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Durham University

The Department of Philosophy


Publication details for Professor Nancy Cartwright

Marcellesi, A. & Cartwright, N. (2018). Modeling mitigation and adaptation policies to predict their effectiveness: The limits of randomized controlled trials. In Climate Modelling: Philosophical and Conceptual Issues. Lloyd, E. & Winsberg, E. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. 449-480.

Author(s) from Durham


Policies to combat climate change should be supported by evidence regarding their effectiveness. But what kind of evidence is that? And what tools should one use to gather such evidence? Many argue that randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are the gold standard when it comes to evaluating the effects of policies. As a result, there has been a push for climate change policies to be evaluated using RCTs. We argue that this push is misguided. After explaining why RCTs are thought to be the gold standard, we use examples of mitigation and adaptation policies to show that RCTs provide, at best, one piece of the evidential puzzle one needs to assemble for well-supported decisions regarding climate change policies.