Trends to Watch in 2017: Industrial Emissions

by DarkSyde –

Modern global CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Note the shape of the black line

See that chart up there? See the black line in it? If you compare it to average global temperatures, you’ll see a remarkable similarity. But the resemblances don’t end there, with just those two images. Not by a long shot.

“It’s not just CO2, other emissions have been increasing apace,” explained DR David Grinspoon, exobiologist and author of Earth in Human Hands. “And the combined effects of methane, nitrous oxide and other gases like chlorofluorocarbons make the situation worse. Whatever you choose to measure, be it global population or the damming of rivers, or even the relentless spread of McDonalds, the pattern is similar: a gradual, accelerating influence until about 1950. Then everything starts shooting up.”

Anyone with high school algebra and a computer can play around with the axis on a 2-D graph and get plenty of shapes. Even simple projection of a legit trend leads to nonsensical outcomes. Back in the go-go ‘90s, one of my fave examples was the growing number of Elvis Presley impersonators. Had that trend continued, according to urban legend, by now most of us would be Elvis.

With enough creativity—some might say intentional deceit—a strong uptrend can even be converted into a flat-line or a downward sloping one. Cherry pick a moving average, change units or the magnitude of the same along the way, move starting points around, and data plot can run rings around and support whatever point you’re trying to make. That’s precisely what climate change contrarians in league with fossil fuel conglomerates have been known to do. But if you’re consistent with your units and chart all kinds of indicators of modern civilization, you’ll find a familiar curve. One that shoots up, yuugely, as the horizontal axis meets present day.

Indeed, that’s what is so alarming. There are so many charts that have that exact same shape and more appear all the time. In reality most of them can’t keep accelerating at that rate of change. There is a finite amount of arable farmland, there is only so much tropical forest left to clear. But if that same accelerating pattern kept popping up in a stock market chart or a population graph, we would call it evidence for a possible correction, what chart analysts call a top, and we might worry about a sudden reversal. Something to watch for in the years ahead.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos