A possibilistic epistemology of climate modeling and its application to the cases of sea level rise and climate sensitivity

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Submission Summary
It has been argued that possibilistic assessment of climate model output is preferable to probabilistic assessment (Stainforth et al. 2007; Betz 2010, 2015; Katzav 2014; Katzav et al. 2012 and 2021). I aim to articulate a variant of a possibilistic approach to such assessment. On my variant, the output of climate models should typically be assessed in light of two questions: is it fully epistemically possible? If the output is (fully) epistemically possible, how remote a possibility does it represent? Further, on my variant, if the output is judged to be epistemically possible, it should be taken to represent objective possibilities, specifically potentialities of the actual climate system. Having articulated my possibilistic approach, I apply it to two key issues in climate science, namely the potential contribution of marine ice cliff instability to sea level rise over the rest of the twenty-first century and climate sensitivity. Marine ice cliff instability (MICI) has been posited as a mechanism that might lead to substantially more sea level rise than had previously been projected (DeConto and Pollard 2016). I will suggest that the existing assessment of the contribution of MICI to future sea level rise illustrates the strengths of my possibilistic approach and weaknesses of probabilistic approaches to assessing the output of climate models. I will also argue that the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment of climate sensitivity, especially its reliance on a variety of evidence considerations to address the challenges of unexpectedly high climate sensitivity projections by state-of-the-art climate models, illustrate the strength of my possibilistic approach and the weakness of probabilistic approaches.
Submission ID :
PSA2022762
Submission Type
Submission Topic
University of Queensland

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