The “10 years challenge” campaign is quite popular. Many accounts have started spreading picture pairs related to climate change, global warming and also war using hashtag #10yearschallenge.
Some of the images like the one below are very popular: almost 400,000 retweets on Twitter for one post. The problem is: these photos are misleading. One photo was taken in Western Antarctica in 2016 and the other was taken in the Arctic Ocean in 2018.
When it comes to difficult, complex and real problems like the climate change, we shouldn’t use misleading photos . It’s like giving ammunition to the skeptics or climate change deniers who can easily label these as “fake news”.
I have checked quite many photo pairs. Unfortunately they are all misleading just like the first example.
Fact check: The Animas river on the north end of Durango, Colorado turned orange in August 2015 due to an accidental spill of toxic waste. This happened in about one day
Fact check: the picture showing foggy Beijing is the “normal one”. The clear day was arranged for a military parade by closing hundreds of factories in 2015.
Fact check: The first photo is from the North Pole in early spring 2013, but the camera drifted far south by the end of summer for the second photo. The camera that took these photos is on an ice floe.
Fact check: The photo was taken in 2015 or 2016. According to news articles, changes to Brazil’s forest code in 2012 is a key reason for deforestation. So it is likely that it took only few years to cause this much damage.
Fact check: the first photo was taken by Norbert Untersteiner in 1957. The other one was taken in 2018. The location of the photos is probably not the same – and the time difference is about 61 years.
Fact check: the first photo was taken by Craig Taylor in 2017. The second photo was taken by Kerstin Langenberger in Norway, 2015. The location of the photos is different and we are looking at two different polar bears.
Fact check: the first photo is from Palmyra, Syria, 2009. The other one was taken at outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus in 2018. Obviously the location is again different so these photos are not comparable. We are unfortunately very efficient when it comes to destroying places or killing people. Destroying a part of a city (like a road or block) usually doesn’t take ten years. Sometimes 10 minutes is enough.
Fact check: the first photo was difficult to track, but it was most likely taken in 2009 (BBC). Exact location is unknown, but this is somewhere in Amazon. Second photo is of Bel Monte Dam Project in 2012. The location of these two photos is most likely different and the time difference is only about three years.
Fact check: the first photo is a generic, undated stock photo. I’m not sure if that’s the Amazon river. Second photo was taken in 2004, not in 2019 as it is claimed in the picture.
Fact check: the first photo was possibly taken at the Red Sea in 2013. The second photo is from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, 2016. This picture pair is also misleading.
Fact check: the first photo probably shows polar bears at Hudson Bay, 2017. The second image is a still image from a controversial video published in 2017. Again, the picture pair is misleading.
I have posted all this information on Twitter, checking one photo pair at a time. I will probably not check new ones unless they become viral, because it is clear that we have a problem.
Please stop cherry picking photos even for a good cause. It may have a negative impact. I have already seen comments like “Fake climate change photos? I’m not surprised!“.