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A framework to assess the quality of regional climate information for adaptation

Wednesday 11 December 2019, 12:00 - 13:00
Roger Stevens LT 19
Marina Baldissera Pacchetti

Joint SRI-CCCEP-Priestley Centre seminar


There are now a plethora of data, models and approaches available to produce regional climate information intended to inform adaptation to a changing climate. There is, however, no analytical framework to assess the epistemic issues concerning the quality of these data, models and approaches. An evaluation of the quality of regional climate information is a fundamental characteristic for its interpretation in the context of societal decision-making.

Our work draws on insights from the philosophy of science, environmental social science and physical climate science, and our aim is to develop an analytical framework that can assess quality of “science-based statements about future climate” that are relevant for adaptation at regional and local scales.

To achieve our aim, our work clarifies different descriptors of quality, such as “robustness”, “reliability”, “adequacy”, and satisfactory “uncertainty assessment and communication”, how they are used in the literature, and how they relate to one another. In particular, we argue that these descriptors are related to the quality and type of evidence which underlies science-based statements about future regional climate (e.g. observational/model time-series data, proxy data, expert judgment, etc.), and the quality of the relationship between the evidence and the statement (e.g. validity of the methodological details regarding how the information is extracted from the evidence, or how different lines of evidence are aggregated, etc.).

We further argue that our framework can go further and provide guidelines on when quantitative statements about future regional climate are warranted, when these statements should take other forms (e.g. qualitative statements), and when statements about future regional climate are not warranted at all.


Marina obtained her PhD in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh in 2018 and is now a Research Fellow in SRI. Her research focuses on scientific methodology, and in particular how scientists build mathematical models to acquire knowledge about complex systems in the world, such as the climate system. Typical questions she is interested in exploring are: How do scientists choose and identify phenomena of interest? What kind of assumptions are used to build models of phenomena, and how are they justified? Marina is also interested in the social and political aspects of climate science, such as issues at the intersection of epistemology, environmental ethics and public policy.