Simulating Nature

Simulating Nature: A Philosophical Study of Computer-Simulation Uncertainties and Their Role in Climate Science and Policy Advice, Second Edition

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Features

    • Presents a philosophical study of uncertainty in computer simulation and its influence on public policy
    • Places particular emphasis on the issue of climate change
    • Covers the IPCC reports on climate change

    Summary

    Computer simulation has become an important means for obtaining knowledge about nature. The practice of scientific simulation and the frequent use of uncertain simulation results in public policy raise a wide range of philosophical questions. Most prominently highlighted is the field of anthropogenic climate change—are humans currently changing the climate?

    Referring to empirical results from science studies and political science, Simulating Nature: A Philosophical Study of Computer-Simulation Uncertainties and Their Role in Climate Science and Policy Advice, Second Edition addresses questions about the types of uncertainty associated with scientific simulation and about how these uncertainties can be communicated.

    The author, who participated in the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) plenaries in 2001 and 2007, discusses the assessment reports and workings of the IPCC. This second edition reflects the latest developments in climate change policy, including a thorough update and rewriting of sections that refer to the IPCC.

    Table of Contents

    Introduction
    Background
    Framing of the Problem
    Defining Computer Simulation and Positioning It in Science
    Philosophical Approach
    Brief Outline of This Study

    Simulation Practice, Uncertainty, and Policy Advice
    The Practice of Scientific Simulation

    Introduction
    The Simulation Laboratory
    Elements of Simulation-Laboratory Practice
    Plurality of Methodologies for Model Development and Evaluation
    Plurality of Values in Simulation Practice
    The Practices of Simulation and Experimentation Compared
    Conclusion

    A Typology of Uncertainty in Scientific Simulation

    Introduction
    Locations of Simulation Uncertainty
    The Nature of Simulation Uncertainty
    The Range of Simulation Uncertainty
    Recognised Ignorance in Simulation
    The Methodological Unreliability of Simulation
    Value Diversity in Simulation Practice
    The Uncertainties of Simulation and Experimentation Compared
    Conclusion

    Assessment of Simulation Uncertainty for Policy Advice

    Introduction
    The Sound Science Debate
    The Challenge of Postnormal Science
    The Role of Simulation Uncertainty in Policy Advice
    The Guidance on Uncertainty Assessment and Communication
    Conclusion

    The Case of Simulating Climate Change
    The Practice of Climate Simulation

    Introduction
    Functions of Climate Simulation
    Varying Climate-Model Concreteness
    The Sociopolitical Context of Climate-Simulation Practice
    Evaluating the Plurality of Climate-Simulation Models
    Conclusion

    Uncertainties in Climate Simulation
    Introduction
    A General Overview of Uncertainty in Climate Simulation
    Climate-Simulation Uncertainty and the Causal
    Attribution of Temperature Change
    Conclusion

    Assessments of Climate-Simulation Uncertainty for Policy Advice

    Introduction
    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Its Communication of Climate-Simulation Uncertainty
    An Example of Exploiting Societal Perspectives to Communicate Climate-Simulation Uncertainty
    Conclusion

    Conclusions

    Uncertainty Associated with Scientific Simulation
    Differences and Similarities between Simulation and Experimental Uncertainty
    Assessment and Communication of Scientific Simulation Uncertainties in Science-for-Policy
    Uncertainty Associated with the Simulation-Based Attribution of Climate Change to Human Influences
    Assessment and Communication of Attribution Uncertainty by the ipcc

    References

    Appendix: Proceedings and Discussion of the IPCC Contact Group
    Meeting on Attribution, 20 January 2001, Shanghai

    Index

    Editorial Reviews

    "Simulating Nature is deeply rooted in applied statistics with a welcome openness to a few concepts such as risk, values, and uncertainties. This not-so-frequent-nowadays philosophical dimension in statistics is perhaps the strength of this book and that is why it would be important for graduate students who are already familiar with simulation and applied statistics. On the other hand, philosophers, experts in ethics, policymakers, and sociologists of science would certainly be able to follow most of the demonstrations on climate change, but they would probably focus as well on how these concepts and ideas are discussed and legitimised in this book."
    —Yves Laberge, Journal of Applied Statistics, 40, 2013

    "Amongst the heated politics of climate science, Petersen’s book does a rare thing. As a philosopher he takes a step back and asks, ‘What sort of knowledge is generated by climate models: is it reliable, is it authoritative, how is it used, is it useful?’ This new edition, fully updated six years after the first, should be read by all those producing or using, criticising or praising, believing or disbelieving, knowledge claims based on climate models. At the least, you will better be able to defend your position; and you may even find yourself changing it."
    —Mike Hulme, professor of climate change, University of East Anglia, UK

    "In this thought-provoking philosophical analysis, Arthur Petersen explores the nature of climate simulation and attendant uncertainties. Building on this evaluation, Petersen considers the complex processes within the scientific community, and between scientists and society, that ultimately determine whether an assessment becomes a robust, shared basis for decision, or contested and a source of dispute. He points out that it is not enough to analyze uncertainty as a purely technical problem. Deeper uncertainties such as those that stem from the way the problem is framed, models are structured, or expert judgments are made, must also be considered. His analysis has implications not only for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other assessment bodies, but for all who debate the reliability and utility of model simulations as a basis for managing environmental risks in the anthropocene era."
    —Richard Moss, senior staff scientist, PNNL Joint Global Change Research Institute, University of Maryland, College Park, USA

    Downloads / Updates

    Resource OS Platform Updated Description Instructions
    Cross Platform May 14, 2012 Author's Web site click on http://www.simulatingnature.com

     
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