Synthese 191 (10):2049-2088 (2014)

Elisabeth Lloyd
Indiana University, Bloomington
Climate change assessments rely upon scenarios of socioeconomic developments to conceptualize alternative outcomes for global greenhouse gas emissions. These are used in conjunction with climate models to make projections of future climate. Specifically, the estimations of greenhouse gas emissions based on socioeconomic scenarios constrain climate models in their outcomes of temperatures, precipitation, etc. Traditionally, the fundamental logic of the socioeconomic scenarios—that is, the logic that makes them plausible—is developed and prioritized using methods that are very subjective. This introduces a fundamental challenge for climate change assessment: The veracity of projections of future climate currently rests on subjective ground. We elaborate on these subjective aspects of scenarios in climate change research. We then consider an alternative method for developing scenarios, a systems dynamics approach called ‘Cross-Impact Balance’ (CIB) analysis. We discuss notions of ‘objective’ and ‘objectivity’ as criteria for distinguishing appropriate scenario methods for climate change research. We distinguish seven distinct meanings of ‘objective,’ and demonstrate that CIB analysis is more objective than traditional subjective approaches. However, we also consider criticisms concerning which of the seven meanings of ‘objective’ are appropriate for scenario work. Finally, we arrive at conclusions regarding which meanings of ‘objective’ and ‘objectivity’ are relevant for climate change research. Because scientific assessments uncover knowledge relevant to the responses of a real, independently existing climate system, this requires scenario methodologies employed in such studies to also uphold the seven meanings of ‘objective’ and ‘objectivity.’
Keywords Scientific objectivity  Climate science  Socioeconomic scenario testing  Socioeconomic scenarios  Objective/subjective methods for socioeconomic projections  Climate projections  IPCC projections  Cognitive Bias
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-013-0353-6
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References found in this work BETA

The Scientific Image.William Demopoulos & Bas C. van Fraassen - 1982 - Philosophical Review 91 (4):603.
Science in the Age of Computer Simulation.Eric Winsberg - 2010 - University of Chicago Press.
How to Make Our Ideas Clear.C. S. Peirce - 1878 - Popular Science Monthly 12 (Jan.):286-302.

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A Taxonomy of Transparency in Science.Kevin C. Elliott - forthcoming - Canadian Journal of Philosophy:1-14.

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