Understanding pluralism in climate modeling

Foundations of Science 11 (4):349-368 (2006)
To study Earth’s climate, scientists now use a variety of computer simulation models. These models disagree in some of their assumptions about the climate system, yet they are used together as complementary resources for investigating future climatic change. This paper examines and defends this use of incompatible models. I argue that climate model pluralism results both from uncertainty concerning how to best represent the climate system and from difficulties faced in evaluating the relative merits of complex models. I describe how incompatible climate models are used together in ‘multi-model ensembles’ and explain why this practice is reasonable, given scientists’ inability to identify a ‘best’ model for predicting future climate. Finally, I characterize climate model pluralism as involving both an ontic competitive pluralism and a pragmatic integrative pluralism.
Keywords climate change  computer simulation  models  pluralism  uncertainty
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10699-005-3196-x
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,707
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA
Sandra D. Mitchell (2002). Integrative Pluralism. Biology and Philosophy 17 (1):55-70.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Wendy Parker (2014). Values and Uncertainties in Climate Prediction, Revisited. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 46:24-30.

View all 25 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles
R. J. (2000). T. C. Chamberlin, Climate Change, and Cosmogony. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B 31 (3):293-308.
Elisabeth A. Lloyd (2009). Varieties of Support and Confirmation of Climate Models. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 83 (1):213-232.
Gregor Betz (2009). Underdetermination, Model-Ensembles and Surprises: On the Epistemology of Scenario-Analysis in Climatology. [REVIEW] Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 40 (1):3 - 21.
William M. Goodwin (forthcoming). Global Climate Modeling as Applied Science. Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie:1-12.
Gabriele Gramelsberger (2011). What Do Numerical (Climate) Models Really Represent? Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 42 (2):296-302.
Wendy S. Parker (2009). Confirmation and Adequacy-for-Purpose in Climate Modelling. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 83 (1):233-249.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

46 ( #74,008 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

6 ( #118,705 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.