The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that there is a warming trend in the global climate that is attributable to human activity, with an expected increase in global temperature (given current trends) of 1.5- 4.5 degrees Celsius (2.7-7.2 degrees Fahrenheit). But how do climate scientists reach these conclusions? In Philosophy and Climate Science (Cambridge University Press, 2018), Eric Winsberg presents the elements of climate science in an accessible but rigorous framework that emphasizes their relation to a variety of key debates in the philosophy of science: the relation between evidence and theory, the nature and uses of models and simulations, the types of probability involved, the role of values in science, and others. Winsberg, who is professor of philosophy at the University of South Florida, both explains how climate scientists try to understand the chaotic and complex system that is the earth’s atmosphere, and uses climate science as an extended case study of how scientific knowledge is created and debated before it is used to inform public policy.
Carrie Figdor is professor of philosophy at the University of Iowa.