Original paper

How understanding causal relations counts in criticising arguments against anthropogenic global climate change

Bodenmann, Tom; Hirsch Hadorn, Gertrude

Meteorologische Zeitschrift Vol. 23 No. 1 (2014), p. 5 - 14

50 references

published: Jun 1, 2014
published online: Apr 7, 2014
manuscript accepted: Dec 16, 2013
manuscript revision received: Dec 9, 2013
manuscript received: Dec 20, 2012

DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2014/0460

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There is a broad range of arguments against anthropogenic global climate change (AGCC) brought forward by climate sceptics. It is important to examine those through different perspectives. This paper provides a philosophical analysis of how causal relations are conceived in this debate. The analysis focuses on those sceptics' arguments that do not share properties of causal relations, which are otherwise typical in science. Causal relations (a) are generic relations between event types, (b) they include feedback, (c) they account for complex causes, and (d) they are restricted to a limited number of selected factors, which are defined as event types. A two-step approach was used in structuring this analysis. First, we show that these properties are at the core of natural sciences understanding of causation and how they can be explicated on the basis of the regularity theory of causation. These properties are crucial in the argument for AGCC as depicted in the Fourth Assessment Report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Therefore, IPCC's causal claim is conditional on this understanding of causal relations and, more specifically, the set of examined factors and their definitions. Second, we show how a different understanding of each of these features is a source of disagreement on AGCC by distinguishing between different types of objections, which are illustrated by examples taken from various sources including the Internet. So, pointing out different understandings of causal relations is an appropriate way of criticising this kind of scepticism regarding AGCC.


anthropgenic climate changeclimate scepticscausal relations