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designed to help us figure out what to do. On this view, computational models work as (to modify a turn of phrase from Dennett [2000]) tools for deciding.[1] Recall the discussions of pragmatic idealization and ensemble modeling earlier in this chapter. I argued that CGCMs are not even intended to either approximately represent the global climate or to produce precise predictions about the future of climate systems. Rather, they’re designed to carve out a range of possible paths that the climate might take, given a particular set of constraints and assumptions. We might take this two ways: as either a positive prediction about what the climate will do, or as a negative prediction about what it won’t do.

This may seem trivial to the point of being tautological, but the two interpretations suggest very different roles for pragmatic idealization generally (and CGCMs in particular) to play in the larger context of climate-relevant socio-political decision making. If we interpret CGCMs as generating information about paths the global climate won’t take, we can capitalize on their unique virtues and also avoid skepical criticisms entirely. On this view, one major role for CGCMs’ in the context of climate science (and climate science policy) as a whole is to proscribe the field of investigation and focus our attention on proposals worthy of deeper consideration. Knowledge of the avenues we can safely ignore is just as important to our decision making as knowledge of the details of any particular avenue, after all.

I should emphasize again that this perspective also explains the tendency, discussed in Chapter Four, of progress in climatology to involve increasing model pluralism rather than convergence on any specific model. I argued there that EMICs are properly seen as specialized

  1. This view is not entirely at odds with mainstream contemporary philosophy of science, which has become increasingly comfortable treating models as a species of artifacts. van Fraassen (2009) is perhaps the mainstream flagship of this nascent technological view of models.