When the cost of error is too high, the wise hedge their bets.

If, for ideological reasons, we cannot agree that human activity contributes to climate change, then we should consider it pragmatically, through the lens of risk-reward analysis. Even if we cannot prove the veracity of human-caused climate change, the most prudent approach is to act as if it is true. This is because if it is true, the benefits of betting that it’s true are enormous. Yes, we incur the cost of self-restraint by altering our lifestyles, but relative to the payoff, which in this case is the survival of human civilization, our cost is pretty low.

By contrast, if human-caused climate change is real and we bet against it, the cost is catastrophic: floods, drought, and international conflicts over water, land, and food could potentially end civilization as we know it. That is an infinite loss.

If we cannot agree that human activity contributes to climate change, then we can at least agree that the consequences of betting against it and being wrong far exceed the consequences of betting on it being true and being wrong.

This simple logic serves as justification for why so many of us purchase life insurance policies. For most people who own life insurance, the likelihood of dying prematurely is extremely low. Most of us will pay our far more money than we’ll ever get back. Nevertheless, we still believe in the efficacy of life insurance. We are willing to incur a small cost today to mitigate a potentially enormous cost to our families tomorrow. 

In the debate over climate change, does it not make logical sense to take out a life insurance policy on the planet? If there is any chance that the prevailing science is right about climate change, as the vast majority of climate scientists suggest, then we have a moral obligation to do what we can now to prevent it from continuing.

From “A House Divided: Engaging the Issues through the Politics of Compassion” by Mark Feldmeir – Chalice Press

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