In the next Perspectives on Science seminar, Corey Dethier (Leibniz Universität Hannover) will give a talk on “How should the IPCC present uncertainty?”.

The seminar takes place online via Zoom from 14:15 to 15:45 on the 31st of October. To join the seminar, please contact for the Zoom invitation.

Perspectives on Science is a weekly research seminar which brings together experts from science studies and philosophy of science. It is organized by TINT – Centre for Philosophy of Social Science at the University of Helsinki. More information about the seminar here.


At present, the IPCC has a unique two-tier method for communicating uncertainty: claims about (e.g.) future warming are qualified using both “likelihood” and “confidence” scales. Recently, however, a number of climate scientists have called attention to the weaknesses of this method, arguing that it is confusing, hard to understand, and used in different ways by different author groups. In this talk, I consider what a better alternative might look like. I begin by arguing that good science communication is like good science modeling: it highlights or emphasizes what’s important by abstracting away from the unimportant. The IPCC’s current approach can be thought of as emphasizing two features of the IPCC’s knowledge: the degree of imprecision or uncertainty and origins of imprecision or uncertainty. I suggest that there are reasons why we should prioritize emphasizing imprecision, but that the origins of uncertainty are less important. Finally, I consider a few different options for capturing imprecision and consider some broader lessons for science communication. 

Author bio:

Corey Dethier is postdoctoral fellow at Leibniz Universität Hannover with the research group “Integrating Ethics and Epistemology of Science.” His work focuses on uncertainty in climate science and how can and should respond to it.