One of the criticisms made by those sceptical of the majority scientific consensus on climate change and its likely future consequences is that the Earth System Science upon which it is based is fundamentally flawed. This contention is challenged here by an outline of the nature of the science needed to make future projections possible. The classic Popperian approach to science, in which potentially refutable hypotheses are defined and tested is not well suited to the challenges posed by an Earth System that is characterised by high degrees of complexity, non-linearity and a lack of definable cause–consequence relationships. A science based on model–data comparisons and interactions is the only effective approach both to increasing our understanding of the Earth System and developing a well substantiated basis for future projections. The bottom line is clear. Denying the relevance and validity of Earth System science is a highly risky, and possibly catastrophic, approach for humanity to take towards its future.
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