The graphs can be seen at
and lots of other places by googling “13 Graphs That Suggest The Planet Might Be Totally Screwed”. Here’s a quick summary of the content:
The first is World Population from 10,000BC until 2100AD. Reliable census figures are available for about 1% of that period. By squeezing the past thousand years into 1cm of the x axis, and tacking a projection for the next hundred years on to current figures, Emmott gets a lovely hockeystick, or long-toed jackboot. By stopping at 2100 and choosing an extremely condensed timescale, he hides the current deceleration and eventual decline which is projected by all serious demographers.
The second is Water use, which seems to be about 5000 cubic km today, rising to 6000 in 2025. The graph runs from 1900 and appears to have five data points.
The third, Transport, shows the number of motor vehicles, up from zero in 1930 (?) to a billion today. Dorling pointed out in his discussion with Emmott on Radio 4’s “Start the Week” that sales of cars have been declining in Japan for the past 20 years, suggesting that numbers of vehicles will tail off as population growth tails off, giving an S-shaped curve.
The fourth graph shows Coal consumption rising from120 quadrillion BTUs in 2007 to 210 quadrillion BTUs in 2037. It has two data points, which seem to be for 2007 and 2011, followed by a straight line that goes up.
The fifth graph is a genuine hockeystick showing Global carbon emissions going up from maybe a hundred million metric tonnes in 1750 to 9000 million metric tonnes today, with the elbow in the hockeystick occurring about 1960, just after we started measuring emissions accurately.
The sixth graph, showing Global CO2 in the atmosphere, is another genuine hockeystick. It runs from 8000BC to 2013AD, so the blade showing human emissions covers about 1% of the timescale and is therefore practically vertical.
The seventh graph is entitled Global temperature increase, and shows the temperature anomaly from 1880 to 2013. It seems to have annual data points, but has been smoothed in some way to eliminate the high 1998 figure. An overlaid bar chart in grey seems to give annual figures, and clearly indicates the current pause.
There are no estimates for future temperatures, which is just as well, since the graph would need to be made five times as high to accommodate the 6°C increase which Emmott mentions in the text.
The eighth graph is entitled Fires in the Americas and has major fires rising from about two per decade in the fifties and sixties to about ninety per decade now. Those are extraordinarily small numbers for major fires over two continents, however you define “major”. Maybe they googled “major fires” and didn’t get a lot of hits in the fifties and sixties. There seem to be six data points splodged any old how in the middle or at the end of each decade.
The ninth graph is Loss of tropical rainforest and woodland from 1750 to 2000, as a percentage of the existing stock in 1700. Loss appears to increase rapidly from about 1940, reaching 30% in 2000, with about 5% occurring in the last decade. There have been recent articles suggesting that forest and woodland, or at least the green bits on Google Earth, have actually been increasing recently. It would be nice to have some information on that.
The tenth graph is entitled Global ocean warming and shows the heat content in 10 to-the-power-of-22 joules. It runs from 1960 to 2010, and – bizarrely – from minus ten units to plus fifteen. Can anyone explain what minus ten to-the-power-of-22 joules looks like? I imagine a kind of Black Hole with icicles hanging inward.
The eleventh graph is called Floods in Asia and shows major floods per decade going up from fifty per decade in 1950 to 650 per decade in 2010. Again, as with fires, it’s hard to see how floods in Asia could multiply thirteen-fold without someone having noticed.
The twelfth graph is called Exploitation of the world’s marine species and shows the percentage being exploited rising from 10% in 1900 to 80% in 2000.
The thirteenth is called Species extinction, and shows an extinction rate (whatever that means) rising gently from five (but five what?) in 60,000BC to about fifteen in 2013AD, and then going from 15 to what looks like about 7,000 in the space of a decade round about 2050. Whatever the extinction rate is, it’s measured on a logarithmic scale that seems to be likely to rise into the quadrillions before the end of the century.
A quick comment:
These graphs make Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” look like a work of serious science. Most of these graphs, if they were produced by a first year university student in his end of year exam, would result in a fail, wouldn’t they? Where they’re not false, they’re questionable, and where they’re not questionable, it’s because it’s not possible to give a clear meaning to the data.
What’s a major fire or a major flood?
What does “fully exploit marine resources” mean? We haven’t eliminated 80% of marine species, and we haven’t stopped eating fish.
Is the extinction rate the number of species becoming extinct per year (or decade or century)? And it was five a year in 60,000BC was it, rising to eight a year in about 53,000BC when – whoops – it suddenly rises to ten? What happened in 53,000 BC that two more species than the average suddenly popped their clogs? And which two were they? And what’s going to happen about 2050 to put the rate up from a current twenty or so to 7,000? And why is the scale suddenly expanded by 3000% on the future bit?
And, last but not least, what would the average Microsoft executive say to an employee who produced a projection (measured in quadrillions of units) based on a graph with two data points?