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.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
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.
Note that Cook et al. (2013) have apparently missed the key conclusions from three independent studies. First, Knight et al. (2009) have suggested that “The simulations rule out (at the 95 % level) zero trends for intervals of 15 years or more, suggesting that an observed absence of warming of this duration is needed to create a discrepancy with expected present-day warming rate” (p. S23). Santer et al. (2011), in adopting a slightly different metric, offered the conclusion: “Our results show that temperature records of at least 17 years in length are required for identifying human effects on global-mean tropospheric temperature” (p. 1). Finally, Huang (2013) provided an even more definitive detection and diagnostic of the carbon dioxide-global warming hypothesis by suggesting that “the most detectable secular trend signals appear in the CO2 band and the time it takes to see these radiance changes is much less than 12 years” (p. 1711).
Only five such years exist since 1950–2000, 2001, 2006, 2009, and 2010.
From Norman Myers, “Environmental refugees. An emergent security issue”. 13 Economic Forum, Prague, OSCE, May 2005; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005.
Akasofu, S.-I. (2010). On the recovery from the little ice age. Natural Science, 2, 1211–1224.
Alley, R. B. (2007). Wally was right: Predictive ability of the North Atlantic ‘conveyor belt’ hypothesis for abrupt climate change. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Science, 35, 241–272.
Amstrup, S. C., Marcot, B. G., & Douglas, D. C. (2007). Forecasting the range wide status of polar bears at selected times in the 21st century. Anchorage, Alaska: USGS Alaska Science Center.
Anagnostopoulos, G. G., Koutsoyiannis, D. K., Christofides, A., Efstratiadis, A., & Mamassis, N. (2010). A comparison of local and aggregated climate model outputs with observed data. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 55, 1094–1110.
Anderegg, W. R. L., Prall, J. W., Harold, J., & Schneider, S. H. (2010). Expert credibility in climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 107, 12107–12109.
Armstrong, J. S., Green, K. C., & Soon, W. (2008). Polar bear population forecasts: A public-policy forecasting audit. Interfaces, 38, 382–405.
Bedford, D. (2010). Agnotology as a teaching tool: Learning climate science by studying misinformation. Journal of Geography, 109, 159–165.
Bedford, D., & Cook, J. (2013). Agnotology, scientific consensus, and the teaching and learning of climate change: A response to Legates, Soon and Briggs. Science & Education, 22, 2019–2030.
Brindley, H., & Allan, R. P. (2003). Simulations of the effects of interannual and decadal variability on the clear-sky outgoing long-wave radiation spectrum. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 129, 2971–2988.
Choi, Y.-S. (2011). How sensitive is the Earth’s climate to a runaway carbon dioxide? Journal of Korean Earth Science Society, 32, 239–247.
Cook, J., Nuccitelli, D., Green, S. A., Richardson, M., Winkler, B., Painting, R., et al. (2013). Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature. Environmental Research Letters, 8, 024024.
David, L., & Gordon, C. (2007). The down-to-earth guide to global warming. London, UK: Orchard Books.
Ding, D., Maibach, E. W., Zhao, X., Roser-Renouf, C., & Leiserowitz, A. (2011). Support for climate policy and societal action are linked to perceptions about scientific agreement. Nature Climate Change, 1, 462–465.
Doran, P., & Zimmerman, M. (2009). Examining the scientific consensus on climate change. EOS. Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, 99, 22–23.
Essex, C. (1986). Trace gases and the problem of false invariants in climate models—a comment. Climatological Bulletin, 20, 19–25.
Essex, C. (1991). What do climate models tell us about global warming? Pure and Applied Geophysics, 135, 125–133.
Essex, C., Ilie, S., & Corless, R. M. (2007). Broken symmetry and long-term forecasting. Journal of Geophysical Research, 112, D24S17. doi:10.1029/2007JD008563.
Feynman, R. P. (1969). What is science? The Physics Teacher, 7, 313–320.
Fischer, H., Wahlen, M., Smith, J., Mastroianni, D., & Deck, B. (1999). Ice core records of atmospheric CO2 around the last three glacial terminations. Science, 283, 1712–1714.
Funtowicz, S. O., & Ravetz, J. R. (1993). Science for the post-normal age. Futures, 25, 739–755.
Ghil, M., Chekroun, M. D., & Simonnet, E. (2008). Climate dynamics and fluid dynamics: Natural variability and related uncertainties. Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena, 237, 2111–2126.
Green, K. C., Armstrong, J. S., & Soon, W. (2009). Validity of climate change forecasting for public policy decision making. International Journal of Forecasting, 25, 826–832.
Hollander, P. (2013). Peer review, political correctness, and human nature. Academic Questions, 26, 148–156.
Huang, Y. (2013). A simulated climatology of spectrally decomposed atmospheric infrared radiation. Journal of Climate, 26, 1702–1715.
Huang, Y., & Ramaswamy, V. (2008). Observed and simulated seasonal co-variations of outgoing longwave radiation spectrum and surface temperature. Geophysical Research Letters, 35, L17803. doi:10.1029/2008GL034859.
Huang, Y., Ramaswamy, V., Huang, X., Fu, Q., & Bardeen, C. (2007). A strict test in climate modeling with spectrally resolved radiances: GCM simulation versus AIRS observations. Geophysical Research Letters, 34. doi:10.1029/2007GL031409.
Hunter, C. M., Caswell, H., Runge, M. C., Amstrup, S. C., Regehr, E. V., & Stirling, I. (2007). Polar bears in the Southern Beaufort Sea II: Demography and population growth in relation to sea ice conditions. Anchorage, Alaska: USGS Alaska Science Center.
Huntingford, C., Jones, P. D., Livina, V. N., Lenton, T. M., & Cox, P. M. (2013). No increase in global temperature variability despite changing regional patterns. Nature, forthcoming. doi:10.1038/nature12310.
Huxley, T. H. (1866). On the advisableness of improving natural knowledge. Fortnightly Review.
Kennedy, D. (2006). Acts of god. Science, 311, 303.
Knight, J. R., et al. (2009). Do global temperature trends over the last decade falsify climate predictions? Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 90, S22–S23.
Koutsoyiannis, D. (2010). A random walk on water. Hydrology & Earth System Science, 14, 585–601.
Koutsoyiannis, D. K., Efstratiadis, A., Mamassis, N., & Christofides, A. (2008). On the credibility of climate projections. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 53, 671–684.
Koutsoyiannis, D. K., Montanari, A., Lins, H. F., & Cohn, T. A. (2009). Climate, hydrology and freshwater: Towards an interactive incorporation of hydrological experience into climate research. Hydrological Sciences Journal, 54, 394–405.
Kukla, G., & Gavin, J. (2004). Milankovitch climate reinforcements. Global and Planetary Change, 40, 27–48.
Kukla, G., & Gavin, J. (2005). Did glacials start with global warming? Quaternary Science Reviews, 24, 1547–1557.
Landsberg, H. E., & Oliver, J. E. (2005). Climatology. In J. E. Oliver (Ed.), Encyclopedia of world climatology (pp. 272–283). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series.
Lefsrud, L. M., & Meyer, R. E. (2012). Science or science fiction? Professionals’ discursive construction of climate change. Organization Studies, 33, 1477–1506.
Legates, D. R. (2007). An Inconvenient Truth: A focus on its portrayal of the hydrologic cycle. GeoJournal, 70, 15–19.
Legates, D. R., Soon, W., & Briggs, W. M. (2013). Learning and teaching climate science: The perils of consensus knowledge using agnotology. Science & Education, 22, 2007–2017.
Lenzer, J. (2013). Why we can’t trust clinical guidelines. British Medical Journal, 346, f3830.
Lewandowsky, S., Gilles, G., & Vaughan, S. (2012). The pivotal role of perceived scientific consensus in acceptance of science. Nature Climate Change, 3, 399–404.
Lindzen, R. S. (2007). Taking greenhouse warming seriously. Energy & Environment, 18, 937–950.
Lindzen, R. S., & Choi, Y.-S. (2011). On the observational determination of climate sensitivity and its implications. Asia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, 47, 377–390.
Liu, J., Wang, B., Ding, Q., Kuang, X., Soon, W., & Zorita, E. (2009). Centennial variations of the global monsoon precipitation in the last millennium: Results from ECHO-G model. Journal of Climate, 22, 2356–2371.
Mahmood, R., et al. (2010). Impacts of land use/land cover change on climate and future research priorities. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 91, 37–46.
Maue, R. N. (2009). Northern Hemisphere tropical cyclone activity. Geophysical Research Letters, 36, L05805. doi:10.1029/2008GL035946.
Maue, R. N. (2011). Recent historically low global tropical cyclone activity. Geophysical Research Letters, 38, L14803. doi:10.1029/2011GL047711.
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). (2013). Monthly mean CO2 concentration at Mauna Loa, HI. ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/co2/trends/co2_mm_mlo.txt.
Oreskes, N. (2004). The scientific consensus on climate change. Science, 306, 1686 (and Erratum, 21 January 2005).
Pielke, R, Sr. et al. (2009). Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases. EOS. Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, 90, 413.
Popper, K. R. (1934). Logik der Forchung, Vienna. Reprinted in 1959 as The Logic of Scientific Discovery, London: Hutchinson & Co., p. 480.
Proctor, R. N. (2008). Agnotology: A missing term to describe the cultural production of ignorance (and its study). In R. N. Proctor & L. Schiebinger (Eds.), Agnotology: The making and unmaking of ignorance (pp. 1–33). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Saloranta, T. M. (2001). Post-normal science and the global climate change issue. Climatic Change, 50, 395–404.
Santer, B. D., et al. (2011). Separating signal and noise in atmospheric temperature changes: The importance of timescale. Journal of Geophysical Research, 116, D22105. doi:10.1029/2011JD016263.
Soon, W. (2007). Implications of the secondary role of carbon dioxide and methane forcing in climate change: Past, present, and future. Physical Geography, 28, 97–125.
Soon, W. (2009). Solar Arctic-mediated climate variation on multidecadal to centennial timescales: Empirical evidence, mechanistic explanation, and testable consequences. Physical Geography, 30, 144–184.
Soon, W., Baliunas, S., Idso, C., Idso, S., & Legates, D. R. (2003). Reconstructing climatic and environmental changes of the past 1000 years: A reappraisal. Energy & Environment, 14, 233–296.
Soon, W., Baliunas, S., Idso, S. B., Kondratyev, K. Y., & Posmentier, E. S. (2001). Modeling climatic effects of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions: Unknowns and uncertainties. Climate Research, 18, 259–275.
Soon, W., Dutta, K., Legates, D. R., Velasco, V., & Zhang, W. (2011). Variation in surface air temperatures of China during the 20th century. Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, 73, 2331–2344.
Steffensen, J. P., et al. (2008). High-resolution Greenland ice core data show abrupt climate change happens in few years. Science, 321, 680–684.
Walsh, J. E., Chapman, W. L., & Portis, D. H. (2009). Arctic cloud fraction and radiative fluxes in atmospheric reanalyses. Journal of Climate, 22, 2316–2334.
Weiss, K. M. (2012). Agnotology: How can we handle what we don’t know in a knowing way? Evolutionary Anthropology, 21, 96–100.
Weissberg, R. (2013). The hidden costs of journal peer review. Academic Questions, 26, 157–165.
Wunsch, C. (2002). Ocean observations and the climate forecast problem. In R. P. Pearce (Ed.), Meteorology at the Millennium (pp. 233–245). London, United Kingdom: Academic Press.
Wunsch, C. (2010). Towards understanding the Paleocean. Quaternary Science Reviews, 29, 1960–1967.
Zhu, P., Hack, J. J., Kiehl, J. T., & Bretherton, C. S. (2007). Climate sensitivity of tropical and subtropical marine low clouds amount to ENSO and global warming due to doubled CO2. Journal of Geophysical Research, 112, D17108. doi:10.1029/2006JD008174.
The authors wish to thank Demetris Koutsoyiannis for his comments and thoughts on Agnotology.
About this article
Cite this article
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