Climate Feedback

RealClimate roll up to the climate casino

gambling.jpgMoney talks, and so do bloggers. Unable to resist the correlation, a number of climate scientists and analysts have adapted their online podiums into betting tables. The RealClimate team are the latest to roll up to the climate casino, staking €5,000 against the predictions of a recent Nature paper (subscription required) that in the next decade, falling temperatures in some regions will cause a slight slowdown in global warming.

The paper’s authors, Keenlyside et al., have yet to accept or reject the bet, and it’s not available to any other cooling proponent who may be feeling lucky. But if your opinion on global warming is burning a hole in your pocket, you have some options. Brian Schmidt’s Backseat Driving, for example, lists several standing offers to all takers.

Those like Schmidt who back the scientific consensus that the Earth is warming, however, have had a hard time convincing anyone to gamble large sums on cooling. A few bookmaker’s highlights:

The bet: The global temperature average for 2000-2010, and that for 2005-2015, will be warmer than that for 1994-2004.

The bettors: Stefan Rahmstorf, Michael Mann, Ray Bradley, William Connolley, David Archer, and Caspar Ammann of RealClimate offer this one to Keenlyside et al.

The stakes: €2,500 for each bet

The odds: 1:1

Tip: The Keenlyside et al. paper has been criticized here and here. RealClimate don’t like it either, but they’re not saying why until they get a response to their offer.

The bet: “In 10 years, I expect the globe to be somewhat cooler than it is now.”

The bettors: Skeptical meteorologist Bill Gray said in a recent speech at the conservative Heartland Institute think tank that he was “willing to make a big financial bet” on this prediction. Schmidt pounced on it, and the two are now working out terms.

The stakes: Big

The odds: TBA

Tip: This would be only the second bet against substantial warming that Schmidt has managed to secure.

The bet: Global average temperatures in 20 years will not be lower than they are now.

The bettors: Modeller James Annan offered this in 2005 to the skeptical atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen, who Annan says refused his odds.

The stakes: $10,000

The odds: 3:1

Tip: Annan explains: “3:1 would be a reasonable middle ground between an honest sceptic – Mr 50-50, who believes cooling is as likely as warming and would therefore expect to win $1 on average from a $3 v $1 bet – and a (mythical?) ‘true believer’ who believes that a rise in temperatures is certain and would therefore also expect the same bet to be worth $1 to him.” But the outwardly skeptical Lindzen quailed at the offer, instead proposing odds of 50:1. Rejecting this, Annan (and, following suit, George Monbiot) then tried to bet against cooling with other disappointingly shy skeptics. Two solar-variation backers finally took him up.

The bet: Modellers’ scenarios will predict future climate, on a 1-10 year timescale, no better than a null forecast where each year’s prediction matches observations in previous years.

The bettors: Skeptic and would-be forecasting reformer Scott Armstrong repeatedly offered this bet to Al Gore, but Armstrong’s March 26 deadline passed without a definite answer from the great PowerPointer.

The stakes: $10,000

The odds: 1:1

Tip: The methodology behind Armstrong’s bet – and his general challenges to climate forecasting – were drop-kicked by Annan, RealClimate, and Kevin Trenberth on Climate Feedback.

Anna Barnett

Photo: PocketAces


  1. Report this comment

    Jon said:

    You’re going to get a few of these, but let me be the first to point out that Gore uses Keynote, not PowerPoint.

  2. Report this comment

    Rattus Norvegicus said:

    I don’t think that RC is witholding their critique of Keenlyside pending the acceptence of the bet. And the bet is for 2500 Euros, not 5000 Euros.

    However, I do find it interesting that both of the initialized model studies which have been done recently (Smith, Science, 2007) and Keenlyside both predict similar outcomes for the next few years. Of course one needs to realize that using initialized climate models is a new field of research and brings the initial conditions problem into play; but it is interesting that the first two papers using initialized models basically predict the same path for warming in the next few years.

  3. Report this comment

    Alfred Jones said:

    I don’t think R. Norvegicus is quite right. Although Smith07 suggests a leveling of temperatures for a few years the mean of the ten year forecast appears to be warmer than the last 10 years of observations… “at least half the years after 2009 are predicted to be warmer than 1998”.

    Keenylside08 clearly has a cooling for their forecast compared to the last 10 years.

  4. Report this comment

    Dr. David South said:

    he bet: Arctic sea ice in the year 2013 will not be less than 50,000 sq km.

    The bettors: Dr. South at Auburn University… and any Arctic scientist who is willing to bet money on their prediction.

    The stakes: $1,000

    The odds: Here is the “odd part”… I can not find an Arctic scientist who can come up with the probability!!!

  5. Report this comment

    Person of Choler said:

    Why bother with piddly 2500 euro bets?

    Politicians have already committed the developed countries to billions of euros worth of extra energy costs, competitive disadvantage with resultant unemployment and whacking great tax increases (e.g. the EU’s insistence on 100% auctioning of carbon credits).

    Forget little bets on model behavior; huge sums are already spent on faith in the global warming models

  6. Report this comment

    Roger S said:

    “whacking great tax increases (e.g. the EU’s insistence on 100% auctioning of carbon credits).”

    That’s not a tax increase- that’s avoiding a windfall transfer of income from consumers to regulated industry. The tax increase was when the EU ETS grandfathered in emitters, gave them permits equal to (or greater than- ahem) their past emissions and then had these guys make money off of it.

    Give us the money by plowing it back into consumer efficiency programs.

  7. Report this comment

    Person of Choler said:

    Roger S,

    So, I’d call it a windfall profits tax.

  8. Report this comment

    Donald Strickland said:

    We will have evidence of man-caused global warming when the Global temperature exceeds the maximums reached during the last 7 or 8 interglacial periods. We know those temps had nothing to do with man.

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