Globalwarming.org The first site you find and investigate is www.globalwarming.org. Open up the site in another tab and let’s peak beneath the hood of this site and evaluate it carefully. The title of the site, globalwarming.org, seems relevant. The domain type is “.org” which stands for organization. Dot orgs are usually non-profit groups, agencies, or organizations with a mission that is not primarily about selling something or making a profit (which is what dot coms are). However, being dot org does not in itself guarantee objectivity and credibility. Considering the domain type (.com, .org, .gov, .edu, .etc) can give you some indication of the overall credibility of a site but can never totally ensure the website’s credibility. Consider this chart of domain types which explains what each is and the “good” and the “bad” of each. Domain Stands for The good The bad .com commercial They’re selling you stuff, good if you need it. They’re selling you stuff, not good if you just need info. .org organization They’re not selling you stuff. Can be biased. They may be selling an idea or political agenda. .edu educational Content is usually for education purposes. Content is sometimes provided by students, not experts. .gov government (U.S. gov specifically) Public information; not generally ideologically or commercially biased. Can you always trust the government?
am looking for basic information about global warming (i.e. How exactly is it defined? What is the evidence for it? What kind of research has been done it?), and the homepage seems to be a recent news/blog post, I go to the Global Warming 101 section of the website. Here I find brief sections on “solutions”, “costs”, and “science”. I find reading through these sections gives me more information about the editors’ opinions about global warming than global warming itself (“Global warming may or may not be a problem. Man may or may not be driving it.”) They mention a number of common terms and topics, greenhouse gases, carbon emissions, but do not define any of these terms in detail. It soon becomes clear that the site is an impassioned argument against the whole theory of global warming. The authors are more concerned with the negative impact that government regulations have on industries, the economy, and personal freedoms than they are with global warming itself, which they doubt even exists.
the bias. Biases are okay, everyone has them to a certain extent. You may happen to agree with these biases, or you may not. Either way, this source is not making much of an attempt to be objective, and this is usually a problem. An additional problem is the number of dead links on this page (as of the writing of this tutorial in early 2012). This indicates the site is not updated and maintained very well. The biases detected in the Global Warming 101 section are confirmed when we look at who is responsible for the website. You should always check the authority of a website. Who created it? What kind of credentials do they have? Are they relevant to the site’s content? In this case are the authors or editors environmental scientists of some kind? You can usually find this kind of information at the bottom of a website or in the “about” section. For globalwarming.org we go to the “contributors” section and learn that the sponsoring group is the “Cooler Heads Coalition”. We also see frequent links to something called the CEI, or “Competitive Enterprise Institute”. Here is where some outside information becomes necessary. If you really want to know about a person or group’s credibility, it helps to see what others think and say about them. The easiest way to do this is to Google them. Google Cooler Heads Coalition and Competitive Enterprise Institute. Which category would best describe these groups? 1. Concerned environmental scientists 2. Consumer rights advocacy group 3. Government committee working group 4. Concerned citizens group
were able to uncover that this coalition and the CEI are not really scientists and their main concern is not the science of global warming but the politics and economics of government regulation of it. If you want to focus your global warming project on these issues, this could perhaps be a starting point. But if you want to stick to the original focus, this would not be a very good source. Let’s review why: 1. Credibility: The content is written by journalists and policy managers, not scholars or scientists in a field of study related to global warming scientists. 2. Objectivity: The site has a definite political agenda and bias. The authors may not be propagating outright lies, but their perspective colors all the facts they present. For instance, I may learn from this site that “global greenhouse gas emissions need to decrease to 60 percent below present levels by 2050 if humans are to avoid catastrophic climate change” (Global Warming 101: Crisis). But this fact is only given to then be refuted as unattainable and unrealistic. I may as well just get all my information from a source better suited to my needs for this case. 3. Intended audience: The site is not really for people looking for more scholarly or scientific information. It is a kind of conversational blog for people who share this political point of view.
www.ipcc.ch IPCC stands for “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”. The “Organization” section of the website clearly states the purpose and scope of the IPCC: In addition to being highly credible and well-supported by international scientific organizations, all the links work and provide additional support for the authority and credibility of the site. So the authority or credibility for this is site is appropriate and relevant.
the content? What kind of information do you actually find on this site? Under “Publications and Data” you find links to lengthy and detailed reports, technical papers, and other supporting materials. The problem with this site may be that it provides too much information that is too detailed or technical for the average person to understand. However, most of the reports have summaries which give a basic overview and general conclusions. In addition, there are links to sites which may provide even more basic summaries and overviews.