Social media users shared a range of false claims this week. Here are the facts: A graph from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration doesn’t disprove global climate change. A class at Harvard Medical School doesn’t train students to treat transgender infants. CNN didn’t publish a story linking the collapse of Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin to a COVID-19 vaccine. A video of an Austrian news presenter collapsing live on-air isn’t due to side effects from the vaccine. And a video shows a 2018 plane crash in Russia, not the recent fatal crash of a passenger plane in Nepal.
A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:
Temperature graph misrepresented to deny climate change
CLAIM: A graph from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration displaying land and ocean temperatures over the last eight years shows that the Earth has been cooling, not warming, proving that global warming from carbon emissions is a hoax.
THE FACTS: A small portion of the graph showing only the period from 2015 and 2022 has been taken out of context to make the incorrect claim. The larger graph from which it was isolated displays temperature trends over more than 140 years, showing a dramatic upward trend. Social media users misrepresented the graph to support the erroneous claim that global temperatures are falling rather than rising, meaning global warming is “a hoax.” The graph being shared online appears to show a slight downward trend, with a note saying the overall temperature decreased 0.11 degrees Celsius during the 2015-2022 period. “The 8-year temperature time series shows the annual global mean surface temperatures for the most recent eight years,” said Jeffrey Hicke, a professor at the University of Idaho’s Department of Earth and Spatial Sciences. “It is accurate as shown, but is misleading.” That’s because while the last eight years trended slightly downward, this small period of time was greatly impacted by natural El Niño and La Niña cycles, experts explained. Zooming in on just this period does not discredit the overall upward trend of global temperatures over the past century. The full NOAA graph, which displays temperature trends from 1880 to 2022, shows a dramatic rise in global average temperatures. Hicke said the graph in its full context is “much more appropriate for assessing the influence of human activities on climate.” NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information said in a statement that although the climate is warming, it is also subject to natural variability as it is impacted by weather events such as El Niños and La Niñas. El Niños bring unusually warm temperatures across the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, while La Niñas bring unusually cool temperatures. During El Niños, global temperatures tend to be warmer than in years when La Niñas were present. In its statement, NOAA said that 2015-2016 experienced a strong El Niño, which helped boost global temperatures to record highs. But since then, about three La Niñas have helped slightly cool global temperatures. “The selected timeframe from 2016-2022 can create the appearance of a cooling trend,” the agency said, adding, “this is why when computing trends we use timescales of at least 10 years.” John Knox, a professor at the University of Georgia’s Geography Department who studies the dynamics of weather and climate, said the claim in the tweet “is a classic example of cherry-picking the end points of a time series to seemingly prove a false point.” “It’s a very short period of time, which reduces the statistical significance of claims of a trend,” he wrote in an email, adding, “The rising temperature trend over the decades is obvious.”
— Associated Press writer Sophia Tulp in New York contributed this report.