Fact check: Posts falsely claim to show US map in 30 years if climate change isn’t addressed

·4 min read

The claim: An image shows a map of the US in 30 years if climate change isn't addressed

Could a large swath of the U.S. be underwater in 30 in a few decades?

That's the claim in an Oct. 26 post on the Facebook page Being Libertarian, sharing a screenshot of a tweet that shows a majority of states underwater on a U.S. map. A caption says, “Scientists say this map represents the US in 30 years if we don’t reverse climate change.”

The post accumulated more than 10,000 reactions within a couple of days, and the original Oct. 26 tweet generated more than 24,000 likes. Similar versions of the claim have been shared to Facebook and iFunny.

However, the image is unrelated to climate change. It shows the Mediterranean Sea superimposed on a map of the U.S.

The Twitter user who shared the original tweet, @mrj880, told USA TODAY via direct message that his post was intended as satire. He said he had “no idea it would successfully trick people on such a large scale like it did” and “figured folks would spot Italy right away and have a good laugh.”

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The Facebook user and page did not return requests for comment.

Photo shows the Mediterranean Sea

The image circulating online shows an outline of the Mediterranean Sea on a map of the U.S. It was digitally created by Bret Drager, who shared the image to the Tumblr page The Arcadian Ideal on Dec. 26, 2015.

In his blog post, Drager explained that years after taking a cruise with his wife, he was inspired to compare the size of the Mediterranean to the U.S. by using screen grabs and “lots of graphic manipulation” to see which states and coastlines would be affected.

“I was examining maps and globes and realized that the Mediterranean Sea is at the same Latitude as the United States,” Drager wrote. “If only it were possible to rotate the Mediterranean Sea around to our side of the planet?”

Drager added names to the map such as “Nebraska Sea,” “Great Salt Islands” and the “Sea of California,” which some users on social media pointed out.

Brilliant Maps, “an atlas for curious minds,” shared the photo to Twitter on April 20 with the caption, “The Mediterranean Sea of America.” A similar photo showing the Mediterranean on a map of Australia was also posted to Reddit in March 2019.

The claim is an example of "stolen satire," in which information initially intended as satire is reposted in a way that makes it appear to be legitimate news. As a result, readers of the second-generation post can be misled, as was the case here judging by many comments that appeared to take the claim seriously.

The map doesn’t show the impact of sea level rise in the U.S. in 30 years, however, a 2019 study published in the science journal PLOS ONE predicted winters in New York City could have the weather of Virginia Beach, and London could get as warm as Barcelona by 2050, the National Geographic reported.

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Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that an image shows a map of the U.S. in 30 years if climate change isn't addressed. The photo was digitally created by someone in 2015 to show the Mediterranean Sea compared to a map of the U.S. The original tweet was intended as satire, but many saw and shared the claim as if it were a real scientific prediction.

Our fact-check sources:

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Viral image shows Mediterranean Sea on a map of the US

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