New Paper: Climate Consensus and ‘Misinformation’

An earlier Consensus of Doom.
An earlier Consensus of Doom.

Well, not that new after all, seeing that the peer-reviewed “Climate Consensus and ‘Misinformation’: A Rejoinder to Agnotology, Scientific Consensus, and the Teaching and Learning of Climate Change” by David Legates, Willie Soon, William Briggs, and Christopher Monckton of Brenchley—the same team that brought you the peer-reviewedWhy models run hot“—has been e-vailable in Science and Education for a year and a half (pdf).

But now we have the official announcement, complete with page numbers and whatnot. Sci & Educ (2015) 24:299–318, DOI 10.1007/s11191-013-9647-9, for citation collectors.

Abstract (paragraph breaks by me):

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.

You’ve heard of the dreaded 97% Consensus. Poppycock. An exaggeration of nearly two orders of magnitude. But not a surprising error. Those who see Dissent in Science are ever positing nefarious conspiracies, secret cabals of cigar-chomping Dark Masters who can control the press, government, and their neighbors.

These hidden-forces theories are always popular with the mob, which is expected, but also in the intellectual slums of the academy, which is…also expected.

Funniest thing about this climate nonsense is the sense of supreme importance many (like our opponents in the paper) feel. Politicians feed egos of scientists and their hangers on because, for now, these folks are useful in advancing the agenda-of-the-moment. But, as always happens, manias morph and something new will capture attentions. How sad some will be when the phone stops ringing! Perhaps the mere thought of this misery is what accounts the vehemence of the debate.

Anyway, about that silly 97%: from the conclusion (first paragraphs put there by me):

It has been demonstrated that the so-called consensus view is a fabrication, contrived by asking ill-defined questions, deploying multiple definitions of the consensus hypothesis interchangeably, or perusing abstracts identified by selective search terms and not necessarily interpreted with a clear and impartial eye.

It is no less legitimate to argue that the environmental lobby and its many friends in academe have circulated misinformation, including misinformation about the existence and extent of a supposed scientific “consensus”, as it is to argue—as Bedford and Cook argue—that the fossil fuel lobby has circulated misinformation calculated to minimize the anthropogenic influence on the evolution of the climate object. It is very likely that governments, the environmental lobby, academe and the news media have spent far more on information (and perhaps on mis-information) than the fossil fuel lobby.

Those who are financially dependent upon acquiescence in whatever governments may require have found it expedient, in the absence of definitive or even of adequate scientific data and results, to manufacture a scientific consensus, at all costs, so that the “misinformation that is the focus of agnotological studies can be improperly defined as that which deviates from this consensus…

Whilst agnotology can be useful in many situations where ‘old wives tales,’ myths, and other incorrect ideas exist, the value of using agnotology in politically-charged discussions such as climate change is questionable. Since the definition of misinformation lies in the eye of the advocate of a particular viewpoint, there is a danger that agnotology may serve not to enhance discussion or learning but rather to stifle debate and silence critics…

See also the peer-reviewed 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 (pdf).


  1. I didn’t see any disclosure of funding by agnotology industry interests in the acknowledgements section of these papers. Tsk, tsk.

  2. Mr. Briggs, if you really want to educate your readers who are mostly deniers, yes, deniers, I’d suggest that you explain each of the sections of your paper to your reader. I believe you will learn a lot by doing so.

  3. JH: It’s the deniers on the warmists side that are the target of education here. We skeptics are already well aware of the problems with statistical manipulation, trying to crush the opposition with bullying and not science, etc. Those who deny their climate science could ever err are the problem. Enlightenment of this group will not be easy, but it is a worthwhile task that could lead to some dramatic gains in insight on the Gaia worshipping side. We can always hope.
    (I don’t expect a reponse and I’m sure you won’t bother to explain your objections to the paper. God forbid you actually explain your position in public. It could be humiliating. So, remain silent, but read on. One day, it could happen that there is a small spark of understanding that arises in you.)

  4. I concluded a long time ago that climate change is just neo-lysenkoism. Fortunately there is no Stalin to enforce the dogma.

  5. Sheri,

    We skeptics are already well aware of the problems with statistical manipulation,…

    But… this is not what the paper is about.

    Sometime ago I asked you to ignore me, didn’t you say that you would? Please keep your promise, accept it, and stop being so aggressive and mean-spirited.

  6. You may ask to be ignored and I may ignore you when I choose to do so, but commenting here means you are open to others commenting about your comments. If you cannot deal with that, perhaps you should not comment here.

  7. Under the urgings of JH, I have downloaded the paper and am reading it now. First off I see that the chart of temperatures is out of date as an additional 18 months of no global warming can now be added to it.

  8. There is a long list of environmental and resource scares: global cooling, acid rain, genetically modified crops, the population bomb, peak oil, and so on. Global Warming is different because the IPCC created a consensus and nearly all the world’s scientific bodies rubber stamped it. While there may not be an actual scientific consensus over the findings of the summary for policy makers IPCC document, there is a consensus by virtually all of the world’s scientific bodies. Where the public has been confused, is that it is the bureaucracies (administrations) of the scientific societies that have endorsed the consensus. Not the scientific researchers themselves. Surveying the actual opinions and expertise of climate researchers suggests around 60-70% of scientists agree with the major findings of the IPCC. This is still a very large number. But if it’s pointed out that 30 or 40% of the scientific community do not agree, it is much more difficult to call such a group ‘deniers’ in front of the ignorant.

  9. “…stop being so aggressive and mean-spirited”, said the person who just accused most of us of being deniers. (Yes, deniers. Whatever they are.)

  10. @JH and author: Please consult THE source of the 97% quote. It is at “Quantifying the consensus on anthropogenic global warming in the scientific literature” . Their own results, in the Abstract: “32.6% endorsed AGW”. So why 97% number? Because 66.4% did not take either side (read: the majority thinks that the issue have not been scientifically resolved either way). Author, Cook , simply removed those 66.4% from consideration. Of the remaining minority 97% supports AGW (which is 32.6% of the total…).

  11. Nick Milner,

    Are you admitting or ashamed of being a denier or something? If you are a climate skeptic, then you are.

    Haven’t you received the memo that Briggs doesn’t deny the warming and AGW in the paper? Perhaps he can help you understand. Don’t you want to learn something about it?


    Thank you for the link, but I don’t know why 97% number and I don’t care either.

  12. Nick,

    “Deniers” is a word non-scientists use to describe people holding views non-scientists would rather not be true. It’s their way of avoiding reality and even less sophisticated than saying “Nyah, nyah, nyah!”

  13. A ‘denier’ in amateur skeptical circles is a term that means someone who denies well established science. In amateur skeptical circles ‘consensus’ used to mean well established scientific principles that haven’t changed in, say, 50 years. You can have a consensus on evolutionary theory but not one on nutritional theory, for example. This is because there is only one theory of evolution in active contention right now and it hasn’t changed significantly in decades. You can’t have a consensus on nutritional theory (according to this definition) as there is no such thing as a single all encompassing nutritional theory. There are many competing ideas in this area of research. You could, of course, change the definition. You could form a UN committee, co opt various researchers to contribute to it, then by some opaque process, declare that a particular set of nutritional guidelines are 95% certain and the other theories are not. The relationship of such a process to anything based in reality, I do not know. The weakest definition of consensus by this means translated into ‘what a particular group of scientists guess is most likely to be true.’

    Activists also co-oped the ‘denier’ label although in their lexicon it literally means ‘heretic’ or ‘non believer’.

  14. JH March 23, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    “Are you admitting or ashamed of being a denier or something? If you are a climate skeptic, then you are.”

    [Short version, JH: if you are not a skeptic, you are not a real scientist]

    Ah-ha, but now we “skeptics” have instead been transformed by the o’so “authoritative” magic of the word-gamed verbiage of the “mainstream” Climate Science Propaganda Operation into “climate skeptics” and the latter then similarly simply pronounced to be equivalent to “denier”. But why the urgent transformations of the meaning of words [skeptic=denier] and the all too familiar concoction of terms [climate skeptic]?

    Because the “Believers” – an obvious implication of their own verbal schema which labels the critics of their alleged science as “deniers” – made another serious mistake and admission in labeling skeptics as skeptics, or at least in allowing the skeptics to call themselves “skeptics”: quite simply, anyone who knows anything about the practice of real science, and adheres to that practice, knows that “skepticism” is at the very heart of the principles and practice of real science.

    In fact, a practitioner of real science would try to disprove his/her own hypothesis first, rather than presenting it to the rest of us completely unguarded and then enduring the very severe rigors and results of skepticism regardless – which the complete transparency of materials and methods in the practice of real science is designed to in fact invite; much less next adopting the functional position of the Climate Believers, that their hypotheses are unfalsifiable! Because that would mean that their verbiage is not hypotheses at all about the real world, but only meaningless Dogma, Mantras, merely “correct” noises – or “tenets”, as the PNAS itself has in fact asserted the verbiage of CO2 CAGW “Climate Change” to be…that is, instead of the CO2 Climate Change hypotheses which have been Scientifically Falsified by virtue of their own empirical record of 100% Prediction Failure of their own predictions.

    The sad Believers became aware of this mistake much too late to erase the obvious implication that by admitting that they were not skeptics, they really didn’t know very much about the correct practice of real science to begin with – or else had chosen to not adhere to that practice – which they assiduously continue to prove at every opportunity.

  15. The phrase ‘skeptic’ does have a derogatory connotation in the public mind. The ‘skeptic’ is one the who gets killed first in your by-the-numbers horror movie, because he or she was foolish enough not to believe in ghosts, gouls or other assorted creatures that apparently live under your bed at night.

  16. Briggs,

    A whines is a person who whines. A writer is a person who writes. A denier is a person who denies. For example, I deny the existence of ghosts. I am a denier in this context. It has nothing to do what non-scientists would rather not be true.

    Now I have a better understanding what you meant when you said that you were proud of being a denier.

    Thanks for your defintion of deniers. Always, different views make me see the world better.

    So, can you imagine your constant (semi)-blanket statements about the liberal, progressive, scientists, academics, and gay people do to your potential employers?

  17. JH,

    Then there is no such thing as a “denier” except for a solipsist. No other creatures makes a living of denying.

    Of course, you can have people unfamiliar with climatology, such as yourself, making (or implying) all kinds of blanket statements about climatology, but these are of no scientific value.

    To answer about potential employers: it sends shivers of delight down their spines. “Here,” they say to themselves, “Is a man who can think.”

  18. When the word ‘denier’ is used it’s used in the same sense as ‘vaccination denier’. And by implication, therefore a denier of accepted science. It’s not a badge of honour, it’s either used as a label or an insult.

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