One of our favorite websites is www.informationisbeautiful.net, where David McCandless, an independent London-based “visual & data journalist” (his words) practices the art of data visualization and information design.
We like the way he conveys information, often multi-layered, with the minimum of words. As he puts it, “I’m interested in how designed information can help us understand the world, cut through BS and reveal hidden connections, patterns and stories underneath. Or, failing that, it can just look cool!”
It’s that last bit that we want to talk about briefly here. One of David’s recent creations is a graphic that compares, side by side, point by point, the assertions of “The Global Warming Skeptics” against “The Scientific Consensus”.
This particular visualization is more wordy that most of his work. For that reason, one is inclined to think that a lot of research went into it. And that is the case. Every familiar argument made by the “skeptics” seems to have been researched and refuted. If you’re a believer in global warming, you might think that this is close to the final word on the debate.
Yet one look at the comments section at the bottom of this page suggests otherwise. It’s worth spending a few minutes examining the visualization and then the comments. That should be enough to convince you that a beautifully presented argument is not proof. It has to be backed by solid evidence. And if there’s any debate that lacks conclusive data, it has to be the global warming issue, where complex meteorological phenomena meet millennial time spans in a cauldron of scant measurement.