Title: Climate numbers and climate wars. A fatal attraction?
Lecturer: Andrea Saltelli
Moderator: Jordina Belmonte Soler
Date: Wednesday, March 8th 2017
Venue: Room Z/023
In the polarized climate change debate, cost-benefit analyses of policy options are taking on an increasingly influential role. These analyses have been presented by authoritative scholars as a useful contribution to the debate.
But models of climate—and especially models of the impact of climate policy—are theorists’ tools, not policy justification tools. The methods used to appraise model uncertainties give optimistic lower bounds on the true uncertainty, at best. Even in the finest modeling exercises, uncertainty in model structure is presented as known and manageable, when it is likely neither. Numbers arising from these modeling exercises should therefore not be presented as “facts” providing support to policy decisions, nor be used as ammunition into increasingly virulent science wars.
Building more complex models of climate will not necessarily reduce the uncertainties. Indeed, if previous experience is a guide, such models will reveal that current uncertainty estimates are unrealistically small.
Andrea Saltelli has worked for many years in the European Commission. One of his main interest is in sensitivity analysis of model output, a discipline in which statistical tools are used to interpret the output of mathematical or computational models, and in sensitivity auditing, an extension of sensitivity analysis to the entire evidence-generating process in a policy context. Andrea has just published with ICTA's Mario Giampietro a paper entitled "What is wrong with evidence based policy, and how can it be improved?". The two have also published articles of critique of the ecological footprint.
Andrea has recently participated to the debate on the crisis of science and the post-truth with pieces on the online journal The Conversation and a book in 2016 entitled Science on the Verge.
He is presently based at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) at the European Centre for Governance in Complexity, a joint undertaking of UAB and of the University of Bergen where Andrea is adjunct professor.