Three perfect grade debunkings of climate misinformation

Professor Scott Mandia at Suffolk County Community College teaches his students using the approach of agnotology-based learning. Agnotology is the study of ignorance and misconceptions. Agnotology-based learning addresses misconceptions and myths while teaching climate science. Two decades of research have found that  direct refutation in the classroom is one of the most effective ways of reducing misconceptions.

As part of the college class MET103  - Global Climate Change, students pick a climate myth from the Skeptical Science list of myths. Our refutations are often written at multiple levels: Basic, Intermediate and Advanced. Students are required to carefully study all the versions of a specific myth, then summarise all the information in their own words. Students are marked on how well they describe the myth, why it persists and how well they refute the misinformation. They're encouraged to read the Debunking Handbook for techniques on effective debunking.

In 2013, three students scored 100%, well above the class average of 72% or 77% in the Spring classes. All three students used an alternative explanation to fill the gap created by the debunking. They also used simple explanations to avoid the Overkill Backfire Effect.

Countering the “It's the Sun” Argument

Robert Necci began his paper by providing an explicit warning mentioning the myth, useful in avoiding the Familiarity Backfire Effect:

This argument is deliberately misleading; intended to shift public opinion by instilling doubt over the validity of climate science in the United States. The objective of this action is to create controversy and debate, allowing for any regulations on greenhouse gas emissions to be delayed for as long as possible.

Necci explains concepts such as radiative imbalance, total solar irradiance and the greenhouse effect. He reveals that TSI has decreased in the past few decades while global air temperatures have been increasing. The increased greenhouse effect is the only physical explanation for the modern day warming.

Read Robert Necci's full paper...

Hurricanes Aren’t Linked to Global Warming

Mike Santalucia describes how the planet is being warmed due to greenhouse gas emissions, leading to increased ocean temperatures and higher sea levels. These two factors are leading to more powerful and damaging hurricanes. The author challenges the myth of no trend in hurricanes by citing research finding “increasing cyclone numbers has lead (sic) to a distinct trend in the number of major hurricanes and one that is clearly associated with greenhouse warming”. Even if the number or intensity of hurricanes were not changing, rising sea levels due to global warming will make every hurricane more damaging via increased storm surges.

Read Mike Santalucia's full paper...

Ice Age Predicted in the 70s? Not So Fast

Anthony Buonasera refutes the myth that scientists were predicting a coming ice age in the 1970s by explaining that the origin of the myth comes from two stories in the popular press (TIME and Newsweek) and not from peer-reviewed scientific journals. From 1965 to 1979, there were a total of seven peer reviewed studies that predicted global cooling while 42 studies that predicted global warming.

Scott Mandia's classes are demonstrating that agnotology-based learning is a powerful way of engaging students, teaching climate science and equipping students with the critical thinking skills to detect misinformation.

Read Anthony Buonasera's paper...

Posted by John Cook on Tuesday, 21 January, 2014

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