It's hard to believe how much the world has transformed in the past decade; but this handy infographic tells the whole story.

2000 vs. 2010


Comments from the skeptical: (Has valid points to debunk the above diagram)

It may be superficially alarming, but most of that goes away with further examination of the underlying trends. The creators of this graphic carefully pick the data and fail to adjust for other variables so as to exaggerate (or entirely manufacture) the results.

1. World Temperature: For the time period in question, the variation of the data is such that minor changes in the selected start and end points overwhelm the trend and result in huge changes in the calculated difference. Altering the timeframe by as little as a year or two can result in a positive, neutral, or even negative trend depending on what story you are trying to tell.

2. Endangered Species: This one is just a lie. The IUCN's own summary page for this data set shows that the number of species on its list has grown not because of existing species becoming endangered, but because of more animals being studied for inclusion in the database to begin with. In the same 2000-2010 window, the number of species assessed for inclusion increased from 17k to 56k, which means that as a proportion, the likelihood that a studied creature would be endangered actually went down.*

3. Deaths From Natural Disasters: The authors cripple their comparison from the beginning by using absolute figures instead of per-capita calculations, a major error in a world of exponential population growth. Then, as with the temperature data, the years chosen misrepresent the underlying trend, in this case so much as to reverse it. 2010 was an outlier year in a decades-long trend of otherwise steadily decreasing deaths, as a few minute's of research would reveal.

4. Economic Losses From Natural Disasters: Another absolute number comparison devoid of context, and also using outlier years that belie underlying trends. A better comparison of "how the world has changed" would adjust for inflation, use a trailing average, calculate on a per-capita basis, relate that as a proportion of per-capita wealth, etc.

5. Earthquakes: Again, the absolute number isn't very helpful, especially considering that improvements in detection technolgies allow for more and smaller quakes to be documented. When looking at more relevant data sets, such as the total energy released in earthquakes over the year, there is no change at all aside from the year-to-year noise.

6. Oil Prices: Very similar to world temperature in that the increase is exaggerated by failing to ajust for inflation and using a dramatic timeframe with no trailing average.


In conclusion, two data points are not sufficient to draw a meaningful trendline in the midst of highly variable data. Both uninformed and deviously clever blogs alike will take advantage of this to manufacture 'news' and create traffic for themselves.

*This makes sense if you consider that when making such a database, one would start with species known to be in danger, then move on to other, less-known species, such that the list would grow in absolute terms but have a lower rate of increase.

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Author: mesmerX | Category: News | Views: 3895

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Comments: 1

"The Skeptical" makes arguments that there is no trend being demonstrated in the infographic. The infographic never makes a claim of trends, only establishes a year-to-year comparison. Sounds like the ravings of a right wing anti-global warming, oil industry apologist rather than making an accurate comment on the validity of the instruments being used.

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