Climate change raises new, foundational challenges in science. It requires us to question what we know and how we know it. The subject is important for society but the science is young and history tells us that scientists can get things wrong before they get them right. How, then, can we judge what information is reliable and what is open to question?
Stainforth goes to the heart of the climate change problem to answer this question. He describes the fundamental characteristics of climate change and shows how they undermine the application of traditional research methods, demanding new approaches to both scientific and societal questions. He argues for a rethinking of how we go about the study of climate change in the physical sciences, the social sciences, economics, and policy. The subject requires nothing less than a restructuring of academic research to enable integration of expertise across diverse disciplines and perspectives.
An effective global response to climate change relies on us agreeing about the underlying, foundational, scientific knowledge. Our universities and research institutes fail to provide the necessary clarity – they fail to separate the robust from the questionable – because they do not acknowledge the peculiar and unique challenges of climate prediction. Furthermore, the widespread availability of computer simulations often leads to research becoming divorced from understanding, something that risks undermining the relevance of research conclusions.
Predicting Our Climate Future takes the reader on a journey through the maths of complexity, the physics of climate, philosophical questions regarding the origins and robustness of knowledge, and the use of natural science in the economics and policy of climate change.
1. The obvious and the obscure
2. A problem of prediction
3. Going beyond what we've seen
4. The one shot bet
5. From chaos to pandemonium
6. The curse of bigger and better computers
7. Talking at cross purposes
8. Not just of academic interest
9. Stepping up to the task of prediction
10. The essence of climate
11. Climate change in climate models
12. Measuring climate change
13. From butterflies to moths
14. What we do with what we've got
15. Stuff of the Genesis myth
16. Making it personal
17. Controlling factors
18. Beyond comprehension? No, just new challenges for human intellect
After studying Physics at Oxford, David Stainforth worked on ocean modelling and then studied for a Masters in Environmental Management before working as a renewable energy consultant. He returned to academia to pursue research on computer models of the atmosphere before joining Professor Myles Allen to develop the climateprediction.net project, a public-resource, distributed-computing project which engaged hundreds of thousands of people worldwide with climate modelling. He went on to an Associate Professor position at Exeter University and then to LSE, pursuing research on the philosophy of climate science, climate economics, climate modelling and climate decision-making under deep uncertainty.