Today’s Dumbest Chart, Presented in Chart Form

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

“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.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend