chapter  6
20 Pages

From heuristic to predictive

Making climate models into political instruments
WithMatthias Heymann, Nils Randlev Hundebøl

This chapter aims to illuminate a critical juncture in the historical development of climate modeling: the shift from heuristic modeling to predictive climate modeling. Climate models initially served heuristic purposes to investigate and better understand the processes governing climate and its variations. Historian of science, Amy Dahan Dalmedico, has distinguished between heuristic and predictive modeling for the case of numerical weather simulation. The distinction between heuristic and predictive climate modeling is not always sharp. The aim of predictive modeling requires heuristic forms of research in the development of appropriate theory and models. The shift from heuristic to predictive modeling was a critical juncture, which from the 1970s on increasingly marginalized the heuristic approach and its ambition to expand and deepen the understanding of climate rather than producing long-term predictions. Climate models, William Kellogg argued, had to serve not only scientific roles, but also the important social role of providing politically relevant knowledge about future climate change.