Innumerate Twits.

Look, if you\’re going to tell us all these boogeyman stories about how appallingly we\’re pollutin\’ Gaia by burning all those dead plants, might it be worthwhile to actually to get the units of measurement correct?

The case for action on climate is compelling. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, fossil fuel burning has released 500m tonnes of CO2, raising the atmospheric concentration of the gas from 280 parts per million to 387ppm today.

Without going into detail (or anything so crude as actually looking it up) and relying upon an all too fallible memory, 500 million tonnes of CO2 is something like the UK\’s annual production, not the cumulative global one. They\’re out by some orders of magnitude.

Now, yes, everyone makes mistakes, but remember this is a newspaper, one that assures us that what they print has been checked and verified. And again, yes, everyone still makes mistakes. But in the same article they\’ve got other figures which anyone numerate should realise raise a large red flag.

Mountaineer is a modest project, aiming to trap just 100,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, the equivalent of a 20MW power station which could power 20,000 homes.

So, 20,000 homes is 100,000 tonnes, thus a million tonnes is 200,000 homes, ten million tonnes 2 million and a hundred million twenty million homes.

There are roughly 20 million homes in the UK (24 million households or thereabouts) and yes, domestic emissions are of the order of 20% of total emissions (of the order of: they ain\’t 2% nor 200%).

So, yes, we have in fact got the figures there right in the article to show that 500 million tonnes is nothing at all like the cumulative global total of emissions. It\’s round and about the UK\’s annual. In fact, one of those other dimly remembered numbers is that global annual emissions are around 5 billion tonnes (maybe 6 billion?).

No, I don\’t know what cumulative emissions have been, indeed, I\’d be interested to know (but not sufficiently to look it up) but then isn\’t that what newspaper articles are for? To inform us?

Don\’t these people have editors?

4 thoughts on “Innumerate Twits.”

  1. Don’t these people have editors?

    They probably do, but I long ago ceased to expect numeracy from those who write in support of the AGW hypothesis, be they reporters, commentators or editors.

    Beats me why you do.

  2. Aren’t UK emissions around 3% of global total? Which would make annual global emissions circa 15bn rather than 5 or 6 (presuming the 500m figure for the UK is roughly correct).

    Tim adds: 2% or so I think but yes, that’s another way of measuring it. I was more worried about orders of magnitude though……I’ve also had an email from the journo saying the article has been corrected.

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