Agnotology is the study of how ignorance arises via circulation of misinformation calculated to mislead. Legates et al. (Sci Educ 22:2007–2017, 2013) had questioned the applicability of agnotology to politically-charged debates. In their reply, Bedford and Cook (Sci Educ 22:2019–2030, 2013), seeking to apply agnotology to climate science, asserted that fossil-fuel interests had promoted doubt about a climate consensus. Their definition of climate ‘misinformation’ was contingent upon the post-modernist assumptions that scientific truth is discernible by measuring a consensus among experts, and that a near unanimous consensus exists. However, inspection of a claim by Cook et al. (Environ Res Lett 8:024024, 2013) of 97.1 % consensus, heavily relied upon by Bedford and Cook, shows just 0.3 % endorsement of the standard definition of consensus: that most warming since 1950 is anthropogenic. Agnotology, then, is a two-edged sword since either side in a debate may claim that general ignorance arises from misinformation allegedly circulated by the other. Significant questions about anthropogenic influences on climate remain. Therefore, Legates et al. appropriately asserted that partisan presentations of controversies stifle debate and have no place in education.
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This point is highlighted to stress the difficulties in ascertaining the actual causal role and impact of changing atmospheric carbon dioxide content on weather statistics and climate change over long time scales. We are aware of an opposing conclusion reached by Alley (2007), for example, where atmospheric carbon dioxide content is said to be quintessential for the presence of climate change on all timescales. Dr. Alley’s presentation is at http://agu.org/meetings/fm09/lectures/lecture_videos/A23A.shtml.
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The authors wish to thank Demetris Koutsoyiannis for his comments and thoughts on Agnotology.
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Legates, D.R., Soon, W., Briggs, W.M. et al. Climate Consensus and ‘Misinformation’: A Rejoinder to Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change . Sci & Educ 24, 299–318 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-013-9647-9
- Global Warming
- Climate Policy
- Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
- Climate Science
- Anthropogenic Climate Change