Saturday, January 07, 2006

Brian's still betting

Or at least, he's trying to.

The indefatigable Brian Schmidt keeps on trying to chase down those who claim scepticism over continued future global warming. Here's a recent thread on some denialist blog. In response to his challenge, there was nothing more than the usual evasion and excuses. But there is an anonymous comment on his own blog which appears to take up the challenge...I look forward to further developments.


Brian said...

Thanks James. One good outcome so far is that very few people are willing to defend the Richard Lindzen/Bill Gray position, so even the denialists admit that warming will happen (and blame it on natural cycles).

Another is that while most of the conservative bloggers that I've challenged have ignored me, many of them have also stopped posting on the subject. I think the silence is indicative, and maybe represents progress.

Anonymous said...


Aren't you guys misrepresenting the position of the deniers (at least most of them) with this bet?

Deniers are saying they don't know what is happening to the weather. They are not denying it's been getting warmer since the 80's. No one can. However they are disagreement as to what’s causing it, as you know.

Deniers cannot bet on the weather getting cooler because that is not their position. It's the warmers who are the ones with a bag to carry.

This betting as I see it is a very dishonest portrayal of the deniers’ position. They can’t bet because by definition the weather/climate is uncertain.

James Annan said...


Let's say for the purposes of argument that I think the odds of warming v cooling are 90%:10%. Someone can certainly say "I have no idea about the likelihood of warming v cooling" without any pressure to bet. But if someone asserts that my odds are too high, then they must think that betting on the cold side will make them money - that's just a direct logical consequence of what "I think your odds are too high" means. No-one is obliged to comment, but it's not possible to disagree without disagreeing!

Anonymous said...

So James
According to you, those deniers (which is most incidentally) say it is impossible to know about the weather are obliged to bet? You can't be serious?

There are many people who don't know things like pay out ratios and mean reversions etc.

Incidentally, some months back I tried to bet with your buddy and he placed so many conditions it was impossible to make a bet. He tried to impose a requirement that the winnings ought to go to charity- this after we exchanged emails. He wouldn't do it for a meaningful amount either. I don’t like conditions on what I do with my money. If he wins he can give it to Greenpeace for all I care, however he has no business telling me what I ought to do when I take risk with my capital. I am playing to win.

Incidentally I am a denier who believes there is AGW, however I don't think it is a disaster. I am someone who also believes in mean reversion, which is why I thought the bet is a good one for a taker.

I also don’t think he is serious because he is a taker at 20:1 on the other side. This makes me believe he is not betting as much as trying to make a book. He bet is a joke as far as I can see, but I am open to believe otherwise if you can convince me.

Anonymous said...

While we re on the subject of AGW please explain some things I don't understand.

I am no scientist and have a finance background. I have seen enough models in the finance area to be skeptical about certain things- like trusting them etc. as I have see far too many people telling me they can divine the future but they are still poor.

Are climate models as far as you know linear- in the sense that they only input linear numericals? Do models take into account:

1. changes in the technological makeup going forward? If so how so and what weighting to they give.
2. Are population changes taken into account?

James Annan said...


There is no self-consistent null position of "I think he's wrong but I have no idea". Once I've made my prediction, you either disagree or you don't. No-one can forbid me from providing my own estimate if I feel that I have enough understanding to make it. Of course, if I am wrong, I risk losing money (and face) myself. Those who wish to not only profess their own personal ignorance but who also want to insist that I shouldn't say such things should at least consider the possibility that there are people who understand things better than they do. In fact, since coming up with the bet idea, it seems like most sceptics have been falling over themselves to agree that warming is in fact inevitable. It seems like their earlier denial was merely a debating point rather than an honest belief.

As for the technology and population: most of the "climate research" you'll see discussed is purely physical (sometimes biological) modelling of the atmosphere and ocean etc. The impact of population and technology etc is accounted for in the GHG forcing that we apply to the climate system. There are, of course, experts in the economics and energy fields who provide this input, but it's not directly our (climate scientists') speciality. A common alternative that I've often used is simply to address the question "what is the sensitivity of the climate to a doubling of CO2" which does not directly translate into a specific forecast but still gives very relevant and interesting information.

Anonymous said...

I think you mischaracterize the thinking behind most deniers. Your proposition < I think he's wrong but I have no idea> is not their postion. Most of us are saying, < don’t be silly, you can’t project 100 years out and keep a straight face>. That doesn’t mean I have to put a bet on it.

However you stioll haven’t explained calearly whether those effects I mentioned are actually contained in thes predictions. You can’t quantify effcts if you can’t quantify Greenhouse say 50 years from now. You can only do so, if you have made some attempt to figure out those issues I explained earlier, otherwise predictions are useless as far as I can see.

Explaining what would happen if CO2 increases 50% is not explaining what would happen as technology improves and population numbers are cut as they are expected to by 2030. Japan, as you know, had its first population cut last year.

The problem as I see it is that warmers are asking people to cut their living standards by 20-30% as a result of modeling on long static projections without even the slightest wiff important issues like population or tech improvements are taking into account.

In 2000 Alan Greenspan made an incredible observation to the Congress. The US economy since 1970 –2000 had grown by three fold. Yet GDP was 25% lighter than in 1970. That is , if you weighed the economy, it weighed 25%. Isn’t that amazing? Are any of these type of projections taking into account in these models?

James Annan said...


In mathematical terms "don’t be silly, you can’t project 100 years out and keep a straight face" is precisely equivalent to saying that the speaker's assessment of the uncertainty is that it is greater than the forecaster admits. You can't disagree with my forecast of 0.15C warming per decade without asserting that the probability of lower warming is higher than I admit. That's all probability is, an assessment of your uncertainty. This is a Bayesian problem, not a frequentist one - there is no "true" probability distribution of climate sensitivity (say), it is instead a fixed physical parameter that we are not yet sure about. See here for more discussion on similar lines.

Anonymous said...

< You can't disagree with my forecast of 0.15C warming per decade without asserting that the probability of lower warming is higher than I admit>.

Correct. However I can say that warming isn't all man made and these projections are going to cause 30% cut in my standard of living, which I am not going to accept because you have a 100 year projection model which is flimsy at best.

Would you also argue the same way to those deniers who think GW is happening because of natural reasons. In other wards we could be warmer in 15 years but for different reasons than your models suggest.

One true way for warmers to follow their own course of logic is to give up 30% of the standard of living right now. Do away with their cars, not fly and stop (reduce) heating or cooling their homes.

In other words, nothing is stopping warmers from leading a "Kyoto" life. So prove to us demiers you really mean what you say.

James Annan said...


You can waffle all you like about energy policy and how desirable it is to have the USA and much of the West entirely dependent on hostile countries in the Middle East. However, it doesn't seem much of a climate issue to me.

If the denialists claim they have just happened "by chance" to come up with the same forecasts for the same climate change as the climate scientists do, when the latter use all that is understood about the climate system and the former make up a lot of ad-hoc fairy tales, then I think the former will start to look rather silly (even sillier than they already do). But they are welcome to try...

Anonymous said...

I never mentioned anything about reliance on oil in a dangerous region. You did.

I merely suggested it would be a good thing to live the way one expects others to. It's called example.

Some denialists are denialists for a good reason. We are old enough to recall the chicken little stories in he 70's and early 80's that we were going to die of frostbight.

Now we are told there are much better models with better information that are telling us we will die of heat exhaustion.

I concede computer technology is better than it used to be but the data is essentially the same.

I see this type of behaviour in traders whenever there is a trend. It has to be justified. In other words the Stockmarket is going down for the following reasons- after the fact of course.

Maybe the same problem is happening in your neck of the woods. How many scientists were telling us the temps were going to rise after the 709's cool spot.

I am sure you have heard of mean reversion haven't you. No doubt we will be told of global cooling when that happens.

Anonymous said...


sorry to take up your time.Sincerely mean that.

I also appreciate the work you do as it helps all of us get a better handle on what we are doing. I am simp[ly someone tryiong to get a better understanding of what's going on. That's all.

James Annan said...

I never mentioned anything about reliance on oil in a dangerous region.

Indeed. It's strange how such an important debate is generally ignored (by both sides) in favour of some proxy war over temperature in 2100. It's like there is some unspoken agreement to not mention the elephant in the room.

If you're genuinely interested in climate, then you'll read this blog, realclimate and stoat (not necessarily in that order) rather than whatever septic drivel is currently be providing your talking points. Your choice.

Here's somewhere to start on your "ice age" theory:

Anonymous said...


I wouldn't be too concerned with Mid East oil making its way to the world market. They need to sell it as much as we need to buy it. That's what markets are about.

1.With large population growth in that region and Governments that are hated they are under serious pressure as well.

2. Higher oil prices will also begat lower prices. 15 years ago it used to cost $10 per b to find new oil wells. The little secret is that these days its costing $1 for exploration.
3. Squeezing tar sands becomes feasible if oil stays above $40 per B. We are only seeing small amounts of extraction in case the lower cost producers such as the mid east decide it doesn't want them as competitors and drops the price to run them out of business.

There are people suggesting we have reached peak oil because the chart has failed to continue in an upward direction. The reality is that the chart doesn't need to point upward as much as it needs to stay where it is. Tar sands and futher exploration will solve problems.

I wouldn't worry about oil as I don't think supply will be a big problem.

Who knows, if we reach singularity in the next 30 years we will have an oil subsitute without GHG problems.