 levels are rather low. They have often been several times as high as they are currently, and, if you go back far enough, 15 to 20 times as high.

But all of that is in the realm of science, about which the Obama administration cares nothing. As usual, its only interest is politics, and it is happy to mislead Americans if that serves its political ends.