Wanna Bet?

by Don Boudreaux on May 31, 2011

in Environment

In today’s Wall Street Journal, Julian Simon’s inspiration is evident: I offer to bet up to a total of $10,000 that the number of Americans who will be killed over the next 20 years by tornados, floods, and hurricanes will be fewer than are the number who were killed in the immediately preceding 20 years.  Here are my closing paragraphs:

So confident am I that the number of deaths from violent storms will continue to decline that I challenge Mr. McKibben—or Al Gore, Paul Krugman, or any other climate-change doomsayer—to put his wealth where his words are. I’ll bet $10,000 that the average annual number of Americans killed by tornadoes, floods and hurricanes will fall over the next 20 years. Specifically, I’ll bet that the average annual number of Americans killed by these violent weather events from 2011 through 2030 will be lower than it was from 1991 through 2010.

If environmentalists really are convinced that climate change inevitably makes life on Earth more lethal, this bet for them is a no-brainer. They can position themselves to earn a cool 10 grand while demonstrating to a still-skeptical American public the seriousness of their convictions.

But if no one accepts my bet, what would that fact say about how seriously Americans should treat climate-change doomsaying?

Do I have any takers?

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{ 140 comments }

John Quiggin May 31, 2011 at 7:03 am

Out of interest, how would the bet have gone if you had made it for 1991-2010 with the baseline being the previous 20 years? At least for hurricanes, this Roger Pielke figure suggests that you would have lost pretty badly.
http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/socasp/weather1/figures/pielke2.gif
. But I don’t know how general that is

Don Boudreaux May 31, 2011 at 7:12 am

For only hurricanes, yes – but that stat in the U.S. is driven overwhelmingly by a single event: Katrina in 2005. And the great majority of that hurricane’s tragedies resulted from the day-after failure of the levees to hold. I’m willing to take this bet even though people’s safety is often in the hands of government officials such as the Army Corps of Engineers.

. June 1, 2011 at 6:06 am

Is Quiggin going to man up or is he trash talking?

W.E. Heasley May 31, 2011 at 7:15 am

Dr. B. is channeling Henry Tyroon and Jay Ray Spinelby from the 1963 movie The Wheeler Dealers!

WhiskeyJim May 31, 2011 at 7:23 am

Beautifully done, Don:)

NotSure May 31, 2011 at 7:31 am

The interesting thing about this bet is how valuable $10 000 will be in 20 years time. Perhaps a bar of gold could be used for the bet instead !

magilson May 31, 2011 at 7:36 am

Why bother? The likes of Krugman is in no way concerned with the value of the dollar. The very policies that concern Don and other’s are the policies that keep Mr. Krugman warm at night.

Steve Cramoysan May 31, 2011 at 7:38 am

There is a compelling logic in your challenge. However, the weakness in your bet is that you limit the scope to “the number of Americans” by which I assume you mean citizens of USA. The worst effects of climate change will be felt by those in areas of the world that are less able to mitigate the anticipated risks and less able to dela with the consequences.

In addition $10K may be an amount you are willing and able to afford to lose. For many of the people at highest risk of the effects of climate change $10K is a lifetimes income!! They can’t afford to accept your bet.

kyle8 May 31, 2011 at 7:43 am

That would all be true if AGW were not an obvoius scare hoax that you fell for.

Steve Cramoysan May 31, 2011 at 7:56 am

AGW? No idea what hoax you claim I fell for. Explain.

Dean Sayers May 31, 2011 at 9:28 am

I think they mean anthropogenic global warming. But It’s not clear why “kyle8″ thinks that humans need to be responsible to be subject to climate change (global warming for anyone who has surveyed the facts). Pretty sure the Polar Bears weren’t responsible, either, but that didn’t help them…

Ken May 31, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Is there some reason you’re referring to polar bears in the past tense, Mr. Sayers?

Victor May 31, 2011 at 8:14 am

These will be the worst in poorer parts of the world (like mississipi, lol), which is exactly the reason why economic growth must not be ground to a halt to reduce CO2 emissions.

brotio May 31, 2011 at 5:12 pm

*like*

Harold Cockerill May 31, 2011 at 7:13 pm

The only result of government’s efforts to modify climate will be the damage done to the economy. Affecting climate is really hard compared to something as simple as wiping out poverty. How has government done on that little item?

Government is really good at spending money, breaking things and killing people, okay at a few things and really bad at nearly everything else. Climate modification will be in the everything else column.

Georges Kaplan May 31, 2011 at 8:31 am

Steve,
Let me re-phrase Don’s bet:
“I’ll bet that the average annual percent [hey! population growth...] of people living in East-Asia killed by these violent weather events from 2011 through 2030 will be lower than it was from 1991 through 2010.”
Would you bet with me?

Emil May 31, 2011 at 10:44 am

Steve,

it would still work because those poor people are becoming richer and richer all the time and will therefore be more and more capable of protecting themselves from bad weather. Alas, they will experience a stronger reductions in the number of deaths from violent storms than the US. The law of diminishing return does work you now

vidyohs May 31, 2011 at 11:22 am

How do you see a weakness in Don’s offer or the parameters he outlined, parameters I might add that are pretty much already established by the ones he offers the bet to.

Don specifically names tornados, floods, and hurricanes, and specifically names Americans, because that is what the believers in AGW are concerned with in their current rant caused by the recent tornado activity and the flooding in the Mississippi river.

Don also specifically names those with whom he is willing to bet, “I challenge Mr. McKibben—or Al Gore, Paul Krugman, or any other climate-change doomsayer—to put his wealth where his words are.” Which by itself would tell an intelligent person he isn’t offering the bet to a wandering herdsman in the Sudan.

Do you guys on the left go to a school where they teach disingenuous thinking, writing, and speaking?

Kevin May 31, 2011 at 11:32 am

Yep….right down the street from the Institute of Mindless Insults….where you clearly matriculated from vidyohs!

vidyohs May 31, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Awwww sweetheart, huggy Bears and kissy face!

Nothing mindless about my insults to and about the left. My insults to the left are well founded in truth and are in exact kind as the looney left will give to anyone who disagrees with them.

I know that nothing I say, Don says, or anyone else here says, not one single looney lefty will brought to the light. Oh so long ago,I quit deluding myself that it can be done.

Therefore when I talk about, or to, thugs, social and political muggers, liars, cheats, thieves, self deluding, power hungry, statists, self appointed nannies, disingenuous, moral reprobates, and the broken brained, I feel no need to be less than up front and truthful in my conversations or writings.

When you’re compelled to think, act, speak, and do with lunacy, I think it appropriate to label you looney, because to me it is simply truth in labeling and required by law, not an insult at all.

Kevin May 31, 2011 at 9:25 pm

Required by law eh? Which law might that be and who instituted it. BTW….get over yourself in thinking anything you say comes anywhere near hurting my feelings.

vidyohs May 31, 2011 at 10:11 pm

@Kevin,

Congratulations, good on you! Staunchly said, Kevin sir.

http://www.fda.gov/regulatoryinformation/legislation/ucm148722.htm says I have to label you and your product as it is. In your case that seems to be on the looney left side of things.

No insults, just facts.

Marcus May 31, 2011 at 11:59 am

“The worst effects of climate change will be felt by those in areas of the world that are less able to mitigate the anticipated risks and less able to dela with the consequences.”

That’s not a ‘weakness’ in Don’s argument, it’s a fundamental part of his entire point. He writes, “…economics and history teach that human beings in market economies have proven remarkably creative and resourceful in overcoming challenges.” [emphasis mine]

If I understand you correctly I think you actually agree with Don. Don’s entire point is that in market driven economies people get better and better at dealing with change.

Marcus May 31, 2011 at 12:01 pm

My second paragraph above was suppose to be replaced by my first paragraph, which is why it repeats basically the same information. My apologies for the editing screwup.

Don Boudreaux May 31, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Yep!

Victor May 31, 2011 at 8:12 am

Haha, I bet Paul Krugman is just waiting to lose money again to an optimist.

Henry Bowman May 31, 2011 at 8:28 am

As another commenter has pointed out, it really would make more sense to wager in gold rather than in a currency which will surely be worth substantially less in 20 years. But, I predict that the only way you’ll get takers for the bet is if those wagering are using someone else’s money. After all, that seems the Wall Street way these days.

Justin P May 31, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Well the type of people that are all looney for AGW are also the ones going gaga for more inflation.

DaveyNC May 31, 2011 at 8:28 am
Nate May 31, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Even those who deny the existence of global climate change are having trouble dismissing the evidence of the last year.

Error! Error! Bad science alert! You can’t draw conclusions from single data points! This is exactly the kind of logical fallacy used by the author’s opponents when they say things like, “well it’s snowing in April, where’s your global warming now!?!”

And that’s on top of the utter lack of any evidence to demonstrate any of the author’s claims, all of which can be refuted by the following graphs:

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/severeweather/tornadoes.html#history
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pastprofile.shtml#ncy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NOAA_ACE_index_1950-2004_RGB.svg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Amo_timeseries_1856-present.svg

Bill Koehler May 31, 2011 at 8:39 am

Another bet for your consideration.
Vermont enacted single payer health care. Bets:
1) Doctor shortage will hit Vermont
2) costs will rise
3) care will be poor
4) care will be rationed
5) Senator Bernie Sanders will not take this bet!

Gordon Richens May 31, 2011 at 10:13 am

I’m taking bets on the number of geophysicists there will be in Italy in 2016.

rhhardin May 31, 2011 at 9:13 am

In the nothing-changing case, it’s 50% that you lose the bet, unless you’re going on increasing wealth reducing casualties via construction codes and so forth.

As to the connection of global warming to these events, it’s 50% that it makes them worse and 50% that it makes it better, if there’s global warming.

So the bet doesn’t seem to reach anthropogenic global warming at all, being an all-around 50% bet whatever is true.

AGW should be defeated by their being zero evidence for it. Mathematical fact – you can’t tell a cycle from a trend with an amount of data that’s short compared to the cycle you want to exclude. (Mechanism: the eigenvalues of the matrix that discriminates these explode, making no possible measurement accuracy adequate.) The hockey stick was an attempt to get past this – explosive growth in temperature can’t be a cycle – but alas the hockey stick is dead, leaving zero evidence that anything being seen is anything but a cycle. A cycle can’t be anthropogenic. QED.

Don Boudreaux May 31, 2011 at 9:19 am

I’m betting only that growing prosperity and continuing innovation will reduce the lethality of whatever tornados, floods, and hurricanes occur over the next 20 years. I’m betting, therefore, that IF weather becomes more severe over the next 20 years, Americans (1) will continue to inhabit a reasonably free market economy, and (2) will be prompted by that economy to adapt successfully to whatever climate change occurs.

SheetWise May 31, 2011 at 9:51 am

“I’m betting … over the next 20 years, Americans (1) will continue to inhabit a reasonably free market economy”

You’re really pushing the limits here. I’ll take “continue” in context, but you’ll have to define “reasonably” …

Don Boudreaux May 31, 2011 at 9:56 am

Admittedly, defining this concept is difficult. How about this? The U.S. economy will be reasonably-enough free if private property rights don’t become much more subject to arbitrary confiscation than they are now, and innovation continues to be generally welcomed and celebrated.

Methinks1776 May 31, 2011 at 11:47 am

Oh, well, now you put it that way….:(

Don Lloyd May 31, 2011 at 12:45 pm

“…and innovation continues to be generally welcomed and celebrated….”

Innovation will be more likely to occur if it becomes ignored except by direct profit-making beneficiaries and does not become the concern of a Federal Czar of Innovation.

Regards, Don

SheetWise May 31, 2011 at 10:58 pm

“Admittedly, defining this concept is difficult.”

That is the tyranny of the status quo.

Dan June 1, 2011 at 1:07 pm

An Obama second term is not congruent with expanded property rights and freer economic activity. Another 4 yrs of regression.

SheetWise June 1, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Dan is static. Separate the noise from the signal.

dhlii June 1, 2011 at 3:01 am

I grasp and generally agree with the central premise of your bet.
Separately despite the hype from the Climate Change cult, warming – should we be so lucky is more likely to produce milder more stable climates. The real danger to your bet would be serious cooling – which is associated with draughts, more severe weather – including tornados.
And if the sun has anything to do with it, we are already in the early phases of a multi-decade cooling spell. Those of us skeptical of AGW tend to be equally uncertain of other contending theories, but the last several times that solar cycles aligned as they are currently, the Thames froze each winter for more than a decade.

I will be happy to bet on human ingenuity. But I am not so certain that in the short term it will be sufficient to overcome the sun’s revenge upon us for ignoring it, and I hope that we will still live in a free market economy. but that seems to be less and less true – and a weak and stalling recovery with intractable unemployment seems to be confirming that.

Gil June 1, 2011 at 3:53 am

That’s a pretty safe bet – this can be seen when comparing recovery from disasters for Americans versus Haitians. I would easily believe there’s no reasons for Americans to die en masse from a natural disaster compared to Americans living around a century ago. Americans have plenty warning, time and ability to evacuate when a violent hurricane is approaching the coast.

The world is warming? For many Americans that means a slightly higher electricity bill. Food might become a tad more expensive? That means Americans will be a tad less fat. The ocean may rise a foot or so? That Americans have less distance to walk when they go swimming at the beach.

Dean Sayers May 31, 2011 at 9:25 am

Maybe the real bet here was on high inflation…

Michael Bourne May 31, 2011 at 9:45 am

Can I respectfully suggest that if no one takes you up it may be because they’re extremely uncomfortable with the idea of making money from people dying, rather than their scared to “put their wealth where their words” are?

If I’m taking the whole thing too seriously, and you were just being ironic to make a point, apologies, I find it increasingly hard to tell when people are doing it and when they’re not. If you weren’t, then I must say this a disappointing post, from the high standards you continually set yourself

Economiser May 31, 2011 at 9:59 am

This could easily be converted into a bet on behalf of charities. The climate change crusaders should jump at the chance to get a $10,000 donation to the charity of their choice.

Don May 31, 2011 at 10:44 am

Mr. Bourne,
May I respectfully suggest that your argument is horse-hockey, in that billions of dollars which would and should have gone to building the economies of the worst countries on Earth have instead been confiscated by the green lobby and their financial masters?
For what we have spent on windmills in Texas that haven’t done a damned thing to reduce “carbon emissions” because of their unreliability, we could have taught at least the entire population of Somalia useful farming and manufacturing techniques, and quite probably built aqueducts and desalination plants too.

PoliteEdward May 31, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Don Boudreaux usually comments as “Don Boudreaux”, not “Don”. I’m suspicious…

HaywoodU May 31, 2011 at 2:48 pm

He did not indicate that he is Don B.

Michael Bourne June 1, 2011 at 2:56 am

Don

Is “Horse-Hockey” kind of like Polo? So you’re saying my argument is rich, energetic, but perhaps a little exclusive?

Anyway, your argument is very interesting, and a good starting point for a lively discussion, but it has nothing at all to do with my argument, which was that it would be dishonest of Don Boudreaux (whether you be he or not) to claim some sort of victory if no-one takes him up on his bet, when there are other factors involved here. Any of the people he names, or indeed anyone, would go down in my estimation if they made a bet on the fact that more people would die.

Thanks for the respect though :)

Ken May 31, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Michael,

When people start seriously suggesting that EMTs, doctors, nurses, biochemists, etc. get paid nothing, I’ll take serious your foolish suggestion that people are “extremely uncomfortable with the idea of making money from people dying”.

Regards,
ken

SheetWise May 31, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Well … they are, ostensibly, attempting to prolong life.

Perhaps the undertaker and casket-maker would serve as a better example. Or the Marlboro Man, your pick.

Michael Bourne June 1, 2011 at 3:04 am

Ken

I’ll take your point, though I think there’s a bit of a difference between most of the professions you mention, and making a wager on people’s lives. The fact remains though that I (at least) would be extremely uncomfortable with the idea of making money from people dying, so I only need to find one more such person to move my suggestion from “foolish” to “true”.

I can’t speak for Messrs McKibben, Krugman or Gore, but I’m probably what Don would cast as a “Climate Doomsayer” , so I do fall into his sample, and what’s stopping me from taking up his offer (for a fraction of the total bet by the way) is not my certainty that he’ll be wrong, but the morality of the whole wager, which I think I’ve highlighted plenty already.

Regards
Michael

Michael Bourne June 1, 2011 at 4:03 am

sorry that’s a bit misleading in that I’m not certain Don will be wrong. It should read “is not the relative likelihood of him being right or wrong, but the morality…”

Ken June 1, 2011 at 8:13 am

Michael,

You don’t think the people who go into the professions I mention, particularly doctors, are making a bet that people will get sick? Do you have any idea how much it costs to become a doctor? We now have a shortage of doctors in a couple of areas because people know it costs more to become a particular type of doctor than it pays to be that particular kind of doctor.

The fact is that every single decision we make about the future is a bet made on the future. There isn’t anything more honorable than someone betting it is profitable to become a doctor rather than an economist betting that fewer people will die in the future due to extreme weather.

Additionally, there isn’t anything more honorable about a politician making a bet that he will get reelected if he forces some green legislation down the throats of Americans.

Regards,
Ken

Michael Bourne June 1, 2011 at 11:08 am

Ken

Thanks, a couple of minor points first.

1. I notice you talk about “an economist betting that FEWER people will die” rather than more, which is kind of one of my points here. Don’s offer is much more palatable to make than to take up, so he shouldn’t be surprised if no-one takes him up on it. Collecting any amount of money because not many people had died would be much more pleasant than doing so because many people had.

2. If a politician’s been reelected they’ve been given a mandate to govern. to speak of them “forcing…legislation down…throats” is a bit misleading on the language front. This is especially true if, as your turn of phrase suggests, the legislation in question has led to his getting reelected.

On your main point you may well be right in many ways. However “honourable” is a pretty subjective concept, and I would suggest that the majority of people would agree with me that being a Doctor is more “honourable” than making a living out of betting on disasters.

I’m enjoying the discussion, thanks for replying.

Regards,
Michael

Ken June 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Michael,

“I would suggest that the majority of people would agree with me that being a Doctor is more “honourable” than making a living out of betting on disasters.”

I agree that many people would agree with your statement. What I’m saying is that you and these many people are wrong. Betting is as legitimate and honorable as any other profession. More to the point picking a profession is a bet. Picking a place to live is a bet. Picking when and where to enter a profession is a bet. Making decisions while in that profession is a bet. Every time a doctor prescribes medicine or a procedure they are making the bet that that course of action will make the patient better off rather than worse off (assuming this person is honorable to begin with).

When you get in your car to drive anywhere there is a non-zero probability you will die, but you’re making the bet you won’t. When you get on a major highway, you’re making the bet you won’t die, be killed, or kill anyone else, despite there being a non-zero probability of all these things. You’re making the bet that it will pay off for you to drive to wherever you are going rather than not pay off and die.

Very rarely do people have total knowledge, obtaining perfect information allowing them the be 100% certain of anything. Every decision people make is based on probabilities. Since people exist to make their own lives better, no one will knowingly make a decision that will make their lives worse off (although there is plenty of trade off between the long run and short run). The whole feeling of unsavoriness people get from the word “gambling” is a psychological hoax.

You also seem to missing the entire point of betting. Betting serves the wonderful purpose of transmitting information to those observing the betting. If 1000 people are willing to put up $1000 that event E will happen and only 10 are willing to put up $1000 that event E will not happen, what does that tell you? It tells you that with the aggregated information from people who think they are knowledgeable about E that the probability of E occurring is 99%.

This is precisely what a stock market is and why it’s so important. Daily billions of people make bets on the value of stocks whose value is based on many things, including whether or not people will die.

The purpose of the bet that Don is making is to find the actual probability of whether or not more deaths will occur over the next 20 years due to extreme weather than the previous 20 years; this probability is approximated by what people think it is. It is information gathering.

The other reason for issuing a bet is to separate those who really believe what they are saying from those who are saying something for some other gain. The second group of people are people who know that what they are saying is wrong, but are purposefully misleading others, i.e., lying, in order to gain more influence and/or power. Also, the second group of people won’t place a bet since if they place a bet to win, they undermine what they’ve been saying and if they place a bet in line with what they’ve been saying, they lose money.

Regards,
Ken

expat May 31, 2011 at 10:01 am

“will continue to inhabit a reasonably free market economy,”
That’s a HUGE assumption when you look at what’s going on in the USA these days.

Ryan Vann May 31, 2011 at 10:18 am

Your treacherous ways won’t go unnoticed. If doomsday comes, the dollars will only be good for stoking fires. Well, not even that, because they will probably be digital by then. Shame on you for your ruse Don. Shame on you.

vidyohs May 31, 2011 at 10:20 am

The very fact that only 20 comments into the post there is already a debate on the interpretation of the word reasonably, plus the criticism of the restriction of deaths to the USA and not inclusive of the world at large. Why we even have a polar bear die-off.

Don’s mistake is to offer to bet with a group of people (looney left) who have no moral foundation on which standards and parameters can be established to determine a winner of the bet; and, in addition their lack of moral foundation has proven time and time again that they refuse to recognize that they have lost an argument, debate, or bet. For instance, if Don pointed out that earthquakes are not the result of climate change, the looney left Druids in East Angelica College, and the Shamans in American colleges would all concoct evidence to the contrary. Evidence which they would then introduce into a lawsuit in a federal court presided over by a looney left judge, who would then, through the use of disingenuous reasoning, declare the bet null and void.

In short, if one respects one’s position and money, one never bets with a dishonest person.

SheetWise May 31, 2011 at 11:35 pm

“In short, if one respects one’s position and money, one never bets with a dishonest person.”

You’re right. People who believe in climate warming should be shorting businesses with a shoreline profile, looking for derivatives in flood insurance, buying inland “beachfront” property, and going long on innovations in refrigeration. No need to bet with a dishonest person — but there is that “respecting” your own position dilemma …

vidyohs May 31, 2011 at 10:21 am

Bah. First sentence was incomplete:

The very fact that only 20 comments into the post there is already a debate on the interpretation of the word reasonably, plus the criticism of the restriction of deaths to the USA and not inclusive of the world at large proves up my following comment.

SheetWise May 31, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Restricting deaths to the USA, and proposing that casualties will counter-intuitively be inversely related to population growth — as opposed to the world, where casualties would likely be directly related to population growth — is a fundamental part of the disagreement, don’t you think? The question is twofold — is it real, and if so, can we adapt?

vidyohs June 1, 2011 at 6:09 am

You, whoever, can take the proposition of deaths due to climate change to any lengths and to any place you choose, all without altering the clear and rather strict parameters of Don’s offer to bet.

If you feel a bet should be made on less strict parameters, draw up your own proposition using your own parameters, and offer the bet. Go for it.

PG May 31, 2011 at 10:30 am

Don, Bravo!

Nemoknada May 31, 2011 at 12:02 pm

“But if no one accepts my bet, what would that fact say about how seriously Americans should treat climate-change doomsaying?”

Let’s look at that question through the other end of the telescope. How certain would you have to be of an event to be willing to bet $10,000 that it will happen? If you made your living betting $10,000 thousands of times a day, maybe a 52% confidence level would suffice. But if you’re only making one such bet, and $10k is more than pocket change, maybe you need a higher confidence level. So, I guess the answer to the original question, as stated, is “NOTHING,” like so many of the DB’s parodies of libertarian logic.

Don Boudreaux May 31, 2011 at 12:25 pm

FYI, (1) I do not make my living by making bets; and (2) $10,000 – even when discounted into the future 20 years and by some likely rate of inflation over that time – is much more than mere pocket change for me. I’m nevertheless willing to bet that our ability to adapt to whatever more-severe weather is caused by climate change is real and will prove successful in making us even safer over time.

Nemoknada June 1, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Yes, but how sure are you? Put a percentage on it. 100% 99%? And then tell us at what percentage you would NOT make the bet, because that’s the answer to the question you asked in your post. Would you make it at 80%? If not, can we say that your opponents are only 80% certain of their view but, like you, are not willing to bet at that level?

Moreover, big Bastiat fan that you are, what about the unseen GOOD that we could do with the brainpower and resources that will have to be devoted to developing climate-fighting technologies? Wouldn’t they be better used fighting cancer than mildew?

Economiser May 31, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Judging by the desperate pleas for action by the climate change doomsayers, their confidence level is well above 52%. Certainly their confidence level is high enough that they are willing to ask the government (and hence, the taxpayers) to spend millions, if not billions, to combat climate change. It’s not unreasonable to ask them to put their money where their mouth is.

Also, a minor point: Don is willing to bet “up to” $10,000. That doesn’t preclude a single bet for a lower amount.

Don Boudreaux May 31, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Well said, Economiser.

And I should here clarify that by “up to a total of $10,000″ I mean that $10,000 is the maximum amount that I’m willing to bet. I’m happy to do so in a one-lump sum bet against an individual or a consortium of individuals; or to do so in pieces – e.g., a $7,500 bet with Paul Krugman and a $2,500 bet with Bill McKibben.

57 May 31, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Sadly, I’m not so sure that asking taxpayers to spend millions or billions of dollars on an issue reflects >52% confidence for many individuals.

LowcountryJoe May 31, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Yes! These people — these scare mongering pundits and their environmental religion — write/speak in absolutes that suggests that they are certain of what’s to come. So certain, in fact, that they almost always provide the time frame of the ‘impending doom’. Well; let them finally put their money where their mouths are. And, if they don’t, they should be called out for their apparent contradictions because they spoke/wrote with absolutes and certainty.

Mao_Dung May 31, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Is $10,000 the aggregate amount you are willing to lose? I don’t know your net worth, so I don’t know how much skin you really have in the game. Anyway, I don’t think you have enough information to make an intelligent bet. Billionaire hedge fund managers would probably tell you they have a better almost foolproof way to beat the odds. Casio operators in Las Vegas can say the same thing.

Offhand, I would say that you will lose your money. A growing population will probably put more people at risk. The increase in bad storms due to global warming will cause more casualties. There may be an offset due to greater safety measures, but just looking at what happened in New Orleans and Japan, these efforts to create safety can be easily overwhelmed. I would say that you would be better off to take your 10 grand to Vegas and have one hell of a time blowing your money. (If you call that fun.)

Ken May 31, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Dung,

“Offhand, I would say that you will lose your money.”

You don’t believe this, otherwise, you’d take the bet. You’ll win the $10,000 with the same amount of certainty that Don will lose it. If $10,000 is too much, Don has explicitly stated that he will take smaller bets that sum up to $10,000. So bet him.

The fact that you haven’t bet him shows that you do NOT believe he will lose his money, since if he did lose the money would be lost TO YOU. It’s free money for you by your own words, but your actions tell a very different story.

Regards,
Ken

Victor June 1, 2011 at 5:06 am

Before you take this bet, you might consider you lack of historic understanding. Take for example the following:
http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/1923-japanese-quake-killed-a-quarter-of-a-million-people/
A smaller quake in 1923 killed a quarter of a million people.

Roger Pielke Jr. May 31, 2011 at 1:24 pm
Ken May 31, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Don,

Please keep us posted as to the development of this bet.

Regards,
Ken

LowcountryJoe May 31, 2011 at 2:26 pm

I’m not aligned with your way of thinking on this one but I believe that you’ve correctly interpreted this bet based on the way Don proposed it. I am curious as to why he went with average annual and not total. but then it seems to me that there’s a disconnect because of the time frame range being discussed and your assumption [and your assumption could be correct] that you can win the bet before 2030. No matter, with the words “Here are the technical terms of the bet that I will accept…”, you have just made a counter-proposal which Don must now be willing to accept. I am interested in seeing his response.

Ken May 31, 2011 at 2:52 pm

LowcountryJoe,

The totals and averages are directly related. The ONLY way the average number of deaths from 2011 to 2030 to be lower than the average number of deaths from 1991 to 2010 is for the total number of deaths to be lower as well.

Since the total number (hence the average) of deaths dropped significantly from from the period 1971 to 1991 to the period 1991 to 2010, it is reasonable to assume that the total (hence the average) number dead will drop further from 2011 to 2030. Here are the trends from the pdf that Roger himself provided:

1951 – 1970 total deaths: 5636; 282 per year
1971 – 1990 total deaths: 4639; 232 per year
1991 – 2010 total deaths: 4022; 201 per year

There is a clear downward trend.

Roger, are you willing to bet me too? I can only afford to bet $1000, though.

Regards,
Ken

Economiser May 31, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Agreed. In theory Roger could win the bet before 2030 if the total number of such casualties exceeds 4022 by an earlier date; therefore the 20-year average must also exceed 201.

I like this bet even with the 500+ tornado deaths so far in 2011.

LowcountryJoe May 31, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Roger Pielke Jr., if I am reading his linked commentary correctly, is attempting to make the bet about an established number based on the previous 20 year annual average [I think he mentions 180 deaths per year if the deaths from Katrina are included]. I think this is what Don proposed. Whereas if Don had just stuck with the total number of deaths over the next 20 years, it would have been safe and there would have been no [or very little] room open for interpretation. In a 20 year period, it would be very easy to have one event cross the 180 death threshold and make the bet for Don a losing one.

Trey May 31, 2011 at 11:49 pm

This is great stuff .The way I made it to Cafe Hayek was from Roger’s blog -> Robert Bryce’s blog -> Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist book/blog -> here. I read both blogs everyday. The readers here should know that Roger is kind of in the middle of the AGW debate. He thinks that climate change is happening, but understands that the solutions to it are not going to happen overnight. He gets mistreated more by the proponents of AGW than the skeptics. His father is a world class climate scientist who has serious problems with the IPCC’s fixation on carbon as the only cause of climate change.

While I agree with the sentiment of Don’s bet, I think he is likely to lose, for the very reason that Roger gives. (I am in general agreement with Don, Julian Simon, Matt Ridley, Indur Goklany, and others about the improving state of humanity, natural resources, and the environment.) Roger has posted many times on how the data does not suggest that hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. are happening more often. What he does suggest, is that the vulnerability to these storms is more likely because of population dynamics. If the bet was framed in a way that accounted for increased population into the most susceptible areas of weather-related natural disasters (the coast and tornado alley), then I would take Don’s side of the bet. (Better construction, early warnings, etc.)   

Vance Armor May 31, 2011 at 1:24 pm

When you consider your statistics from deaths by tornados, floods, lightning, heat, etc., you should take into consideration the fact that prior to 1950 the federal government banned the use of the word “tornado” over the airwaves. Several terrible tornados in the 1920s prompted Herbert Hoover’s nationalized airwave highway for radio traffic to ban the use of the word “tornado” because certain Progressive know-it-alls believed that the word “tornado” caused “public panics,” and, hurt “public morale” in the days of unrestricted New Deal fascism and war planning. There was no public warning given for the Woodward, Oklahoma tornado of 1947 other than a “bad storm” in the immediate area, but the word “tornado” was not permitted to be used until after the fact by the radio broadcasters of the area.

Vance Armor May 31, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Don — I didn’t receive the answers to questions 2 and 3 of your pop quiz. My answer was different than most of the answers concerning the BMW auto question.

LAD May 31, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Implicit in Don’s viewpoint is that innovation and productivity make life better and safer over time. However, such is the case only in the presence of capitalism. Don’s premise is true in South Korea but not North Korea, pre-revolution Cuba but not post-revolution Cuba, West Germany but not East Germany and Hong Kong but not China. So the real exposure facing Don is whether his premise will be true in post-Obama America?

Dan H May 31, 2011 at 2:11 pm

It’s very simple. If you disagree with him, take the bet. Otherwise, shut the hell up.

This reminds me of Bryan Caplan saying something to the effect of “all economists who make predicitons should be willing to make a bet based on their prediction… if you’re not willing to risk your own money, then you must not genuinely believe your own words”.

So far, we have one taker. Have fun losing money, pal.

Economiser May 31, 2011 at 5:00 pm

That’s a great policy. It would certainly make pundits steer away from extreme positions.

Brian May 31, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Off-topic, but I have a question. The 1920s showed a massive economic expansion from 1921 to 1929. What is the cause for this expansion? The expansion of credit from the Fed?
While it does not mirror the 1983-2007 expansion, are there some similarities?
Finally, where could I go for more information about this?

Victor June 1, 2011 at 5:11 am

You might want to look into Kondriatieff cycles

http://halswanson.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/kondratieffwaves.gif

vikingvista May 31, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Plenty of people would take that bet. There were also people who would have taken that bet regarding the rapture a week before last Saturday. True believers sincerely discard all skepticism. That is no less true for the man-is-destroying-the-earth crowd, than for your run-of-the-mill bible-toting millenarian. Religious millenarians have always been wrong, and yet there are still millenarians. You expect a rational calculation where reason has been discarded.

I still love it.

Emil May 31, 2011 at 5:30 pm

maybe they would take the bet … but only with other people’s money

wobbles May 31, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Cute, but silly. No one’s going to remember your bet two weeks from now, let alone 20 years from now. And in any event, if dollars even still exist in 2030 you’ll probably be lucky to be able to buy a toothpick for $10,000.

vikingvista May 31, 2011 at 4:34 pm

If someone takes the bet, Don will remember. And when the bet comes due, Don will remind everyone.

The importance is in the winning of the bet, not the amount.

Sam June 1, 2011 at 1:34 am

Eh…I’m sure Don would accept Bitcoins.

Tania May 31, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Yes! These people — these scare mongering pundits and their environmental religion write/speak in absolutes that suggests that they are certain of what’s to come. So certain, in fact, that they almost always provide the time frame of the ‘impending doom. Well; let them finally put their money where their mouths are. And, if they don’t, they should be casino called out for their apparent contradictions because they spoke/wrote with absolutes and certainty.

LowcountryJoe May 31, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Hmm…this sounds really familiar to me for some reason.

Henry May 31, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Don’t people think that the fascinating point here is that Don is essentially admitting to the reality of climate change. His proposal that humans will adapt to such change is fundamentally different than saying there will be no change at all. Don is a believer of AGW!

brotio May 31, 2011 at 5:22 pm

I suspect you of sarcasm, but just in case:

Anyone who denies climate change is ignorant. Conflating that to human-caused climate change is disingenuousness worthy Daniel Kuehn.

vikingvista May 31, 2011 at 5:31 pm

It’s just that Don’s bet doesn’t take such a strong position. Notice that if increasing weather damage is a necessary result of climate change, and there is not climate change, Don also wins the bet. The win will only support the point regarding adaptation if there are increasingly severe storms.

Justin P June 1, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Admitting that the climate changes is far from believing in AGW.

Kirby May 31, 2011 at 5:35 pm

I was wondering about some interesting comments posed by my father about flaws of Libertarianism that I could not answer.
1.) Don’t we need at least SOME government regulations on factories to allow our posterity to have air to breathe etc etc?

2.) Don’t we want the government to issue protections on housing properties to prevent maids from moving in right next to their clientele and then becoming crackwhores, ultimately devaluing all of the properties in a 500 meter radius?

Sam June 1, 2011 at 1:32 am

ROFL

vidyohs June 1, 2011 at 6:14 am

Same reaction, different floor.

Sam June 1, 2011 at 8:31 am

@vidyohs,

This is off topic here but I saw on the other post: “Hands Off!” that you choose not to pay FICA. Did I read that correctly? Can anyone just do that? Have you ever been audited…do you know your decision will withstand scrutiny?

vidyohs June 2, 2011 at 6:16 am

:-) Sam, I don’t participate in any voluntary program that puts money in the hands of fools who will spend on the things people like muirduck love.

My decision stands up.

The IRS tried to audit me 3 times, screwed up on the third and now I have a court order that says they have admitted that I keep no books and records so they must leave me alone on that subject.

Yes, anyone can devolunteer, but I don’t recommend it unless the person is willing to go the distance and to learn how to use the law in his favor, and as the law was meant to be.

They are still trying to grind me down and bring me to heel, but haven’t succeeded yet. However, I haven’t yet exhausted my options in my fight either.

Conventional wisdom can be a killer when people never check to see if there was ever any reason for it to exist in the first place.

vikingvista June 2, 2011 at 8:51 pm

vid,

You have a remarkable trust in the law.

vidyohs June 3, 2011 at 6:25 am

@Nope, you insert that into what I write. If you would take off your blinders you’d see that I have an (in this society of conventional wisdom robots) ability to learn a little law and use it. That does not state trust

vikingvista June 3, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Your theory depends upon the state following the law. THAT requires a very naive trust in the law. I hope you succeed, but your only real defense is that you are too unimportant for the state to expend its limited resources on. Law or not, if a movement started from your example resulting in tens or hundreds of thousands of people dropping out of the SS system, depriving the government of billions in revenue, the government would destroy you, regardless of the law.

Steve Cramoysan May 31, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Why would any rational person take a bet on something where the evidence compels them to invest time and money into lobbying for policy changes which, if successful, would cause them to lose the bet? That would be economically stupid! The bet is a specious distraction.

The original piece was an entertaining way to point out some facts to demonstrate that recent weather events in US have not been as bad as “people” claim they are. That indeed USA has got better at managing the impact. This seems a well reasoned argument and the facts supported the opinion.

However, extending this logic into a bet to dismiss the evidence supporting climate change is where the logic fell down.

In europe the weight of reasoned opinion is that climate change is happening, and that a large part of it is down to us, americans included. The weight of opinion is that if we don’t change our collective behaviours it will get worse. My US colleagues would agree. I had heard that many intelligent americans still don’t get it. It appears some are contributors to this forum. Fortunately, not all.

Enough said.

Don Boudreaux May 31, 2011 at 7:47 pm

My argument is NOT that climate change isn’t happening or that climate change isn’t causing more, and more-severe, weather events. My argument is that humans in (reasonably free) market economies can more than adequately adjust to these changes.

Mao_Dung May 31, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Isaac Asimov stated that life on earth (not just human life) is capable of adapting if the change is gradual. What is happening with the melting polar caps, etc. is that changing conditions are happening faster than life can cope with. Bad things are in store for the living and the breathing.

Victor June 1, 2011 at 5:25 am

Humans can adapt a thousand fold faster than anything Mother Nature throws at us. Geological timescales, even in the “Anthropocene”, are slow.
Btw, since when do you envisage a warmer world as a bleaker world? In general warmer climates supports more life.
And CO2 might be a poison in your eyes, for plants it is there main resource. Research has shown that any major crop; maiz, wheat, rice, will show a 30% increase in output thanks to the CO2 increase over the coming 20 years.
Point being, your bleak future is based on fear of what you do not understand, not on reason.

brotio May 31, 2011 at 8:15 pm

The weight of opinion is that if we don’t change our collective behaviours it will get worse. – Steve Cramoysan

Please present some evidence that things will get better for humans if we do change our collective behavior.

You can make all of the claims that you want about the weight of reasoned opinion, but there is varied opinion about the impact of global warming – whether caused by humans, or not. What we do have proof of is that it’s hard to grow crops on a glacier.

It is telling that you refer to “climate change” rather than “global warming”. Why the change in semantics?

Don Boudreaux May 31, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Great points, Brotio. The “collective opinion” to whose “weight” Steve Cramoysan refers (in)famously disregards economics and economic history. That “collective opinion” believes that the question of how the economy will respond to climate challenges is a question of physics and other natural sciences. But, in fact, it’s more of an economic question. Much, much more.

muirgeo June 1, 2011 at 12:24 am

So who is paying for the increased damage cost? Who is paying for the adaptation cost or the mitigation expenses. Just one more area, externalities, where the libertarian position falls to pieces. It’s ok to infringe or destroy others properties or lives as long as it’s not a matter of direct causation or a matter of millions upon millions of little property rights infringements that no one really notices when they come together to destroy some ones lives or livelihoods…. who cares about the shrimpers in New Orleans that lost every thing first to the Cat 5 hurricane and then again to the oil spill. You don’t REALLY care about liberty..only when its convenient.

Sam June 1, 2011 at 1:30 am

But I think that’s the point. Don cares about Don. The Libertarian argument is that everyone acting this way will ensure that the optimal outcome prevails. So it’s the shrimpers responsibility to worry about themselves. If you feel compelled to worry about them, you are of course able to do so of your own free will. The only point Don, I presume, is trying to make is that you have no “right” to force him to care about people he doesn’t want to care about. Mind your own business and Don will mind his.

Emil June 1, 2011 at 3:42 am

“So who is paying for the increased damage cost?”

Who is supposed to pay for the increased cost of “changing our collective behaviour”

The point is that if we take for granted that climate change exists then we can either:
- “change our collective behaviour” to try to avoid it happening
- attempt to adapt to what is happening

Each of the two scenarios has its costs and its benefits. You need to consider both the costs and the benefits of both scenarios before making up your mind. Right now the public debate is very much focused on the benefits of scenario 1 above and the costs of scenario 2

brotio June 1, 2011 at 3:59 am

Yep, them Democrats did a whiz-bang job of protecting New Orleans from hurricanes, what with those Democrat-built, and Democrat-maintained levees.

And them Democrats sure did a whiz-bang job of leaping into action to prevent that oil from reaching the Gulf Coast, what with five weeks of those carbon-spewing vacations to exotic locales, and then playing union games rather than let Dutch oil-scrubbers operate in US waters. Yep, Democrats love the poor so much, they want everyone to be poor.

They treated New Orleans about the same way you treat your patients: as an excuse for another lavish vacation.

River May 31, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Steve
The reasoned opinion at the time had Galieo put under house arrest. I have a better trust in facts, of which Don has a mastery.

muirgeo June 1, 2011 at 12:19 am

“My argument is NOT that climate change isn’t happening or that climate change isn’t causing more, and more-severe, weather events. My argument is that humans in (reasonably free) market economies can more than adequately adjust to these changes.” Don

If we were comparing how a libertarian country would fare climate change compared to a social democracy I’d bet on the social democracy.

The problem with the libertarian country…if one existed… is there would be no one counting the death tolls so we would not have accurate numbers.

The fact is that many of the factors from early warning systems, to home building codes to weather research ect… are products of government research and government mandates and government spending. A lot of the adaptation taking place will be because of government not in spite of it.

Your whole point is moot. Climate change will be very costly. Far more people will have lost their saving and homes to climate change than to government confiscation. But you are OK with externalities as long as they are well hidden.

Gil June 1, 2011 at 12:50 am

Not to mention a Libertarian “nation” wouldn’t really be a nation but a collection of private operators and as such no Libertarian would be particularly interested in keeping statistics on weather deaths. After all, they’ll just say that “the market will sort it out as well as private charity”.

Emil June 1, 2011 at 3:48 am

strawman

And of course we all know that governments have never ever engaged in the hiding or manipulation of statistics

LowcountryJoe June 1, 2011 at 7:32 pm

To some purists (and detractors) it is not a straw man. That’s why I now refer to myself as a libertarian-leaning minarchist. The detractors have no little BS games to play after making this distinction.

crossofcrimson June 1, 2011 at 9:21 am

Not to nit-pick, but my guess is that while there are plenty of “libertarians” who frequent this site, there are probably not nearly as many “Libertarians.”

Captain Profit June 1, 2011 at 9:16 am

The advantage of the libertarian country, if one existed, is that the expenses of mitigation would be borne by those who choose to live in natural disaster prone areas, leading to those areas being populated primarily by those with sufficient resources to mitigate.

muirgeo June 1, 2011 at 10:23 am

Yeah those stupid people living in the middle of the country…and the stupid ones living on the coast….oh and the ones living in forest…and those that live near mudslides and earthquake faults…all stupid people. Oh and how about those dopes living in flood planes.

Captain Profit June 1, 2011 at 10:38 am

Your problem with people accepting the consequences of their own personal choices is what, Tex?

brotio June 1, 2011 at 1:17 pm

It’s weird.

If my house burns to the ground due to a short-circuit, the government is completely disinterested in helping me rebuild. If my house is leveled by a tornado, I’m eligible for all sorts of government aid. Either disaster leaves me homeless, but only one offers a photo-op for a politician.

brotio June 1, 2011 at 2:15 pm

and those that live near mudslides and earthquake faults

You mean uber-rich ducktors-who-make-so-much-profit-off-of-their-poor-patients-that-carbon-spewing-vacations-to-exotic-locales-across-the-globe-are-routine? I know. I know. You need your fellow citizens to chip in after the quake and rebuild your modest, $950,000 bungalow-by-the-bay for you. After all, you’ve made plans for a trip to Exit Glacier.

Chucklehead June 1, 2011 at 1:39 am

Haven’t you introduced a moral hazard in the offer, namely entice someone to poke holes in the levee upstream of Johnstown?

Cameron Murray June 1, 2011 at 2:03 am

The number of deaths for many events declines over time due to medical advances and other factors. For example, if the government responds to increasing tornadoes (or some such event) by making tornadoe shelters/bunkers mandatory for each home, and the survival rate goes up, you win.

Deaths per gunshot wound or stabbing are probably down too due to medical advances. Does that mean if gunshots and stabbing increases by less than the survivability increases (due to medical treatment) it is a good thing? Or is a preferable situation one where both the rate of gunshots declines and the survivability improves?

I think the value of property damage would be a much better bet which focusses closely on impacts.

BTW, even if deaths do rise as a result of climate change (if it is real), it is unlikely that we can actually prevent this by any action. So we should instead just adapt to the climate circumstances as they arise – just like we have for thousands of years.

dhlii June 1, 2011 at 3:07 am

Warming on the whole reduces deaths.
Medical advances reduce deaths.
Government regulations such as you mention might reduce deaths in specific areas, but may well result in a net increase. Beyond that it is actually rare that a government regulation produces the beneficial effect it is intended to – even ignoring the fact that the unanticipated costs may dwarf the intended benefits.

SheetWise June 1, 2011 at 3:40 am

Well … there is room for a voice of reason to sneak in now and then ;)

vikingvista June 1, 2011 at 6:52 pm

The staying power of religious movements is in their resilience against reason.

MarketJohnson June 1, 2011 at 7:30 am

Of course no one is going to take this bet. If they take it and lose, they are very unlikely to change their opinion anyway. And the people you mentioned probably don’t really care about a spare $10k either.

If they take it, lose, and continue to defend anthropomorphic global warming, they will look silly, while if they don’t take it, no one will remember you even made this challenge in 20 years. There’s no benefit to a climate change supporter to taking the bet, and you probably know this, which makes it a very easy challenge to make.

The evidence is probably on your side, Don. But even if it weren’t, you could make this challenge, have no one take it in all likelihood, and then go around telling everyone how afraid climate change supporters were to put their money where there mouth is.

To put it simply, it isn’t going to persuade anyone.

Economiser June 1, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Losing a bet really ruined Paul Ehrlich’s career, didn’t it?

Slocum June 1, 2011 at 8:33 am

I think it’s a good bet (even if Don ultimately loses on points). The claim by the alarmists is that we are increasingly vulnerable, that the long decline in deaths seen in this chart is over:

http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/socasp/weather1/figures/pielke2.gif

and that deaths will rise (probably dramatically) due to global warming going forward. Roger Pielke, Jr, though, is making a different argument:

“The fact of the matter is that our vulnerability to extreme weather is increasing, due to a combination of a growing population and especially urbanization in locations prone to extreme weather events.”

The fatal problem with this argument is that weather-related deaths declined dramatically during the 20th century while the U.S. population almost quadrupled from 76M to 280M!. Given that the dramatic reduction in deaths occurred despite a 4X increase in population, I fail to see why one should expect our current, much slower, population growth to result in increased deaths. Similarly, the 20th century saw a rapid increase in urbanization, but this didn’t cause an increase in deaths either.

Looking forward, population growth over 20 years will be a marginal factor and it’s not clear at all that urbanization will increase further in areas prone to extreme weather events. Certainly, there no population or urbanization boom going on in the Great Plains region that contains both ‘tornado alley’ and most of the rivers prone to flooding. And, on the other hand, I think there’s little doubt that both weather prediction, emergency-notification, and protection measures will continue to improve. An emergency broadcast system for cell-phones is coming:

http://www.itbusinessedge.com/cm/community/news/gt/blog/emergency-broadcast-system-coming-to-cell-phones/?cs=46889

More houses will be built (or retrofitted) with safe rooms, and public ‘safe houses’ will be built in some tornado-prone communities:

http://www.timesrepublican.com/page/content.detail/id/525142/Iowa-counties-develop-tornado-proof-safe-rooms.html?nav=5005

Building codes will be strengthened, and so on. It’s probably a good occasion to pull out a quote from one of Don’s favorites:

“On what principle is it that when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?”

Bill June 1, 2011 at 9:32 am

I’d like to get in on the action. Another $10,000 says Dr Don is right. Can I take my winnings in 6 ounces of gold?

Country Thinker June 1, 2011 at 9:51 am

Don – If anyone takes the bet I hope you don’t lose for the wrong reason. Average temperatures (to the extent they can be measured) declined in the U.S. from the period of approximatel 1940-1975, yet the incidence of major tornadoes increased. They declined as temperatures increased over the ensuing decades. Thus, if we see temperatures decline over the next 20 years it would undermine the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis, but we still might see tornado deaths increase. You would lose your bet, and the winner would claim that it “proved” AGW was a real threat!

Mark Bahner June 8, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Hi,

I’m having problems with the comment section on Roger Pielke Jr.’s blog, but this is something I sent him by email:

Hi Roger,

I didn’t get a chance to respond to this in depth last week, but the bet you and Don Boudreaux have bothers me. I think there is a more-than-50/50 chance you’ll win, but I don’t think the win will demonstrate at all your premise that, “The fact of the matter is that our vulnerability to extreme weather is increasing, due to a combination of a growing population and especially urbanization in locations prone to extreme weather events.”

So I propose a second bet: let’s assume that there are no significant additional deaths from tornadoes, hurricanes, or floods this year. Therefore, the death total for this year would be about 520 (assuming there have been almost no flood deaths, and that there will be almost no hurricane deaths).

If the death toll for this year is 520, the death toll for the 21 years from 1991 through 2011 would be 4542 (including hurricane Katrina). That’s an average of 216 per year.

I propose a bet that the average number of deaths in the next 21 years will below 216 per year. It would be in the form of an annual bet of $50, rather than an amount paid at the end of 21 years. For example, let’s say:

In 2012, there would 150 deaths. I would win. You would pay $50 to the charity of my choice.

In 2013, there would be 225 deaths. The two-year total would be 375 deaths; an average of 188 deaths per year. You would still lose, because the two year average was below 216. You would pay $50 to the charity of my choice.

In 2014, there would be 580 deaths. The three-year total would be 955 deaths, an average of 318 deaths per year. I would pay $50 to the charity of your choice.

In 2015, there would be 120 deaths. The four-year total would be 1075 deaths, an average of 269 per year. I would pay $50 to the charity of your choice.

The person who was on-net losing for the bet could quit at any time, but the person who was on-net winning would have to let the person who was losing have a chance to catch up.

If you are really certain that the determining factors in deaths are “growing population and expecially urbanization in locations prone to extreme weather events” you should be happy to make this bet.

How about it? Do we have a bet?

Best wishes,
Mark

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