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CSS colloquium: Joel K. Katzav, Eindhoven University of Technology

The epistemology of climate models

07.10.2016 | Randi Mosegaard

Dato ons 09 nov
Tid 14:15 15:45
Sted Lokale G3.1 (1532-314)

I bring out the limitations of four important views of what the target of useful climate model assessment is. Three of these views are drawn from philosophy. They include the views of Elisabeth Lloyd and Wendy Parker, and an application of Bayesian confirmation theory. The fourth view I criticise is based on the actual practice of climate model assessment. In bringing out the limitations of these four views, I argue that an approach to climate model assessment that neither demands too much of such assessment nor threatens to be unreliable will, in typical cases, have to aim at something other than the confirmation of claims about how the climate system actually is. This means, I suggest, that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC's) focus on establishing confidence in climate model explanations and predictions is misguided. So too, it means that standard epistemologies of science with pretensions to generality, e.g., Bayesian epistemologies, fail to illuminate the assessment of climate models. I go on to outline a view that neither demands too much nor threatens to be unreliable, a view according to which useful climate model assessment typically aims to show that certain climatic scenarios are real possibilities and, when the scenarios are determined to be real possibilities, partially to determine how remote they are.
I am an Assistant Professor at Eindhoven University of Technology, but will be moving to the University of Queensland in December. My main research focus over the last six years has been the philosophy of climate modelling, including its epistemology and theoretical foundations. I have argued that probabilistic assessment of our uncertainty about climate is unreliable and have proposed a modal epistemology as an alternative means of assessing this uncertainty. Other areas in which I have published work include epistemology, metaphysics, the philosophy of language and argumentation theory.

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