Understanding the risks posed by anthropogenic climate change and the possible societal responses to those risks has generated a prototypical example of the challenge of “collectively seeing complex systems.” After briefly examining the ways in which problems like climate change reach the scientific and public agenda, we look at four different ways in which scientists collectively address the problem: general circulation models, integrated assessment models, formal assessments (e.g., the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), and distributed learning networks. We examine the strengths and limitations of each of these methods, and suggest ways in which a greater self-consciousness of the need for plural approaches could improve the basis for learning and decisionmaking.
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