[extropy-chat] Betting on Global Warming

Hal Finney hal at finney.org
Sat Aug 20 19:22:12 UTC 2005

Inspired by Robin Hanson's work on Idea Futures, a prominent climatologist
has been searching for global warming skeptics who are willing to put
their money where their mouth is.

James Annan summarizes the history of his bet offer, and the many well-
known skeptics who have wimped out and refused to take the bet, on his
blog at http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2005/06/betting-summary.html.
Among the names who have refused: Richard Lindzen, Pat Michaels, Chip
Knappenburger, Myron Ebell, Zbigniew Jaworowski, and Sherwood Idso.
These people had all offered predictions that global warming would
turn to cooling, and some had even suggested they would bet on it, but
they refused or demanded outlandish odds in their favor when offered an
actual bet.

Annan did create a claim on the play-money Foresight Exchange site at
http://www.ideosphere.com/fx-bin/Claim?claim=GW2030.  Current betting
odds correspond to a prediction of a 0.24 degree C rise per decade from
2000-2030, in line with the standard scientific consensus.

Finally Annan has succeeded in finding a pair of skeptics who will
take the bet, Russian physicists who attribute recent global warming to
solar activity.  Based on the sunspot cycle they predict that we will
soon begin a cooling trend.

If anyone here still disbelieves in global warming (Mike?), some of the
links from Annan's page above point to other believers in the consensus
estimate who are willing to offer various bets in its favor.

It's great to see Robin's ideas coming into wider public acceptance as
a way to help resolve this controversial issue.  One of the commentators
suggested that an even better solution would simply be an index futures
market based on global temperatures.  This would be an aid to various
businesses which might be impacted by temperature change; they could
hedge their economic exposure by taking positions in the market, while
speculators could hope to profit by guessing right about future trends.
Then, the general public would benefit by seeing an objective market
estimate of future temperatures where participants would have an
incentive to bet as accurately as possible, independently of political

A recent article on the bet is here,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1552092,00.html.  Below is
a summary of the new bet from Nature,



:  Climate sceptics place bets on world cooling down
:  By Jim Giles
:  Solar physicists make $10,000 wager with climate modeller.
:  A British climate modeller has finally persuaded global-warming sceptics to wager money on their contrarian
:  predictions about climate change.
:  James Annan, who is based at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology in Yokohama, has agreed a
:  US$10,000 bet with Galina Mashnich and Vladimir Bashkirtsev, two solar physicists who argue that global temperatures
:  are driven by changes in the Sun's activity and will fall over the next decade. The bet, which both sides say they
:  are willing to formalize in a legal document, came after other climate sceptics refused to wager money.
:  Annan began his quest last winter after hearing Richard Lindzen, a meteorologist at the Massachusetts Institute of
:  Technology who questions the extent to which human activities are influencing climate, say he was willing to bet
:  that global temperatures will drop over the next 20 years. "A pay-off at retirement age would be a nice top-up to my
:  pension," says Annan.
:  But no wager was ever agreed. Annan says that Lindzen wanted odds of 50-to-1 against falling temperatures: this
:  meant that Annan would pay out $10,000 if temperatures dropped, but receive only $200 if they rose. In total, Annan
:  says he tried and failed to agree terms with seven sceptics.
:  Other potential climate gamblers have drawn a blank with their attempts to enter similar bets with climate-change
:  sceptics. In May, environmental activist George Monbiot challenged climate sceptic Myron Ebell to a £5,000
:  (US$9,000) wager live on BBC radio. Ebell, a global-warming specialist at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a
:  think-tank in Washington DC, declined, saying he has four children to put through university and so does not "want
:  to take risks".
:  But Annan's search ended with Mashnich and Bashkirtsev, who are based at the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics
:  in Irkutsk, Russia. They say that global surface air temperatures closely correlate with the size and number of
:  sunspots. Sunspot levels follow regular patterns and the Sun is expected to be in a less active phase over the next
:  few decades, leading Mashnich and Bashkirtsev to predict a drop in temperature.
:  Both sides have agreed to compare the average global surface temperature between 1998 and 2003 with that between
:  2012 and 2017, as defined by the records of the US National Climatic Data Center. If the temperature drops, Annan
:  will pay Mashnich and Bashkirtsev $10,000 in 2018, with the same sum going the other way if the temperature rises.
:  Piers Corbyn, head of Weather Action, a private meteorological service based in London, told Nature he would like to
:  enter into a similar bet. Corbyn's theory, the details of which he has not revealed, predicts that changes in solar
:  activity will cause "considerable world cooling" by 2040. Annan challenged him to a bet in May, but Corbyn says he
:  did not receive the e-mail. "I'm happy to bet loads of money," he says.

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