“The future is ours, not to predict, but to create.”
– Al Gore, 16th June 2008
Hear, hear. Spoken in the context of climate change, this might be interpreted as a slight against Global Circulation Models used by scientists. Rather, I think this should be interpreted as an indication that Gore understands that we need to move past discussions about whether we can use such models to ‘prove’ whether climate change is actually happening, and instead act to mitigate against undesired change.
This does not mean computer simulations of earth systems become redundant however – they are still useful tools to improving our knowledge about systems that are so large (spatially) as to prevent empirical experimentation. But we do need to remember that in ‘open’, middle number systems (which the majority of global environmental systems are), proving the ‘truth’ of a model by comparing model results with empirical data is a logical fallacy. In such circumstances, a ‘post-normal’ approach to the use of computer simulation models and, the wider issue of climate change, would be more useful. This view is gaining recognition.
Prometheus has more detailed discussion about prediction, forecasting and decision-making of climate change.
Read the full transcript of Gore’s speech, or watch the section in which he addresses climate change below.