Principle 8

Provision of over-precise analytic or model-based "information" (oversell) damages the credibility of all science, and can result in very poor (over-confident) adaptation decisions by practitioners. 


Where the other Principles are not followed, it is possible for the output of climate models to be interpreted with too much confidence. For example if we misidentify a model variable with a real variable, or where no traceable account is provided and some source of uncertainty is omitted. Having unwarranted confidence in climate information may lead to maladaptation, for example by investment in infrastructure which is optimised for a certain incorrect outcome. Misguiding decision-makers today will be exposed by future advancements of the science, if not by informed questions from them today.


The “oversell” of climate information may be accidental, due to simple omission or lack of understanding of sources of uncertainty. It may alternatively be a result of poorly-aligned incentives; for example, we note that many research calls are aimed at “reducing uncertainty” where honest quantification may in fact result in increasing the stated range of uncertainty (due to previous underestimation). Funding is more likely to go to the more ambitious uncertainty-reducer, and consultancy jobs are more likely to go to the modeller who “can” give an answer at the requested 5km resolution than one who “can’t”.

References and further reading

Frigg, R., Smith, L. A., & Stainforth, D. A. (2015) An assessment of the foundational assumptions in high-resolution climate projections: the case of UKCP09. Synthese, 192(12), 3979-4008. 

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Comments on Principle 8

Hailiang Du - P08-0726
Oversell science information is not common only in climate science but almost all science fields, which is damaging the whole academic creditability.