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Making climate discoverable and predictable

This article examines how Earth System Science and computer models has enabled climate to become discoverable and predictable.
© Adam Smith Center, Singapore

As the World Wars washed away great empires and imperial dreams, the onset of the Cold War manifested strong geopolitical rivalries.

In turn, this spurred the invention of new climate monitoring technologies as the two superpowers – the United States and the Soviet Union – battled for domination on all fronts. One of the notable creations of the time was computer models that could monitor the global climate and allowed for weather prediction.

This technological and scientific progress culminated in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) adopting a research paradigm of “Earth System science”. Under Earth System science, the world’s climate was viewed through a panoptic lens, and climate was seen as something that could be subjected to scientific enquiry. In turn, Earth System science perceived climate as amenable to prediction and presumptive control. Notably, this would be made possible through computer model simulation which would predict future climates.

Hence, Earth System numerical models developed quantified predictions of possible world scenarios, and utilized this to simulate the implications of human activity on the climate. Here, we see how the IPPC created the drive towards a completely quantitative and scientific understanding of climate. In sum, science and technology have enabled human beings to discover and predict climate, most notably, under the paradigm of Earth System science.

© Adam Smith Center, Singapore
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Environmental Ethics

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