Simply by negotiating the terms of climate wagers, both sides will be working together and agreeing. This will be a giant leap forward.
I’ve written in the past about my concerns with climate politics and its infiltration into public communications of climate change. One of the key issues that I have is the use of subjective opinions that are presented as fact. Almost everything projected is qualitative in nature. We read that floods will be “worse.” Or storms will be “stronger.” Hurricanes will be “more destructive.” Both the alarmist and the denier side do it – positional puffery designed to sound like fact.
Post Hoc Attribution is a Problem and Not A Solution
Also, too many blame climate change after some weather event. For example, people are saying that the California drought is due to climate change, which is contrary to the predictions. Another thing that I see as kind of the new language of correlation suggesting causation is the statement that some observed weather event “is consistent with” anthropogenic climate change. Or “linked to” climate change.
This causes problems because of the perception now that there no weather event that is not expected in a changing climate. Everything is “consistent with” anthropogenic climate change. This is not how to persuade the population.
What the climate community needs are objectively verifiable predictions.
Mark Boslough’s Bet is Making a Step, But Misses a Few Points
I read with some interest about Mark Boslough’s challenge that was reiterated for 2016. His bet is as follows: Using GISS mean global land temperatures, he is wagering $25,000 that 2016 will be the warmest year on record.
Boslough’s Choice is GISS Data was a Clever Selection
My thoughts? This is a good step because he is putting his money on something that sounds like it is objectively verifiable. There can be little argument about what GISS data actually shows.
Nevertheless, it is a misstep from a “mutual understanding” standpoint because Boslough knows full well that the denier camp doesn’t trust GISS data. Boslough likely would not make this same bet using the UAH data set (though I haven’t asked him this). And, it needs to be reiterated that in 2014, GISS could not state with certainty whether 2014 was the warmest year ever. It could only give probability that it was (which itself causes room for argument).
Which means that Boslough is making a rhetorical choice of data set. Make a bet using objective data that the opponent doesn’t trust and aunt the opponent.
Boslough Misses the Bigger Point – How Damaging is Global Warming?
It’s long been advocated that there are stages of climate change denial: (1) deny the existence; (2) deny humans are a cause; (3) accept the existence but deny it’s a problem; (4) deny there is anything that can be done; and (5) say it’s too late.
Boslough’s bet hits squarely on No. 1. Climate change advocacy has its big issue with No. 3. Boslough’s bet misses the point of contention. On the contrarian side they argue, “so what if the earth is warming? The negatives can be managed and the positives will outweigh them.”
This is where the meat of the argument is. How damaging is global warming? There are limitations to what we can predict. Climate models provide projections based on known start conditions and surmised end conditions. But a prediction is different from a projection. Predictions are testable.
The Climate Community Must Make Verifiable Predictions about the Effects of Climate Change
The climate community is losing the battle because it has failed to put out objective measurable changes. The climate community requires something akin to the Simon-Ehrlich wager. I myself see the argument as whether climate change is happening (it is) or whether the earth’s temperature is rising (it is).
The debate – indeed, the whole debate in Paris was about this – is about whether the effects of climate change will be beyond the ability of humans to adapt. To quote a presentation by Mark Boslough, is global warming “inconvenient or catastrophic?” The future can only be projected. We have no empirical observational data about 2025. Or even about tomorrow.
Whether Climate Change is Inconvenient or Catastrophic Must Be Demonstrated with Predictions Ahead of Time
Thus I maintain that in order to obtain credibility, the climate community must provide objective benchmark predictions. These predictions must not be subject to interpretation. They must also be indicative of a trend and cannot be individual events like storms or droughts.
One caution: do not place bets on global temperature. This must not be about whether the world is warming. It must instead focus solely on impacts. In order to demonstrate that there will be catastrophic things, there must be demonstrated that there was predicted these events.
Suggested Climate Change Benchmarks I’ve Thought Up
Here are some suggestions based upon a review of the popular press in a few categories:
(1) Sea level rising by three inches by 2025. Various projections include a sea level rise of between one and three meters by 2100. The IPCC projects 52-98 cm by 2100, and those at realclimate think this is much too conservative. I think a meter is something that stresses adaptive capabilities, and would be in excess of recent natural variability. Three inches in a decade would be indicative of potential catastrophe – pushing a meter by 2015. Let’s pick either satellite altimetry or a tide gauge (i.e. Monterey, CA., where isostatic rebound is not much of a factor.) 3 inches in ten years is within predictions that will lead to disaster.
(2) Polar sea ice: let’s see a 50% drop in minimum sea ice extent between 2016 and 2025. The Arctic was projected by many to be ice free before 2030. NSIDC director Mark Serreze reiterated in 2010 that the Arctic ice will not recover. Antarctic ice might have nowhere to go but down, but let’s focus on the Arctic. 2025 minimum sea ice extent gets down to 50% of its 2025 level.
(3) Food supply instability: famine in two or more western democracies by 2025. Logic – famine in command economies or dictatorships happens too easily/frequently. It’d take a real food shortage to affect a Western democracy. Maybe even look at, “Drop in worldwide obesity rate” as indicative of problems with food supply.
(4) Decreased crop yields: For example, corn. This goes along with No. 3. Predict that if the corn crop yield in bushels/acre is decreased at all in 2025 from 2016. Or perhaps a decrease in world wheat production from 2016 to 2025. I’m just looking for a decrease. In fact, a recent study predicted a 10% chance that corn yields will decrease in the next 10 to 20 years. Let’s actually predict a result/trend.
(5) Tropical disease moving north: Benchmark of 500 endemic malaria diagnoses north of the 37th parallel in North America in 2025. Logic: malaria was endemic to points north of the 37th parallel prior to its eradication in the early 50s. It’s been predicted that tropical diseases will move north in the US. 37th parallel is an easy enough line on the map where, if there is enough warming, malaria should have no trouble getting a mere 50 people per year (who weren’t infected elsewhere). If cases are not too high it means people are adapting.
(6) Growing patterns: commercial outdoor citrus production north of the 33rd parallel in Eastern North America by 2025. Same logic as above. If warming is enough to affect vernalization then stonefruit production will move north and citrus production will do the same.
(7) Accumulated Cyclone Energy: 3 years of global tropical ACE above 2400 (10^4 knots^2) between 2016 and 2025. If warming is to increase global cyclone energy to catastrophic levels then this level is a good benchmark of the road to catastrophe. If further eliminates the whole concept of individual storms and of geographic variability like the dearth of Western Atlantic cyclone activity over the last decade.
Suggestions for a Grand Wager of Petty Monetary Amounts
I do not want to see the same old argument of whether the earth is warming. The earth is warming. Whether slowly, quickly, whatever. The earth is warming. Assume it. Don’t think the earth is warming? Then make the bet. Nothing to lose. Think the earth is warming with disastrous results? Then put down some benchmarks and lay down a dollar per bet.
I assure you that such a wager would not be about money. It would be about pride. It would be something to work in the guidance of the discussion.
And ultimately, such a bet would “separate the signal from the noise” with regard to the discussion. “Storms are more powerful and damaging” is noise. “ACE will exceed 2400 (10^4 knots^2) for three calendar years between 2016 and 2025.” Now you are talking! We can test this.
It is vital that those who seek to convince the public that the consequences of climate change are deleterious must be able to demonstrate that they have made predictions that were objectively measurable, that these predictions were made a time in the past, and that the future observations confirmed the predicted events.
On top of that, the skeptics are having their feet held to the fire. If they wish to deny that sea level rise will accelerate, then they can put their reputations on the line and draw make that line. It will be a decade before results are obtained.
Such a Bet Would Open Communications and Call the Other Side’s Bluffs
No doubt that each side has its extremists. One could, for example, see whether the terms will be “six inches of sea level rise at Monterey by 2025.” It would be a bold bet, but also within many predictions (would make more than a meter by 2100).
Negotiating the Terms for the Bet will be the Best Indication of Where we Stand
Once negotiations for these bets start occurring, we are going to see a whole new arena of understanding. Could be that the negotiation is that “Minimum Arctic Sea Ice extent will be 20% lower in 2025 than in 2016.” Once the “alarmist” says, “You say it isn’t happening. So let’s go with 10% lower in 2025 than 2016” we might see the denier saying, “No way. Make it 20%. You previously alleged a 50% drop.”
The Bet Negotiations Will Show Where the Agreement Is!
The negotiation of the bet will bring the sides together. It will show where the agreements are and where the disagreements are. Rather than focusing on the difference between the sides, it will put a focus on where they agree.
This would be a positive step for all sides in this matter. The rhetoric will be cut. The taunting may indeed become good-natured. And the bigger the names, the more the public will be interested.
How it turns out? Let’s give it a decade.