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David Harnesk (photo Emilio José Bernard)

David Harnesk

Postdoctoral Fellow

David Harnesk (photo Emilio José Bernard)

Ethics of Probabilistic Extreme Event Attribution in Climate Change Science : A Critique


  • Lennart Olsson
  • Henrik Thorén
  • David Harnesk
  • Johannes Persson

Summary, in English

The question whether a single extreme climate event, such as a hurricane or heatwave, can be attributed to human induced climate change has become a vibrant field of research and discussion in recent years. Proponents of the most common approach (probabilistic event attribution) argue for using single event attribution for advancing climate policy, not least in the context of loss and damages, while critics are raising concerns about inductive risks which may result in misguided policies. Here, we present six ethical predicaments, rooted in epistemic choices of single event attribution for policy making, with a focus on problems related to loss and damage. Our results show that probabilistic event attribution is particularly sensitive to these predicaments, rendering the choice of method value laden and hence political. Our review shows how the putatively apolitical approach becomes political and deeply problematic from a climate justice perspective. We also suggest that extreme event attribution (EEA) is becoming more and more irrelevant for projecting loss and damages as socio-ecological systems are increasingly destabilized by climate change. We conclude by suggesting a more causality driven approach for understanding loss and damage, that is, less prone to the ethical predicaments of EEA.


  • Theoretical Philosophy
  • Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology
  • LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)

Publishing year





Earth's Future





Document type

Journal article


John Wiley & Sons Inc.


  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Philosophy


  • Loss and damage policy
  • Extreme event attribution
  • attribution science
  • climate change
  • comparative risk assessment
  • extreme events
  • Loss and damage
  • non-epistemic values




  • Climate Change Resilience in Small Communities in the Nordic Countries


  • ISSN: 2328-4277