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Epistemic possibilities in climate science: lessons from some recent research in the context of discovery

Katzav, Joel (2023) Epistemic possibilities in climate science: lessons from some recent research in the context of discovery. European Journal for Philosophy of Science, 13 (4). pp. 1-21. ISSN 1879-4912

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A number of authors, including me, have argued that the output of our most complex climate models, that is, of global climate models and Earth system models, should be assessed possibilistically. Worries about the viability of doing so have also been expressed. I examine the assessment of the output of relatively simple climate models in the context of discovery and point out that this assessment is of epistemic possibilities. At the same time, I show that the concept of epistemic possibility used in the relevant studies does not fit available analyses of this concept. Moreover, I provide an alternative analysis that does fit the studies and broad climate modelling practices as well as meshes with my existing view that climate model assessment should typically be of real possibilities. On my analysis, to assert that a proposition is epistemically possible is to assert that it is not known to be false and is consistent with at least approximate knowledge of the basic way things are. I, finally, consider some of the implications of my discussion for available possibilistic views of climate model assessment and for worries about such views. I conclude that my view helps to address worries about such assessment and permits using the full range of climate models in it.

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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Keywords: uncertainty, epistemic possibility, scientific discovery, climate modelling, sea-level rise
Depositing User: Dr. Joel Katzav
Date Deposited: 25 Nov 2023 03:09
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2023 03:09
Item ID: 22799
Journal or Publication Title: European Journal for Philosophy of Science
Publisher: Springer
Official URL:
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1007/s13194-023-00560-7
Date: 23 November 2023
Page Range: pp. 1-21
Volume: 13
Number: 4
ISSN: 1879-4912

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