Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Climate Change, Uncertainty and Policy

Version 1 : Received: 12 August 2021 / Approved: 13 August 2021 / Online: 13 August 2021 (08:26:29 CEST)

How to cite: Hopster, J. Climate Change, Uncertainty and Policy. Preprints 2021, 2021080284. Hopster, J. Climate Change, Uncertainty and Policy. Preprints 2021, 2021080284.


While the foundations of climate science and ethics are well established, fine-grained climate predictions, as well as policy-decisions, are beset with uncertainties. This chapter maps climate uncertainties and classifies them as to their ground, extent and location. A typology of uncertainty is presented, centered along the axes of scientific and moral uncertainty. This typology is illustrated with paradigmatic examples of uncertainty in climate science, climate ethics and climate economics. Subsequently, the chapter discusses the IPCC’s preferred way of representing uncertainties and evaluates its strengths and weaknesses from a risk management perspective. Three general strategies for decision-makers to cope with climate uncertainty are outlined, the usefulness of which largely depends on whether or not decision-makers find themselves in a context of deep uncertainty. The chapter concludes by offering two recommendations to ease the work of policymakers, faced with the various uncertainties engrained in climate discourse.


Climate change; Scientific uncertainty; Moral uncertainty; Deep uncertainty; Risk; IPCC; Storylines; Probability; Expected utility


Environmental and Earth Sciences, Atmospheric Science and Meteorology

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