Conceptualizing Uncertainty: An Assessment of the Uncertainty Framework of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

  • Nicolas WüthrichEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the European Studies in Philosophy of Science book series (ESPS, volume 5)


We are facing uncertainties regarding climate change and its impacts. To conceptualize and communicate these uncertainties to policy makers, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has introduced an uncertainty framework. In this paper, I assess the latest, most developed version of this framework. First, I provide an interpretation of this framework, which draws from supporting documents and the practice of its users. Second, I argue that even a charitable interpretation exhibits three substantial conceptual problems. These problems point towards untenable assumptions regarding evidence aggregation in the context of climate scientific findings. Third, I put forward a tentative roadmap for improving the uncertainty framework.


Climate science Evidence aggregation IPCC assessment report Uncertainty guidance note 



Richard Bradley, Thomas Clarmann, Roman Frigg, Stephan Güttinger, Casey Helgeson, Gertrude Hirsch Hadorn, Vivek Sant, and Philippe van Basshuysen provided helpful feedback on earlier versions of this paper. I am also thankful for comments by two anonymous reviewers and audiences at the EPSA conference in Düsseldorf, the BSPS conference in Manchester, the GAP.9 conference in Osnabrück, and the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department for Philosophy, Logic and Scientific MethodLondon School of Economics and Political ScienceLondonUK

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