Friday, November 16, 2007

Mottled U.N.

Reuters:
The area involved in Thursday's agreement runs from Ohio west to Kansas. If the region were its own country, the World Resources group estimates, it would be the globe's fifth-biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions behind the United States as a whole, Russia, China and India.
And it would be the sixth-biggest if a region running from Pennsylvania west to Kansas were its own country. Make up a region running from New York west to Colorado and then it drops to seventh. Now, let's say East Asia were a country . . .

Do you see how frickin' ridiculous this sort of thing is? Only slightly less spurious is the oft-repeated idea that California has "the world's fifth-largest economy." Oh, yeah? It's a bigger economy than that of, say, the Pacific states? The American West? The continental United States?

If you must humor the playground statisticians, at least run these claims through the non-crazy-talk reworder:
The group estimates that the region produces more greenhouse-gas emissions than all but four countries: the United States, Russia, China and India.

California's economy is larger than that of all but four countries.

7 comments:

Anne said...

What's really crazy is that the hypothetical country in the first example is competing against "the United States as a whole." Make up your minds--is there a secession or not?

Skullturf Q. Beavispants said...

I suppose if you want to get technical, the California fifth-largest-economy thing could be made less nonsensical if you said something like "fifth largest economy among all geopolitical entities that have some kind of legislative body". But obviously that's horribly unwieldy, and you're better off saying something along the lines of your suggestion: "larger than all but four countries" or words to that effect.

Raymond said...

This information is meaningless until I know how many football fields the area would cover

marc said...

I know what your stand on "serial commas" is (as you state in the introduction of "Elephants"), but still, somehow I miss the comma between "China and India". I hope St. Kitts and Nevis don't start producing exorbitant masses of greenhouse gases - in the end the US, Russia, China and St. Kitts and Nevis make up the biggest producers of CO2...
By the way: are there any emitters of greenhouse gases that have not produced them? "Fifth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter" is enough. Or even better the "fifth-biggest producer of greenhouse gases"; somehow I just assume the CO2 gets emitted eventually, they don't use it as dry ice for cooling India and China, do they?

Bill said...

Marc, you apparently didn't read far enough into my work to find the "toast, juice, and ham and eggs" exception.

marc said...

Now I did. And you sold a copy of "Lapsing Into a Comma"...

Vadim Iaralov said...

Good one, Raymond. If that fails, they should use the Rhode Island "metric."