Pascal’s Wager and the Environment

Blaise Pascal, a seventeenth century philosopher, theologian, mathematician, and physicist (1623-1662) proposed a wager as a way of defining how humans were betting with their souls on the existence of God.

Pascal said there were two choices one could make about God and each had its cost or benefit.

He posits that a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.), whereas if God does exist, he stands to receive infinite gains (as represented by eternity in Heaven) and avoid infinite losses (eternity in Hell.)

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One might make the same argument about Climate Change. If one changed the word God in the diagram with Man Caused Climate Change, it still applies.

I would argue that a rational society should strive to live as if anthropogenic activities are contributing to Climate change, work to develop alternative energy sources that reduce such impact, and eliminate dependence on fossil fuels.

If it turns out Climate change is not significantly impacted by human activity or beyond our ability to mitigate or limit it, it cost us little in terms of our future–and perhaps provides low-cost, alternative energy options and competition. Keep in mind, the fossil fuel industry has been purposely sowing doubt about climate change for decades to control the debate and stall any concerted efforts to find alternatives. (

Yet, if mitigation of anthropogenic activity contributing to climate change is effective and eliminates the acceleration of the process, we have gained a brighter, more naturally regulated environmental future.

Briefly, if we are accelerating Climate Change and do nothing, we lose. If we are not a significant contributor to climate change and our efforts to slow it are in vain, we still face an environmental catastrophe that may cause the extinction of man.  

Wouldn’t it be prudent to take the only course of action which presents us with an opportunity to change the course of our future?

As Pascal said, our options are to wager we can receive infinite gains by slowing our effect on climate change or suffer infinite losses because we ignored the evidence of a global climate catastrophe.

Keep in mind, we are betting with our children’s and grandchildren’s lives, it might make the safe bet more critical than any short-term financial burden.


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