Page:Lawhead columbia 0054D 12326.pdf/209

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


the late 19th century. Moreover, the advent of quantum mechanics in the 20th century has provided a succinct physical explanation for Arrhenius’ observed patterns (as we saw in Chapter Four). Changes in the concentration of CO2-e greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere have a deterministic impact on the net change in radiative forcing--an impact that is both well understood and well supported by basic physical theory.

But what of the arguments from Chapter One, Two, and Three about the scale relative behavior of complex systems? Why should we tolerate such an asymmetrical “bottom-up” constraint on the structure of climate models? After all, our entire discussion of dynamical complexity has been predicated on the notion that fundamental physics deserves neither ontological nor methodological primacy over the special sciences. How can we justify this sort of implied primacy for the physics-based patterns of the global climate system?

These questions are, I think, ill-posed. As we saw in Chapter One, there is indeed an important sense in which the laws of physics are fundamental. I argued there that they are fundamental in the sense that they “apply everywhere,” and thus are relevant for generating predictions for how any system will change over time, no matter how the world is “carved up” to define a particular system. At this point, we’re in a position to elaborate on this definition a bit: fundamental physics is fundamental in the sense that it constrains each system’s behavior at all scales of investigation.

6.3.1 Constraints and Models

The multiplicity of interesting (and useful) ways to represent the same system—the fact that precisely the same physical system can be represented in very different state spaces, and that

199