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The Nerdy Cartoon That Explains Why Millennials Don’t Have A Clue About Climate Change

September 27, 2016

By Paul Homewood 




Dellers writes:


There’s a cute, nerdy cartoon – A Timeline of Earth’s Average Temperature – that has been doing the rounds on the internet by bestselling author Randall Munroe purporting to illustrate the dire, unprecedented threat that is man-made global warming.



It’s at a site hugely popular with geeks and nerds called xkcd – “A webcom of romance, sarcasm, math, and language”. Millennials will look at it and go “Wow, that is like totally sick!”, their eyes opened as never before to the menace of late 20th/early 21st century climate change. They will go on demos, launch petitions on Change.Org, demand of politicians that ever more stringent action be taken now.

This is why we need some kind of reverse Logan’s Run where everyone under thirty – sorry kids – is put permanently out of their misery as a punishment for being so credulous, self-righteous and stupid.

Or, if that sounds too extreme, then at least let us join Jo Nova and William Briggs in humiliating the author of this utterly misleading cartoon so as to prick his bubble of pompous, ignorant, self-regarding, passive-aggressive, pontificating greenery.

The cartoonist Randall Munroe is the author of a bestselling pop-science book called What If? and was named by Wired magazine one of the 20 key influences of the last 20 years.

According to William Briggs – Adjunct Professor of Statistics at Cornell – who has deconstructed Munroe’s blogpost, we shouldn’t be too hard on Munroe and his crappy cartoon because it is just repeating rubbish he heard elsewhere.

But having read Munroe’s self-description I am inclined to show less mercy:

I’m just this guy, you know? I’m a CNU graduate with a degree in physics. Before starting xkcd, I worked on robots at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. As of June 2007 I live in Massachusetts. In my spare time I climb things, open strange doors, and go to goth clubs dressed as a frat guy so I can stand around and look terribly uncomfortable. At frat parties I do the same thing, but the other way around.

You see what I mean about the passive-aggressive stuff? He’s trying to make out that, you know, he’s really just an ordinary guy whose views you can, like, take or leave, whatever. But then he throws in that false modesty stuff about his physics degree and his robot research in CIA country and the obviously huge and dangerous mountains he climbs and the clear implication is: “I am one big deal. I know important science stuff. And by the way, here’s this amazing cartoon I did which, amid all the side-splitting mirth of my wacky sense of humour, has a very, very serious point to make about man-made global warming which you should totally heed and then share with all your friends.”

Anyway, whether you decide you feel quite sorry for Munroe or think he’s a dick is neither here nor there. The point is that his cartoon is wrong and misleading for a number of reasons. Mainly these concern the bit right at the end where, having shown global temperatures rising ever so slowly over a period of 20,000 years, Munroe suddenly has them skyrocket upwards in a way designed to make you go “the horror!”

Munroe – in his charming “hey, I know this is like, science, man but it’s fun and unthreatening too don’t you think?” handwriting – offers us three options of global temperature paths: “best-case scenario assuming immediate massive action to limit emissions”, “optimistic scenario” and “current path”.

Will it surprise you to learn that even the “best-case scenario” is quite terrifyingly dire?

No, of course it won’t because we have heard this crap many, many times before from the usual doom-mongers in the climate alarmist establishment.

But as Briggs points out, there is no evidence for this. None. That scary uptick on the graph – just like the one on Michael Mann’s many-times-discredited Hockey Stick – is the creation of computer projections which have been repeatedly proved wrong by observed reality.

The flashy temperature rises (the dashed lines) at the end are conjectures based on models that have repeatedly been proven wrong — indeed, they’ve never been proven right — by predicting temperatures much warmer than today’s. There is ample reason to distrust these predictions.

Briggs goes on to list why Munroe’s chart is flawed stastically. For example, the way it pretends there is certainty about the 20,000 year temperature record when, of course, this is quite impossible: the best we can do is make deductions from proxies such as coral growth rates.

Jo Nova has helpfully designed an illustration of her own explaining how you too can create a scary 20,000 year climate chart guaranteed to terrify kids.




She comments:

It’s easy to make a scary historical-looking temperature graph — so easy that the artist probably didn’t even know how. (Thank Shakun, Marcott, Annan, Hadcrut and the IPCC for doing the tricky part.) First,  guesstimate temperatures over last 20,000 years with anything at hand: tree-rings, ice bubbles, coral, fossilized tea leaves, whatever. Blend. Then stop the proxies, tack on thermometer data that was recorded in a different way with different errors and a very different response to faster temperature changes. Finally, launch that line into the future with unvalidated, skillless multivariate models that predict a fingerprint which 28 million weather balloons can’t find. Then take the models that didn’t work for the last twenty years, and run with the errors to the next century… Voila!

And if you think that we’re all using a sledgehammer to crack a nut here, just remember, as Andrew Breitbart said, that politics is downstream from culture.

Very few teenagers and twentysomethings are ever going to read an actual science paper by Michael Mann or Kerry Emanuel or Gavin Schmidt –  then again, who could blame them? – nor pay heed to yet another speech by Barack Obama or the Prince of Wales warning of the urgent climatic threat to our planet.

But if that “science” is couched in the form of a cartoon, suddenly they’re interested – and dangerously certain.

That’s why I’m not giving Munroe the benefit of the doubt.

Dick. Definitely a dick.

  1. September 27, 2016 4:08 pm

    The Hockey Stick still reigns supreme at the BBC, just heard all about the “problems” for UK gardeners due to the massive climate change that has happened in the last 50 years. They extrapolate change into the future, and assume that nothing changed prior to 50 years ago, classic Hockey Stick Syndrome.

    They did struggle to actually come up with any problems, but success was declared thanks to some plants needing a proper winter, I can’t wait for another period of cold winters, such as 2009-10, and another year without a spring, such as 2013.

    • 1saveenergy permalink
      September 27, 2016 4:57 pm

      I heard it as well,
      ( BBC costing the earth – )

      They were pushing the idea of how every weather event is now “more extreme” ;

      but when you look at the records, the only thing “more extreme” is the reporting of std UK weather.

      • September 27, 2016 5:50 pm

        There was also a sneering comment about “some people in the climate debate”, I wonder if this is the latest instruction from Harrabin’s politburo, as I heard it also when the Northabout expedition leader was given a platform to worry the nation about Arctic Ice.

  2. tom0mason permalink
    September 27, 2016 5:23 pm

    The last 11,000 years fits with this?

    or any of these graphics at

  3. September 27, 2016 6:48 pm

    No doubt the dick is chums with Brian Cox

  4. DreadUK permalink
    September 27, 2016 7:33 pm

    Well, I’m no believer in the dangers of climate change, nor am I a scientist. However, as I see it, the planet is around the coldest it has ever been. Being that an ice age is worse than a ‘hot’ age, I reckon that if anthropogenic CO2 is the culprit, burn it all!

    My garden is greener than it has been in 25 years! The grass needs to be cut twice a week now, the trees and bushes need to be trimmed regularly, the cat’s suddenly got stripes and the dog’s wearing combats and carrying a machete.

    And I like Joannenova’s response. Been saying the same thing for a long time, use carefully selected paleogeology (where you can reach with a truckful of equipment) ignore it, and instead rely on tree ring data so you can scare the shit out of the public and stupid politicians (is there a clever politician?) and Al Gore can make a fortune out of renewables. Ensure dissenting scientists are sacked from their posts, character assassinate the rest, starve them of funds and enlist the support of the BBC, then refuse to let other scientists see your data.

    Whack 100 years of temperature data collected by, well god knows who (probably the tea boy) from dodgy equipment, in dodgy locations, on a graph and present this as a reliable source of temperature forecasts in the coming years.

    To compound all that, utterly dismiss the data, based on other paleogeological research that shows temperature and CO2 bear no relation to each other, then maintain anthropogenic CO2 is the culprit for GW. Despite our contribution being around – well by various accounts- between 2 and 12PPM which is claimed to be cumulative (so 100 years of anthropogenic CO2 should have us at between 600 and 1,600PPM by now) and absorbed by the trees (that we are apparently cutting and burning too much) and the oceans, both of which utterly ignore the remaining 400PPM they could gobble up as well.

    And isn’t 400PPM like throwing a chilli into an Olympic swimming pool and expecting it to make any difference?

    I wish I had chosen to be a climate scientist when I was young. I can spin some yarns and could be worth a fortune by now.

  5. Peter MacFarlane permalink
    September 28, 2016 7:27 am

    The Telegraph was at it again yesterday too.

    Apparently someone found an enormous dead tuna in the Severn estuary somewhere; after just about mentioning the real reason for this (normal September high tides in the part of the UK that has the largest tidal range) in passing, they immediately segued into “with increasing sea temperatures, this sort of thing is happening more and more”. No mention of actual numbers of course, either temperatures or tuna.

    But the message was passed along, and the ignorami will nod their heads and murmur “yes, of course, this is just what they told us would happen”.

  6. Not that Bob permalink
    September 28, 2016 9:02 pm

    The cartoonist appears to hold the conventional opinion on CAGW, which he supposes will be shared by his readers, and naturally exaggerates his graph for comic effect.

    So what? It’s only xkcd!

    Briggs, Jo Nova, …, and now your good self come across as akin to a bunch of nuns protesting outside “Jesus Christ, Superstar”, “Life of Brian”, etc.

    Nobody attended those shows for religious instruction. Presumably believers left as believers, and deniers as deniers.

    Although not a ‘believer’, I found the cartoon amusing. Lighten up.

    • September 28, 2016 9:47 pm


      • Not that Bob permalink
        September 29, 2016 5:15 pm

        Nobody goes to xkcd for enlightenment on science, climate or otherwise,, they go there for entertainment.

        Similarly, nobody went to “Jesus Christ, Superstar” or “Life of Brian” for religious instruction, they went for entertainment.

        I seriously doubt that these entertainments have switched ‘deniers’ to ‘believers’ or vice-versa. So the ‘Guardians of the Faith’ protesting the danger to young minds through exposure to an entertainment come across as protesting Nuns.

        “Millennials will look at it and go “Wow, that is, like, totally sick!”, their eyes opened as never before to the menace of late 20th/early 21st century climate change.” Really?

        Surely they would have encountered something akin to this graph during their indoctrination / education? And, they will either have believed or not.

        I don’t accept the cartoon’s premise, but I found it amusing. Certainly not worth the column inches of Deller’s snide.

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