The global climate is shifting rapidly, bringing with it increased risk for climate-related harms to human societies. Climate science is a multi-disciplinary field, requiring experts from diverse specialties to collaborate in order to model complex systems. The complexity and uncertainty of these scientific models raise philosophical questions such as:

  • What epistemic, ethical, and social assumptions go into model creation?
  • What mathematical and statistical principles are incorporated into their design?
  • How is interpretation involved in the selection and analysis of data to generate climate models?

Philosophical issues related to complexity, uncertainty, and the role of values require that modelers evaluate trade-offs. I argue that not only ethical values should be made explicit and taken into account, but also the pragmatic considerations that make models more or less useful for specific purposes. I conclude that effort should be invested into tracking the reliability of climate models and also in making assumptions explicit and revisable.

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Philosophy (BS)

Department, Program, or Center

Department of Philosophy (CLA)


Evelyn Brister

Advisor/Committee Member

Irina Mikhalevich

Advisor/Committee Member

Tony Wong


RIT – Main Campus