Via, I see this. Stephen Fry. I agree with his basic argument actually, the Type A, B and C, also the similarity with Pascal\’s Wager in part. However, there\’s one part left out, quite an important part.
But if A is wrong and actually there is no threat, then acting as if there was will have what consequences? It will have saved fuel bills all over the world, reduced noxious emissions which, even if one doesn’t believe in global warming, are unpleasant pollutants in anyone’s reckoning, and slowed down the day when we find that the fossil fuels have run out. Action would have given us more time to find alternatives. To be fair, it will also have slowed down world growth and inconvenienced all of us in our personal lives and if A Types do turn to have been wrong they may well owe the world an apology and it’ll be red faces (and a brake in the inexorable rise in world economic growth and fuel mineral use) all round.
But surely that’s a small price to pay for backing a losing horse when the stakes are the planet itself?
The thing is, what\’s at stake if climate change is not in fact true (not actually my own belief) and we go ahead and slow down world growth is not a certain amount of personal inconvenience.
It\’s the continued absolute poverty of billions upon billions of human beings. It\’s the continuation of parents seeing a quarter or a fifth of their children dying before their 5 th birthday, the continuation of under-, mal- and insufficient nutrition, something that blights the lives of and stunts the mental and physical development of hundreds of millions. It\’s the continuation of the peasant lifestyle for for some 2 billion across the world.
We don\’t know any way for these people to either be lifted or lift themselves up out of poverty other than economic growth (the option of sharing what we already have, even if possible, which it isn\’t, would leave us each with £4,000 a year. That\’s the NHS, the education system and perhaps £10 a week, maybe £20, to pay for food, clothes, housing and everything else).
So it isn\’t in fact Pascal\’s Wager at all.
If climate change is true (my belief) we do not have a simple solution. We are still balancing the (I would hope shared) aim of aiding those impoverished billions up out of absolute poverty (depending upon how you define it, less than $1 or $2 a day) with reducing the emissions effects of doing so.
If climate change is not true (not my belief) then we will, by slowing the growth of the world economy, condemn said poor to a perpetuation, perhaps an elongation is better, of that poverty.
So, depending upon the moral value you put on Gaia or poor human beings, we could in fact turn the entire Pascal\’s Wager thing around. If you are worried about absolute poverty and convinced of the moral righteousness of trying to end it, then the thing is to do nothing about climate change, whether it is true or not.
That, of couse, is something of a debating trick. My own view is grow the economy as fast as we can and also mitigate as much as we can without damaging that first order priority.
Worth noting that in the SRES, the economic models that underly the IPCC and thus the entirety of climate change science, the most desirable one of the potential outcomes is in fact the one with the maximal economic growth over the next century. For a given value of "desirable" of course.