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Earth The Almighty Buck Science

Mainstream Scientists Cashing In On Climate Wagers (reuters.com) 252

Layzej writes: Climate contrarians have long predicted imminent global cooling. A few have been willing to place wagers that mainstream scientists have been quick to accept. Often acceptance of the bet is followed by immediate retraction, as was the case when "Bastardi's Wager" was accepted by Joseph Romm or when Maurice Newman's $10,000 bet was accepted by physicist Brian Schmidt. In some cases, bets have been formalized and the terms of many of those wagers are coming to a close. It may not be surprising to learn that those who put their money on the side of mainstream science are the ones who are cashing in.

Reuters reports that British climate expert Chris Hope just won a 2,000 pound sterling ($2,830) wager made five years ago against two members of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, who had bet Hope that the Earth would be cooling by now. They also highlight a $10,000 bet made in 2005 between British climate modeler James Annan and two Russian solar physicists. The solar physicists had counted on waning solar output to halt warming. Annan will win if average global temperatures from 2013-17 are warmer than 2003-07. "Things are looking good for my bet," Annan said.

Keith Pickering reports on a series of three bets between Brian Schmidt and climate contrarian David Evans, who also believed that diminishing solar output would dominate the temperatures of the last decade and beyond. The wagers pay out in 2019, 2024, and 2029. Pickering concludes, "What Evans apparently doesn't realize is that because of the thermal inertia of the oceans, within narrow bounds we can already predict what global temperatures will be in 2019, 2024, and 2029. And David Evans is going to lose his shirt."

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Mainstream Scientists Cashing In On Climate Wagers

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  • by NEDHead ( 1651195 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @05:07PM (#51353245)

    an even bet

    • Indeed... I wonder whose wager included "within +/- 0.75 degree C of this year's average" ?

      I mean, judging by what's happened so far, if any wager stands to win...

  • Silliness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @05:12PM (#51353289) Homepage Journal
    That is like betting on how long it is going to take the Titanic to sink, while you are ON the Titanic.
    • Re:Silliness (Score:5, Insightful)

      by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @05:14PM (#51353303)

      No, some people on the sinking boat are still betting on wether or not the boat is sinking.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      True, but there's a certain amount of schadenfreude involved in forcing these idiots to put their money where their mouths are.

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      Why not? If you lose, you're dead and have other things to worry about. If you win, you're richer.

      Well for a Titanic bet anyway.

      For GW, since the warming is unlikely to be stopped any time soon, they might as well make some money on it to buy some A/C in the meantime. I would not suggest buying any land on low lying islands, however.

    • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

      Exactly, eventually the Sun should fade and the Earth should cool down, if it is still there that is.

      Maybe they didn't wait long enough... ;-)

      • Exactly, eventually the Sun should fade and the Earth should cool down, if it is still there that is.

        What earth? By the time the sun gets around to cooling down again, it will have swallowed up and vapourised the earth. Before then however, it's going to brignten more or less continuously.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      That is like betting on how long it is going to take the Titanic to sink, while you are ON the Titanic.

      Remember, the 1% were bailed out then also.

      • Re:Silliness (Score:4, Informative)

        by Evtim ( 1022085 ) on Saturday January 23, 2016 @03:23AM (#51355817)

        They weren't. The survival chance of a man first class was lower than a woman third class. Most of the crew behaved properly on that occasion [women and children first]. And I have the feeling that back then the rich and powerful men [while still being guilty of greed and malice] had bigger balls than those of today...

  • by CajunArson ( 465943 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @05:19PM (#51353341) Journal

    Yeah, totally made a killing when I bet that the Chiefs would take out the Patriots last week.

    All I had to do was apply a few post-game corrections to the score and the money just flowed right in.

    • Double your losses by picking the Broncos this week

    • A more accurate post would be 'Totally made a killing betting the Chiefs would lose by at least 5 points because I spend a lifetime studying football and every relevant parameter I could model. Over the years I've refined my model down to the point that I'm very confident I'll win any bet against somebody who simply bets emotionally because they want their team to win.

  • by babymac ( 312364 ) <ph33dNO@SPAMcharter.net> on Friday January 22, 2016 @05:20PM (#51353359) Homepage
    ...are soon parted.
  • by BStroms ( 1875462 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @05:21PM (#51353365)

    I don't know about the others, but I can see at least with Bastardi's Wager, they went with satellite data. That proved to be wise in retrospect. As regardless of which you use, lower troposphere satellite data has shown much less warning than the land/sea models used by the NOAA and the like. For them, 2015 was the third warmest year, and 2010 and champion 1998.

    To actually make wagers expecting cooling seems extreme. Why not simply bet that warming would come in far short of the predictions mainstream scientists were putting out at the time? Maybe they couldn't get anyone to bite on those terms, maybe they were just that cocky, or most likely, they just wanted the media from putting money up predicting cooling.

    Whatever the reason, if they'd wagered on more sane "you're models show too much warming" terms, they could have made some good money.

    • by BStroms ( 1875462 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @05:27PM (#51353435)

      Actually, I see from one the articles, that one mainstream scientist did lose 100 pounds in a bet on the pace of global warming. So at least someone had a little more sense with their terms.

      • How did you know which article to click on?
    • by KeensMustard ( 655606 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @05:42PM (#51353545)

      Whatever the reason, if they'd wagered on more sane "you're models show too much warming" terms, they could have made some good money.

      Except nobody would take that bet, because mathematically, it is always 50/50. A model will always predict higher or lower than the actual outcome. It will be one or the other, and actually it doesn't matter which, as long as the model correctly predicts within a useful percentile. Also the bet is meaningless: you could make a wager on something meaningful ("the average temperature between 2010 and 2020 will be within the error bands of model x") - in which case, for any GCM model (or later) the contrarians are on track to lose (again).

      • Easy solution, just bet at a 10:1 ratio against their 95% confidence interval. If someone really believes in their confidence interval, then they should expect to on average double their money from that bet despite the unfavorable ratio. Unless it's this kind of study [xkcd.com]

        • Very good. Care to take the wager then?

          I'll wager that the list of AOGCM models described here [mpdl.mpg.de] will accurately predict the temperature incline within their error bars, out to 2030.

          Measure date: 23 January 2030

          Terms: 10:1 (i.e. you'll give me 10:1 odds), $50 (US) down.

          Caveats: Some agreed variation on the predicted concentration of CO2 over the testing period will render the wager null, since this a human variation, not a model one.

      • A model will always predict higher or lower than the actual outcome. It will be one or the other, and actually it doesn't matter which, as long as the model correctly predicts within a useful percentile.

        Your logic breaks down as soon as there are two models to choose from. If one does have this 50/50 property then the other, which is predicting a different future temperature window, cannot also have this 50/50 property.

    • by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @06:20PM (#51353855)

      The problem I think is that the climate change skeptics don't think that way. They have supreme confidence that it's all a hoax, that the data is falsified, that it's a plot to undermine the economy, etc. So they make the bet with bravado, expecting the mainstream scientists to back down or look foolish. Anyone starting with an attitude of "oh ya, put your money where your mouth is" won't be the sort of person who's going to be inspecting the data very closely, analyzing the odds, choosing the best measurement methods, etc.

    • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @06:29PM (#51353945)

      Why not simply bet that warming would come in far short of the predictions mainstream scientists were putting out at the time? Maybe they couldn't get anyone to bite on those terms, maybe they were just that cocky, or most likely, they just wanted the media from putting money up predicting cooling.

      Whatever the reason, if they'd wagered on more sane "you're models show too much warming" terms, they could have made some good money.

      Probably rhetoric. The contrarians are building their reputation on the idea that the scientists are incompetent, corrupt, or in some other way completely wrong. If the contrarians are right then the current warm temps are just the high point of a cycle, so in a few years it should be cooler.

      By betting that temperatures will rise, just not quite as much as the scientists claim, they'd be essentially conceding that they think AGW is happening.

      Besides, they already benefited by cashing in on the PR of actually making bet, the fact the eventually lost isn't really something they'll be motivated to share with their followers.

    • by Xyrus ( 755017 )

      I don't know about the others, but I can see at least with Bastardi's Wager, they went with satellite data. That proved to be wise in retrospect. As regardless of which you use, lower troposphere satellite data has shown much less warning than the land/sea models used by the NOAA and the like. For them, 2015 was the third warmest year, and 2010 and champion 1998.

      Except the land and ocean temperatures used by NOAA aren't modeled. Satellite data is modeled.

      Satellites don't measure temperature. The measure microwaves. Temperatures for broad swaths of the atmosphere are derived by running the microwave radiances through a model to derive temperature. That's one reason why using satellite data as your primary temperature data source a bad choice. Not only does it not measure surface temperature, it also isn't very accurate and must be constantly adjusted.

      Also, since the

      • by Layzej ( 1976930 )

        Except the land and ocean temperatures used by NOAA aren't modeled.

        That is not true. In order to average geographically dispersed readings without giving undue weight to collocated sensors you need to apply a model. The model for land ocean temperatures is fairly simple - essentially a gridded average + correction for known biases.

    • by Layzej ( 1976930 )
      You would have a hard time showing that satellite results differ from predictions. There is so much noise in that signal that uncertainty dominates. Since 1998 the trend is somewhere between negative (-0.091C/decade) to much greater than models had projected (0.273C/decade).
  • Shirt (Score:4, Funny)

    by Translation Error ( 1176675 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @05:22PM (#51353373)

    "What Evans apparently doesn't realize is that because of the thermal inertia of the oceans, within narrow bounds we can already predict what global temperatures will be in 2019, 2024, and 2029. And David Evans is going to lose his shirt."

    Well, at least losing the shirt will make it easier to withstand the higher temperatures.

  • The subject may say it all . . . While the right to say "I told you so" is nice, it sucks to be in the situation to say it.

    • by pjrc ( 134994 )

      Well, if the article is to be believed, we're already in the situation. The CO2 has already been released and merely takes 14 to 17 years to manifest as temperature increase.

      Then again, that's probably not a very compelling argument to any climate change denier!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 22, 2016 @05:23PM (#51353389)

    If David loses he won't need his shirt. So the downside is limited.

  • by tylersoze ( 789256 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @06:35PM (#51353991)

    Well it's not like he's going to need a shirt the way the temperatures keep going.

  • by dlenmn ( 145080 ) on Friday January 22, 2016 @06:47PM (#51354087)

    ...because betting is a tax on bullshit. If anything needs to be taxed in this country, it's bullshit.

    That said, it doesn't look like anyone has changed their minds over these bets. Even the losers are ignoring the holes in their pockets. I guess we need more bets...

    It's also interesting to know who is making the bets. I've always wondered who genuinely disbelieves global warming and who claims to be a skeptic for political (or other) reasons. I'm guessing those that make large bets are sincere.

  • What is really going to drive the reality of climate change home will be disaster insurance premiums. People and companies in danger of coastal flooding as sea levels rise will have to pay higher and higher premiums or just give up and move to higher ground. Property values will decline or coastal cities will have to build infastructure at great expense (turn the Golden Gate Bridge into the Golden Gate Dam anyone?). And that is not to mention other effects of climate change, such as prolonged droughts.
  • Earth has a ton of feedback systems. This is a bit like betting your internal temp will increase (to a meaningful degree) when you walk into a hot room. I would accept just about any bet where I win if the even doesn't happen or the feedback systems compensate, and I only lose if the event happens and the feedback systems don't compensate enough. Summary is wrong to credit being on the side of mainstream science. This is just probability.

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