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Pascal’s Wager, Weitzman and the inadequacy of cost benefit analysis on climate change

by mel starrs on August 27, 2008

in Climate Change

via Twitter, Solve Climate have a useful summary of Dr. Martin Weitzman‘s paper “On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change” (pdf).

Whilst I haven’t tried to wade through the paper myself (my grip of economics, although much improved, is not quite up to that level yet ;o)), the point which resonated me was the analogy of Pascal’s Wager:

French mathematician Blaise Pascal concluded that even though God’s existence can’t be proven through reason, you should live as if He does because of the size of the risks and rewards involved. Eternity is a long time to spend in hell.
Likewise, if you bet that global warming is nothing to be worried about, and you’re wrong, most of the species on Earth become extinct.

Whilst I’m quite happy gambling on the afterlife, I’m with them on the climate change thing.  Yes, it might all be a gamble, but I’d rather think the worst and be happy when it doesn’t happen than the other way around.

Which is why I tend to keep out of global warming debates – in a way, I don’t really care.  I’m waging on the side of the pessimists and from this position, low carbon buildings make sense.