34 Years of BS

Several blogs have recently posted an image that purports to show 34 years of deforestation of North America.

It’s bogus. And whoever put it together — I can’t find the composite on the NASA site — has been deliberately deceptive.

The first image dates from 2001, not 1978. You can find it here in wikipedia. It was taken on July 29 — summer for the Northern hemisphere. Check the cloud patterns and you’ll see it’s the same image. The second image you can find here from January of this year from the new Suomi satellite. And for those of you keeping up, that means it’s a winter image.

So this is not an image of deforestation at all. It doesn’t cover 34 years. And it’s not even from the same satellite. And I didn’t have to use any of my NASA insider skills to figure out how the deception was done.

If you want to know the facts about deforestation, try wikipedia. In the US, forests declined about 25% from 1600 to 1900. Since then, they’ve been stable due to protection, better management and sustainable logging practices in which new trees are planted as old ones are cut down.

This is bullshit. This is Paul Ehrlich level bullshit. I’m angry about it, not only because of the pollution of the debate but because of the political abuse of some beautiful images NASA has produced.

Update: Just to clarify why I was immediately suspicious of this image. One, I keep up with environmental issues so I knew the facts on deforestation already. Two, as a professional, I immediately noticed the difference in angle of the Earth in the two images, indicating the first was taken in summer and the second in winter. NASA can orient these images any way they want, since they are composites. But they angle them as they are shown to reflect the difference in seasons.

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