A New Dark Age? Review Article on Trust in Environmental Science

Is public trust in science eroding? Is this alleged crisis of trust in science a problem for democracy and good governance? A recently published review article by a group of 10 PERITIA researchers examines the alleged crisis of trust in environmental science and its impact on public opinion, policy decisions in the context of democratic governance, and the interaction between science and society.

In an interdisciplinary manner, A New Dark Age? Truth, Trust, and Environmental Science focuses on the following themes: the trustworthiness of environmental science, empirical studies on levels of trust and trust formation; social media, environmental science, and disinformation; trust in environmental governance and democracy; and co-production of knowledge and the production of trust in knowledge.

“Public trust in science is crucial to a well-functioning democracy and good governance. Policymakers and citizens rely on the environmental sciences for accurate information on critical issues such as anthropogenic climate change, loss of biodiversity, and pollution. Given the unavoidable gap in knowledge and information that separates experts and the public, trust … becomes a social precondition of fruitful communication between environmental scientists, citizens, and their representatives.”

Published in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources (Vol. 47, October 2022), the review explores both the normative issue of trustworthiness and empirical studies on how to build trust. The review does not provide any simple answers to whether trust in science is generally in decline or whether we are returning to a less enlightened era in public life with decreased appreciation of knowledge and truth. The findings are more nuanced, showing signs of both distrust and trust in environmental science.

Trust in Climate Science is one of the central topics invesitgated in the PERITIA project. See, for instance, the survey results on public perceptions of climate science, or one of our PERITIA Lectures by Professor Philip Kitcher on why climate action is so hard:


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