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Research Article

Climate Consensus and “Misinformation”
A Rejoinder to Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change



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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David R. Legates is an Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Delaware and a Research Fellow at The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. He is also co-author of the Independent Institute monograph, New Perspectives in Climate Change: What the EPA Isn't Telling Us.

William M. Briggs has served as Professor of Statistics at the Cornell University Medical School, Visiting Professor of Mathematics at Central Michigan University, Research Scientist at New York Methodist Hospital, Statistician at DoubleClick, Meteorologist with the National Weather Service, and Cryptologist for the U.S. Air Force.

Christopher Monckton is the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley in the United Kingdom. He was Special Advisor to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from 1982 to 1986, and he has served as Secretary for the Centre for Policy Studies's economic, forward strategy, health and employment study groups; Deputy Leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP); and the UKIP's President in Scotland.

Wei-Hock "Willie" Soon is a solar astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.






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