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Thematic Guide to Integrated Assessment Modeling



What is left out?

Human societies are multi-faceted and there is a manifold of perspectives that one can take to understand and study them. The defining principles of different social sciences are typically based on context, scale and the dialectical nature of the discourse. It is practically impossible for any single effort to synthesize and encapsulate this diversity. Inevitably, certain social sciences, particularly those amenable to the modeling form, get picked and used in IA. For example, economics is strongly represented while its less quantitative cousin, moral philosophy, may get left out. This omits the many contributions that moral philosophers have made to our understanding of inter-generational and intra-generational equity, which are central themes of the climate problem.

Given the limitations of model structures, it is not surprising that much of the cultural, political and institutional detail that characterizes and defines societies gets left out of IA models. The inherent difficulties of capturing this detail are amplified when a quantitative framework is used as a guide for policy making. These difficulties are not merely due to the predominance of modeling approaches in IA; they are also a reflection of the difficulties intrinsic to the analysis of the social aspects of long term global change. On the other hand, the diversity of social scientists participating in IA has been limited in part because of the predominance of the modeling paradigm. However, as we discuss later in the paper, there have been some recent attempts to incorporate the cultural aspects of societies and individuals in IA frameworks.







Parson, E.A. and K. Fisher-Vanden, Searching for Integrated Assessment: A Preliminary Investigation of Methods, Models, and Projects in the Integrated Assessment of Global Climatic Change. Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN). University Center, Mich. 1995.


Suggested Citation

Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN). 1995. Thematic Guide to Integrated Assessment Modeling of Climate Change [online]. Palisades, NY: CIESIN. Available at [accessed DATE].



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