a clear understanding of the basics of climate modeling in hand, I then argue that foundational issues discussed early in the dissertation suggest that computation plays an irrevocably central role in climate modeling. “Science by simulation” is essential given the complexity of the global climate, but features of the climate system--the presence of non-linearities, feedback loops, and chaotic dynamics--put principled limits on the effectiveness of computational models. This tension is at the root of the staggering pluralism of the climate model hierarchy, and suggests that such pluralism is here to stay, rather than an artifact of our ignorance. Rather than attempting to converge on a single “best fit” climate model, we ought to embrace the diversity of climate models, and view each as a specialized tool designed to predict and explain a rather narrow range of phenomena. Understanding the climate system as a whole requires examining a number of different models, and correlating their outputs. This is the most significant methodological challenge of climatology.
Climatology’s role contemporary political discourse raises an unusually high number of evaluative questions for a physical science. The two leading approaches to crafting policy surrounding climate change center on mitigation (i.e. stopping the changes from occurring) and adaptation (making post hoc changes to ameliorate the harm caused by those changes). Crafting an effective socio-political response to the threat of anthropogenic climate change, however, requires us to integrate multiple perspectives and values: the proper response will be just as diverse and pluralistic as the climate models themselves, and will incorporate aspects of both approaches. I conclude by offering some concrete recommendations about how to integrate this value pluralism into our socio-political decision making framework.