Gregg Garfin’s Use of Color for Alarmism and Propaganda Purposes—the 25 April 2018 Climate Lecture at NMSU

Robert W. Endlich

On 25 April 2015, I attended a Climate Change Lecture at New Mexico State University presented by Dr Gregg Garfin of the University of Arizona, who is Co-Convening Lead Author of the Southwest States Chapter of the National Climate Assessment. The lecture and the graphics for Dr. Garfin’s presentation are available on line.

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This post concerns Dr Garfin’s effective use of color to emphasize climate alarm to the extent that it is propagandistic in content. On the other hand,Dr Garfin’s presentation style was decidedly low-key and delivered in a matter-of-fact style, even somewhat understated in delivery. As will be seen in the following paragraphs with graphics taken directly from Dr Garfin’s presentation, this use of color to present the alarm is an effective way to impart alarm in this context without raising the voice.

I recommend watching Garfin’s presentation at least once; I provide time references to each graphic I use to make my points.

Color Propaganda

After the introduction, Dr Garfin starts the lecture at the 4:00 mark; at the 9:27 mark he presents the graphic below

Figure 1. Time series of atmospheric CO2, showing increasing concentrations in brighter red, implying danger, without directly saying so.

There are at least two reasons why Garfin’s use of red in this graphic is propagandistic.

  1. He shows atmospheric <CO2> did not exceed 300 PPM for the past 800,000 years. For example, temperatures were much higher than at present 125,000 years ago, in the Eemian, so CO2 does not control temperatures, rather temperatures control <CO2>.
  2. Today, cold weather is 20 times or so more deadly than hot weather.

A 2015 USA Today article starts off, “ Cold weather is 20 times as deadly as hot weather,” and comes from a study in the Lancet by Gasparrini et al.

“Public-health policies focus almost exclusively on minimizing the health consequences of heat waves,” Gasparrini said. “Our findings suggest that these measures need to be refocused and extended to take account of a whole range of effects associated with temperature.”

The figure below, taken from the data collected by Gasparrini et al, shows graphically the percent of deaths caused by moderate cold in comparison with extreme episodes of heat and cold over wide regions of the world.

Figure 2. Fraction of all-cause mortality attributable to moderate and extreme hot and cold temperature episodes, by country, from Gasparrini, et al., 2015.

Twice during the lecture Garfin uses red to indicate temperatures warmer than 57.6F, an arbitrary mean. The first is at the 10:28 mark, when he shows the graphic below:

Figure 3. Graphic showing when temperatures exceed 57.6F, they are plotted in red. This is arbitrary; the red color is intended to show warmer mean temperatures than this is equals danger. Gasparrini shows that at current temperatures, some 20 times more people die from the cold than from the heat. The only reason to make this change of color is to indicate danger; this is Garfin devolving into propaganda.

The graphic below is taken from the 13:20 mark in Garfin’s lecture. Garfin says that modeling allows the ability to separate natural temperatures from human-caused CO2-fueled global warming-influenced temperatures. The green shading for the ostensibly natural temperatures implies green equals good, so everything in the early 20th century was good.

Figure 4. Garfin’s graphic showing the presumed ability to separate human-caused CO2-fueled global warming from natural factors, with green showing natural factors, implying all was good until ~1960. The purple band presumes to show the CO2 influence on temperatures.

Looking at temperature data and newspapers for the 20th century reveals not quite the “green was good” in the 20th century United States; this story reveals quite a different history of the Dust Bowl years, with a death toll of over 12,000 dead in US cities during a single week in July,1936.

Figure 5. Newspaper story showing 12,000 in a single week dead from the heat in the summer of 1936.

The popular literature now includes blog articles; one such blog is Weather Underground. A 2011 post described “The Great Heat Wave of 1936, Hottest US Summer on Record,” graphic shown below:

Figure 6. Graphic from Weather Underground and prepared by Christopher Burt showing the heat wave of 1936 during which many thousands of US residents perished. There is not the slightest blip in Garfin’s observed temperatures during this “Dust Bowl” period, despite contemporary stories; even the overseas press described “almost universal disaster” at the time.

As mentioned in the caption, there is not the slightest blip in Garfin’s observed temperatures during this “Dust Bowl” period, despite contemporary stories; even the overseas press described this as an “almost universal disaster” at the time.

Garfin uses another color graphic to great effect at the 25:37 mark in the lecture with the image of the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico, below, with numerous dead pine trees and their brown pine needles caused by bark beetle infestation. His words accompanying this: “rising temperatures have contributed to changes in the life cycle of pests, such as bark beetles…increasing temperatures and decreased soil moisture… these critters deliver the “knock-out punch” for these forests…”

The browned, dead pines really do exist; what’s NOT true is the slight rise in temperatures is significant. A 1938 report from the Smithsonian Institution, “Evidence of Triassic Insects in the Petrified Forest of Arizona,” shows that bark beetles have been with us for at least 210 million years, during the Triassic, when temperatures were much warmer than today.

Further, this Montana State University report finds that pine bark beetle infestations result from over-ripe, over-crowded, trees, and “ landscape(s) covered with dense trees of the same species and age provide(s) beetles with a large food source that can breed epidemic populations.”

Figure 7. Landscape in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico covered with dead and dying pines infested with pine bark beetles (inset). While Dr Garfin ascribes this to increasing temperatures and increasingly dry soil moisture, a report from Montana State University attributes pine bark beetle infestations to dense stands of over-ripe pines. The practice of putting out all forest fires for some six decades, combined with complete cessation of logging associated with attempts to save the Northern Spotted Owl resulted in conditions where pine bark beetles thrive: crowded stands of over-ripe pines.

One of the most dramatic images to inspire fear through color is below, “Future Emissions?” with a pre-Clean Air Act fire-belching smokestack in a group setting, with a sinister deep orange background color.

Figure 8, “Future Emissions?” Since the passage of the Clean Air Act in the USA, especially the 1970 amendments, it is now impossible to find open flame and visible black smoke coming from stacks, yet Dr Garfin manages to find this image to impart fear, especially through the deep orange color.

As mentioned in the caption, the passage of the Clean Air Act in the USA, especially the 1970 amendments, has made it impossible to find open flame and visible black smoke coming from stacks, yet Dr Garfin manages to find this image to impart fear, especially through the deep orange color.

Use of the deep orange color seems to be a tried-and-true method by climate alarmists to instill fear; I found the one below in the wake of the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado in 2012.

Figure 9. Image of traffic in Colorado escaping the Waldo Canyon fire of 29 June 2012. While the embedded caption attributes this to human-caused CO2-fueled global warming, the truth is different. This fire occurred at the end of a winter-spring season of La Nina drought. Forest fire suppression had allowed a large fuel load to accumulate. Arson played a part in this conflagration:

This is effective use of color for propaganda.

Now, “the rest of the story:”

Figures 10 and 11 below show two instances of “ground truth;” images of an older coal-fired and a newer gas-fired electric generating station, one in Arizona, and the other in far west Texas.

Fig 10. The coal-fired Navajo Generating Station near Page, AZ, constructed in 1974. Climate Alarmists like to call plants like this “dirty coal-fired generators,” but the only emission visible from the generator stacks is white: steam which has cooled below the saturation point, so the visible plume consists of water droplets. This generating station is scheduled to close in 2019 putting the Kayenta coal mine and its mostly Navajo workforce out of work.


Figure 11. This is a natural gas fired generator recently put into operation by El Paso Electric at the Montana Power Station in east El Paso, TX. No deep-orange color can be seen with this fossil-fueled generating station.
Wrapping up.

Gregg Garfin’s presentation is well put together and delivered in an understated manner devoid of emotion. He is self-effacing in his introduction to the audience.

The matter-of-fact delivery contrasts with Dr Garfin’s effective use of color to impart a sense of dread, danger and alarm in the graphic compositions. This use of color to impart alarm starts among the early graphics, the CO2 level approaching 1000 PPM <CO2>, red temperature bars when temperatures exceed 57.6F in the temperature time series, a cool green temperature band showing a benign 20th century up to 1960, which somehow misses the thousands who died in the Dust Bowl. The color push extends to the orange-brown of dead conifers in the Jemez Mountains erroneously attributed to human-caused warming, to the sinister deep orange of the “Future Emissions?” graphic which imparts a sense of dread and foreboding of the future.

Garfin’s use of color is imaginative and effective; it is a tool well used in crafting his message of alarm.


Author: Robert Endlich

Robert W. Endlich served as a weather officer in the US Air Force for 21 years and a US Army meteorologist for 17 years. He was elected to Chi Epsilon Pi, the national Meteorology Honor Society, while a basic meteorology student at Texas A&M University. He has degrees in geology and meteorology from Rutgers University and the Pennsylvania State University, respectively, and has studied and visited the ancient sites of Rome, Ostia Antica and Pisa.