Global warming is a highly contentious subject amongst scientists, politicians, environmentalists, and policy makers. The science behind global warming rests upon rising global air and sea temperatures, erratic weather such as hurricane frequency, and melting polar caps. Detractors of global warming argue that climate change has occurred throughout Earth’s history and that these changes happen naturally. Larry Vardiman, who holds a doctorate in atmospheric sciences, takes both sides of the argument into account. He offers concrete data on the Earth’s rising temperatures, as evident in sea temperatures and the disappearance of massive iceberg sheets.
Vardiman’s article titled “Evidence for Global Warming” discusses both sides of the global warming argument and clearly states how most of the world’s scientists agree that the world’s weather temperatures and sea temperatures have risen in the last century. The evidence is in changing weather patterns but also in the melting of polar caps in the Artic Circle and the loss of major sections of icebergs in Antarctica. However, Vardiman explains that scientists and specialists disagree on whether human consumption is the real cause of climate change. The basis of his global warming hypotheses rest on evidence of increasing sea-surface temperatures, hurricane frequency on the rise, and melting polar sea ice. Vardiman published data to show all three conditions are indeed occurring: 1. Atmospheric carbon emissions have increased over 65 ppm in just 50 years 2. In 30 short years sea surface temperatures have risen 1 Celsius 3. Hurricane frequency has nearly tripled since 1840. This evidence is convincing, but as Vardiman and other experts on climate change such as Al Gore discuss, it is hard to conclude causality because we only have atmospheric data from the last century and a half.
The fact that Vardiman was a published skeptic of global warming in the past, the author has had a change of mind due to this conclusive evidence.
Unlike Al Gore, the self made policy specialist and spokesperson on global warming, Vardiman is not convinced that global warming is due to human activities and he presents various arguments in his defense. Firstly, the author argues that in order to establish a causal relationship between global warming and human activities, data needs to be collected over longer periods. This is because there are natural oscillations in weather patterns over shorter periods. Vardiman rightfully points out that while the data he has collected presents evidence of global warming, it doesn’t explain the causes of global warming by human activities or natural processes such as oceans and solar activities.
In defense of natural causes, Vardiman cites a counterargument by Danish authors Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Marsh. Svensmark and March propose a hypothesis that solar activity is one plausible natural explanation of global warming. This argument is relatively believable especially because the Danish scientists use sunspot activity as the reason for high levels of ionizing carbon-14 levels in Earth’s atmosphere. Yet, Vardiman does fail to cite some of his other claims such as that the data collected in regard to causes of global warming has been flawed and exhibits low confidence level. In this particular article, he does not provide adequate discussion to support this critique. This leaves a doubt to whether the data is truly flawed. If it were flawed, then why have other scientists duplicated the same data in various parts of the world spawning regulations in many countries around the world to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (Gore 3)?
It is apparent that the author expects his readers to take his word as truth, hence, the lack of care in citing his claims. While Vardiman does a great job of maintaining a tone of objectivity in analyzing the issue of global warming, at the end his biases take over. He concludes his article citing the Bible and God’s will as determinants in future rising global temperatures and that God has designed the earth’s atmosphere with several built-in mechanisms to ensure uniform climate and avoid the complete melting of the polar caps and another ice age. Quoting the Bible and God’s will and intelligence are clear departures from scientific work. The author goes on to mention that catastrophic climate events in the future will definitely occur at the time of God’s choosing when the end times are near. Vardiman’s Biblical conclusion is entirely unrelated to the analysis detailed in the main body of the article. This obviously undermines the credibility of the author in the eyes of objective readers because despite having cited independent sources, concrete data and a sound discussion of global warming.
At the outset of the article, it is not apparent that Vardiman’s views are Christian and that his lens to analyze global warming is foundationally religious. This bias shows that he had already drawn certain conclusions before carrying out the investigation. Or better said, he was looking for certain evidence to support his version of why global warming is happening. The reputable scientific sources that Vardiman uses in the article’s body directly contradict the subjective conclusion at the end of his article. This is especially surprising since the author used objective sources to test his hypothesis.
The author makes another serious error in the conclusion, which serves to disconnect the main body and the conclusion. Vardiman clearly demonstrates that global warming is real, as confirmed by rising carbon dioxide levels but skirts around the issue of human activity. He claims that evidence is still inconclusive that man is causing the warming yet cites no studies to support his claim.
After reading the whole article, it is clear that the author set out to support beliefs he already held and did not approach the issue with an open mind. This article is merely an attempt by the author to confirm his own point of view and will only reinforce biases that his readers already hold because they probably follow similar beliefs. Since the author is associated with the Institute for Creation Research, objective researchers could have expected Vardiman’s bias even before reading the article.
This article also demonstrates the importance of learning about the background of the author to determine the potential of bias. Likewise, it is important to investigate who funded certain research in order to reveal biases that exist in many studies. An integral part of fact-finding is to approach a topic with an open mind and to form conclusions on the basis of objective data regardless of one’s personal beliefs and biases. Vardiman may have set out to objectively investigate global warming, but it was soon clear that he did not reach his conclusion on the basis of critical analysis. Rather, his conclusion was shaped by an analysis according to his existing biases and beliefs.
- Vardiman, L. Evidence for Global Warming. Acts & Facts. 36(4), 2007. Institute for Creation Research. Web. 17 March 2013.
- Gore, A. Al Gore: Climate of Denial. Rolling Stone: Politics, 22 June 2011. Web. 17 March 2013.