Winsberg Perceptions Regarding Climate Change

Winsberg Perceptions Regarding Climate Change

Over time, scientists have increased in their research of climate change and the causes of the same. Although the causes of climate change are clearly known, the prediction of future climate change has been a source of controversy in the science modeling sphere. For the longest time, scientists posited that the sufficiency of the evidence determines the acceptance or rejection of a certain hypothesis. Other scientists were of the opinion that the work of accepting or rejecting hypotheses was not a reserve of scientists. Rather, their job was to assign probabilities to hypotheses and leave the task of rejecting and accepting hypotheses to decision makers. Over the recent past, though, Winsberg (2012) has challenged the existing norms among the science field. Accordingly, he argues that it is not viable for scientists to estimate climate prediction or assign probabilities to hypotheses without the inclusion of social values.

The nature of current predictions is that they assign probability values to the incidences of climate change prediction. This is a way of expressing uncertainty in the prediction about climate change as it provides a case scenario under which certain probabilities would occur. It is therefore not certain that temperatures would for instance increase by a certain value. However, Winsberg challenges the view in arguing that non-epistemic considerations are direct influencers of probability estimates in climate change prediction. According to his theory, the link is grounded on the practice of complex simulation modeling. Essentially, therefore, social values influence the prediction of climate change through their role in the formulation of the climate models that the prediction so much depends on.

The argument from Winsberg, (2012) assumes that the methods of prediction of future climate change levels are dependent on today’s climate models. By this, the present models are important in the assignment of probabilities to the anticipated changes in the future climate. Currently, quantitative climate change predictions are based on computer simulation models that can capture the various parameters necessary for ascertaining such predictions. Moreover, his theory further asserts that the projections from the present models have been constructed using data from previous model developments. These developments include choices such as the type of physical processes to incorporate in the prediction of climate change. It is no doubt that a choice of different variables would have produced somewhat different projections on climate change. Ultimately, the order of the processes in a model influences the nature of the predictions. This fact therefore proves Winsberg’s point that social values influence the assignment of probabilities for future climate change predictions.

Winsberg further points out to the fact that social values influence choice of model developments and adjustments to be made. Essentially, some options are more preferable to others and the use of social values is an important determinant of the choices that matter most to the development of the models. The point is that all the choices are right and the choice of one is solely based on the prevailing social values at the moment. The preference of certain options is dependent on the social values of the scientists making the decisions and not on decisive grounds. Winsberg argues that scientist can either choose an option based on the inductive risks or the prioritization of predictive tasks.

In addition, Winsberg’s theory posits that scientist cannot feasibly correct for the impacts of the value dependent choices on probability estimates. Essentially, the different options present different inductive risk profiles in the course of doing science. The methods used should thus be scrutinized for their different inductive risk profiles which are made on the basis of their social and ethical influences. For instance, the knowledge of statistical evidence of a certain choice resulting negative results should inform the non application of the same choice.



Winsberg, E. (2012). Values and uncertainties in the predictions of global climate models. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, 22(2), 111-137.


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