2500: Global Temperature Over My Lifetime

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Global Temperature Over My Lifetime
I was really impressed by the accuracy of some of the report's predictions about fossil fuel consumption. Then I realized, oh, right, of course.
Title text: I was really impressed by the accuracy of some of the report's predictions about fossil fuel consumption. Then I realized, oh, right, of course.


This is Randall Munroe in his role as a meticulous, conscientious presenter of scientific data. The activities shown in Randall's lifeline, whether learning to ride a bike or even getting married, pale into insignificance when the consequences of unprecedented global average temperature rise are understood and accepted. In particular, he shows that back in 1982, two years before Randall was born, Exxon wrote an internal report predicting the rise of global temperatures due to fossil fuel use, and 40 years later their prediction (shown as the X in a circle at the top-right) is being shown to be right on track. Unfortunately, that report was hidden and not seen until much later, and the world has been slow to respond with the urgency needed to reverse the damage being done to the planet.

The Wikipedia article global temperature record has some telling graphs to supplement Randall's. This one: Global Average Temperature is the global average temperature change for the modern era, since data started being collected regularly in 1850. This one: 2000 Year Temperature Comparison reconstructs 2000 years of temperatures.

And this comic is a small segment of another comic: 1732: Earth Temperature Timeline.

The comic itself links to the referenced Exxon document about CO2 emissions.

The comic was published on the same day that the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its 2021 Assessment Report

One of the entries is I somehow graduate despite spending most of my time playing Mario Kart. Mario Kart is a popular video game series developed by Nintendo, and has been a recurring theme on xkcd. Hewing close to the comic's timeline, 127: The Fast and the Furious, which contains an early Mario Kart joke, was released in July 2006.

The title text refers to the fact that Exxon, being a fossil fuel company, is likely to make better predictions on fossil fuel use as they are involved in fossil fuel production themselves.


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.

Graph of temperature over time, titled: "Global average temperature

Over my lifetime

(60-month running June average, NOAA NCEI time series)"

The X axis is in years, going from 1980 to a little after 2020. Each decade is marked.

The Y axis is in °C, with the "20th century average" at the bottom, up to +1°C (from the average), labelled every 0.2°C.

Certain points and periods on the graph are marked and contain descriptions of events and actions that occurred in Randall's life.

November 1982 
Exxon International report predicts that fossil fuel use will raise global temperatures to about 1°C above their normal levels within 40 years
October 1984  
I’m born in Easton, PA
Summer 1991  
I learn to ride a bike
Spring 1992  
My elementary school celebrates Earth Day and I learn about the greenhouse effect
I get very into Star Wars and Animorphs
Fall 1996  
I stand around awkwardly at my first middle school dance
Spring 2002  
I get accepted into college
Spring 2006  
I somehow graduate despite spending most of my time playing Mario Kart
Summer 2006  
I see An Inconvenient Truth in the theater and feel anxious
Fall 2011  
I get married
Summer 2012  
I read headlines about a global warning “pause” and hope that maybe things aren’t so bad
I read more about climate science and get steadily more alarmed
Spring 2016  
I read the 1982 Exxon report
June 2020  
Global 60-month average reaches +0.94°C, Easton, PA is 2°C hotter than normal for the fifth year in a row
(no description)
2022 (near future) 
[Large X within a circle] 1982 Exxon Prediction

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The DgbrtBOT seems to be broken again. I created the page for this comic, and the previous comic explanation was also created manually. Natg19 (talk) 18:00, 9 August 2021 (UTC)

Retired old guy here, I'm puzzled by the usage in the title text, "Then I realized, oh, right, of course." Is this meant to imply that Exxon controlled the use of petroleum over this time period, instead of just predicting the usage? 18:16, 9 August 2021 (UTC)

I think it just means that if anyone's going to have accurate data to predict petroleum use (such as supply levels), it would be a petroleum company.
I assume Randall realized hindsight bias was in play: that the report only became famous after it turned out to have predicted accurately. 19:48, 9 August 2021 (UTC)
I do not mean to argue any politics in this reply. I can relate that I have heard occasionally from people on both sides of political lines that the large energy corporations organise together to plan energy use and prices. I do not know whether that is true, and have not seen hard evidence of it. An economics professor told me it is obvious from the behaviors of the prices. Baffo32 (talk) 11:36, 10 August 2021 (UTC)
_     _    _   _
 \   /    / \ / \ th comic
  |  |_   | | | |
 /     \  | | | |
/__  __/  \_/ \_/

-- 19:14, 9 August 2021 (UTC)

It seems like Randall has more serious issues on his mind than marking a meaningless milestone. Barmar (talk) 22:45, 9 August 2021 (UTC)
What's so 'milestoney' about the number 0x9C4? Maybe we could talk about this in another 0x63C comics...
(Also, as non-retired, but arguably being a well-beyond-middle-aged-guy chronologically if not mentally, this comic now makes me feel old. I thought Randall was maybe up to a decade older, much closer to my age.)
((Also also, how long before someone goes down the "climate is always changing!" line, conveniently forgetting about 1732?)) 23:42, 9 August 2021 (UTC)
I'm the opposite; this comic made me realise that Randall is closer to my age than I thought, as I'd assumed he was a bit older. I was born in 1991, so although I was younger at the time, most of the "climate change alarm" milestones are the same ones I remember. --Enchantedsleeper (talk) 10:03, 10 August 2021 (UTC)
How about he does the milestone at 0xaaa
6561 comics? -- 18:36, 10 August 2021 (UTC)

Can I just point out to people that there are ok-ish ways and better ways to link to things? 00:17, 10 August 2021 (UTC)

The alt text states "I was really impressed by the accuracy of some of the report's predictions about fossil fuel consumption. Then I realized, oh, right, of course.". Why of course? 02:01, 10 August 2021 (UTC)

Probably because Exxon is also a player in the fossil fuel industry? Similar to Moore's law, from the co-founder of both Faichild and Intel? That might be a little of the conspiracy theory side, especially with the way it is phrased.

Victor (talk) 08:58, 10 August 2021 (UTC)

It implies a fossil fuel company will be inherently better at determining consumption of their product than, say, a baker. If a bakery were asked to study fossil fuel consumption they would have little common ground between this topic and their area of expertise (baking). But if they were asked about the consumption of cake they could probably consult records they already had on hand. After all, a company in the business of selling a consumable material (either oil or baked goods) needs to know this information in order to know how much to produce on a given day to meet demand and make a profit without over-producing and bankrupting themselves. 23:22, 17 August 2021 (UTC)
Someone else asked the same question further up. And yeah, I wondered that too. This (from an unsigned contributor above) was my best guess too:
I think it just means that if anyone's going to have accurate data to predict petroleum use (such as supply levels), it would be a petroleum company.
--Enchantedsleeper (talk) 10:03, 10 August 2021 (UTC)
Thank you for the answer and sorry for the duplicate question! 12:59, 10 August 2021 (UTC)

Has anybody glanced through the study? Maybe I misread it, but I was thinking Randall might have linked the wrong one, because it looked like it was saying far more than 40 years to me. Baffo32 (talk) 11:38, 10 August 2021 (UTC)

Figure 3, which apparently comes from a previous Exxon study, shows about 40 years for 1C increase. Vdm (talk) 20:39, 10 August 2021 (UTC)

"Randall's most famous comic so far 1732: Earth Temperature Timeline." - Is there a source for this factoid? I suspect speculation as, possibly depending on which circles you are in, there are others that are more famous, more well-known, or more frequently quoted. A few that come to mind include Sandwich, Exploits of a Mom, Compiling, Wikipedian Protester (which I'm taking the liberty to apply here), Money, Up-Goer Five, Time. If there is a source, please add the reference. 15:16, 10 August 2021 (UTC)

I also doubt that it is the most famous xkcd comic. Many other of the comics have been made into posters and t-shirts, but I couldn't find any t-shirts with the Earth Temperature Timeline on it. So let's scratch that statement from the explanation. Rtanenbaum (talk) 22:06, 11 August 2021 (UTC)

Missing Link?[edit]

As of this writing, this page is missing the "next" link, even though 2,501 is already out. I'm not quite sure how to fix this, can someone who knows how do it? 00:59, 12 August 2021 (UTC)

Exxon document[edit]

Does anyone have a citation confirming that the Exxon document actually came from Exxon? The best I've been able to find is https://insideclimatenews.org/news/16092015/exxons-own-research-confirmed-fossil-fuels-role-in-global-warming/ but I've not found anything proving that someone didn't simply create a document that looked as if it was written in 1982... 18:26, 27 August 2021 (UTC)

So, when it comes to choosing which side of a conspiracy to believe, I try and start with something basic, like: "What's more likely? The biggest corporation in the world illegally lied about the harms of their product, in order to make money? Or an award-winning investigative outlet ran with a fabricated document, and the accused never made a stink about that?"

I'd encourage anyone to read through the entire InsideClimate News series - Exxon: The Road Not Taken - it is extremely well-done and eye-opening. As your link above notes, a lot of these documents got dumped in archives at universities and other science/engineering academies.

The entire Exxon internal report that the document/this comic comes from is here: [1]

You can also see a freshman congresswoman running a fantastic hearing with the scientists who worked on these reports here: [2] 15:40, 31 August 2021 (UTC)

The hearing is exactly what I was hoping for, thank you! Good point about Exxon not raising a stink as well. 22:31, 15 September 2021 (UTC)

Wow, it's insane how much temperatures have risen over the course of just 40 years. Beanie talk 18:42, 28 August 2021 (UTC)

Yeah, not rising noticeably at all is pretty insane (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)




^^^--- These three links originally top-posted, unsigned, by the same person who also didn't know/want to sign as follows ---vvv (talk)  (please sign your comments with ~~~~) (talk)  (please sign your comments with ~~~~) (talk)  (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Interesting. I particularly like how, in the third one, the extreme change of immediate history is shown and then random "it aint that bad" 'future' lines are drawn randomly downwards that bear no relationship to the current vector. Not exactly convincing. Should have fiddled the data better to fit the pseudoplagiarisric results intended.
But good for a laugh. Just try to add your jokes properly next time. 21:00, 24 May 2022 (UTC)
How do you figure? They fit the current vector fine, by being equally likely to go up as down, just like the recent temperature variations immediately before the predictions. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
(Do learn to sign. Just use ~~~~ to do so. Simple enough.)
Note the jagged rapid warming of the modern era. (Note the original comic's visual explanation of the pre-modern reconstructed line maybe fluctuating, but not by that much in that fashion, though this version of the comic decides not to bother explaining that at all, throwing other artistic choices of how to interpret the data into doubt too.) Then note that the cascading sprinkle of 'predictions' is emphatically drawn to emphasise cooling from the present (perhaps also the end of the solid line deliberately bent to become 'steady' in the last few years, contrary to actual readings), where even the most optomistic credible current projections put the mid-point likelihood into positive change for the immediate future while we try to mitigate our worse excesses.
It has all the hallmarks of a pure denialist construct, which I totally understand though don't agree with, but sloppily done if the new artist actually wants to persuade anybody who isn't already looking to be contrarian to the widespread view - for whatever reasons. Interesting. I'm sad that some people might not notice the flaws, but many of those wouldn't be swayed by a more competent and accurate version anyway. I don't see much value in arguing it, but you at least deserve to know (some of) what I think is wrong with that piece. 09:03, 25 May 2022 (UTC)