A $25000 bet

I notice that the The Committee for Skeptical Enquiry has challenged the Heartland Institute to a $25000 bet. The bet is essentially about whether or not the 30-year GISSTemp land-only temperature average ending on 31 December 2015 will exceed any other 30 year average ending on the same date of a previous year. I downloaded the GISSTemp land-only data today and had a quick look at some 30 year averages. As far as I can tell, it is virtually impossible for the 30 year average on 31 December 2015 to be less than that of any previous 30 year average. It would be completely bonkers for the Heartland Institute to take on this bet. I therefore fully expect them to do so 😀

Since I’m discussing the Heartland Institute, I should probably mention that they’ve just recently finished their 10th International Conference on Climate Change. I don’t have much to say about it. One thing that was unclear (and maybe someone could clarify) is whether their session on Attacks on Climate Science and the Corruption of Science was about how to do it, or how to prevent it. It wasn’t clear from the information presented.

I also – for my sins – watched Mark Steyn’s keynote speech. I’m not sure I would recommend doing it, if you haven’t already done so. It was very strange. I could only watch it in small chunks. It might have actually been moderately amusing if it wasn’t for the fact that Steyn appeared to think that what he was saying made some kind of sense, and that those in the audience seemed to be lapping it all up. Quite how someone can base a large part of their career on attacking another person is beyond me. That others can actually encourage this is equally bizarre.

As far as whether what was presented at the Heartland Conference was nonsense or not, I didn’t listen to anything else, so can’t say for sure. Past experience would certainly lean towards it having been nonsense. Of course, most of what I have seen indicates that those in attendence dress far more smartly than most at any conference I’ve ever been to. That alone would normally – when it comes to scientists, at least – be a good indicator of style over substance.

Update: Just to be clear, I certainly don’t think that being smartly dressed means that you can’t be a good scientist, just that – collectively – it isn’t the norm 🙂

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68 Responses to A $25000 bet

  1. A $26000 bet!

  2. Actually, what I hadn’t quite appreciated is that CSI plans to repeat the bet every year for the next 30 years. That does make it moderately more interesting as you might expect Heartland to at least be willing to consider that there is a reasonable chance that a good fraction of the 30 year averages over the next 30 years could be less than previous 30 year averages. If we continue to inrease our emissions, I think they’ll almost certainly be wrong, but they – for consistency, I would hope – disagree.

  3. Even with aggressive mitigation Heartland will lose every single year. There is not much difference between the various emission scenarios for the coming decades, you see the differences later on.

    I like this bet. Either Heartland refuses, then they can no longer say that global warming has stopped (and when mitigation sceptics make that claim they show the official records, so they cannot claim that they do not accept the bet because the data is manipulated).

    And when they accept we can make their sponsors go bankrupt. Anyone else here that has a $1000 to spare?

  4. You’re quite right. Even if it flatlines for the next 40 years, the 30 year average keeps rising.

  5. Sam Taylor says:

    The use of “skeptics” in that tweet confused me for a minute there…

  6. Genuine skeptics, rather than pseudo-skeptics 🙂

  7. Carl says:

    Unfortunately it’s only Big Green that has this kind of money..

  8. Carl,
    And the excuses have already started 🙂

  9. BBD says:

    Unfortunately it’s only Big Green that has this kind of money..



  10. Sam Taylor says:

    The incredible hulk?

  11. BBD says:

    Just dial 0-900-DONORS TRUST

  12. As far as I can tell, it is virtually impossible for the 30 year average on 31 December 2015 to be less than that of any previous 30 year average.

    You might double check.

    Here’s my running 30 year chart ( by no means infallible ):

    But more specifically, here’s GISSTEMP 1975 through 2004 ( .55K/30yrs ).

    and 1985 through 2014 ( .49K/30yrs ).

  13. TE,
    Those are trends. I was referring to the actual 30-year average. That your trends are positive after ~1970 would seem to suggest that a reduction in the 30-year average is very unlikely.

  14. Never mind – I look at trends not averages.

    Yes, 30 year averages are continuing to increase.

  15. MarkB says:

    TE – Never mind – I look at trends not averages.

    I believe a mathematically equivalent statement of the bet is that the 30-year trend does not go negative.

  16. anoilman says:

    Carl: I’ll see your Greens and raise you big mutha Oil!

    We’re putting up a private satellite, so Green Peace can just suck it!

    [The scary thing about this, is that the data is private, and companies are not under any obligations to reveal what they discover. Fracking companies are already customers, so if we don’t hear anything this year about how low fugitive emissions are, you’ll have your answer. Furthermore, since there is a huge amount of industry and Canadian government funding, you can bet enviro’s will not be able to use it.]

  17. anoilman says:

    Put me down for another $1000. I’ll take that bet in a heart beat. Hmm… (Will the bet change with mitigation?)

  18. Eli Rabett says:

    Well ATTP, you are in the UK which has legal betting agents, so one or more of them should be willing to take the money if the other side puts up.

  19. Zeke Hausfather says:

    I tried to make a $10,000 wager with Joe Bastardi a few years back, but he wouldn’t take me up on it… http://rankexploits.com/musings/2011/bastardis-wager-you-bet/

  20. anoilman says:

    Zeke, toss your $10k on this. Lets see how high we can make it.

  21. AoM,

    Will the bet change with mitigation?

    I don’t think it really matters. Even if we were to completely halt emissions, temperature would – on average – flatline, and the 30-year average would continue to rise.

  22. John Mashey says:

    For furhter calibration of this conference, people migh read Andrew Freedman’s article, or at least, through the attached picture gallery, from which much insight can be gained. Do read the captions.

  23. bratisla says:

    Concerning the last update, the winner hands down I saw myself was one punk attending the EGU meeting. A real punk, with a purple mohican and a Mad Maxesque suit, with an official badge.
    I had to do a presentation that day, otherwise I would have stalked him to see in what field he was working.

  24. John L says:

    Well, if being bad-dressed means that you more likely to be a good or a bad scientist is actually a Bayesian problem 🙂

    On the conference they were also handing out awards, apparently some monetary gifts from the sponsors. The recipients and the justifications are as bizarre as it can get.

    Oh, those unsung heroes! 🙂

  25. Anthony Watts – winner of the Excellence in Climate Science Communication Award. Strangely, he seemed incapable of communicating – recently – as to whether or not increasing temperatures were driving the increase in atmospheric CO2. Was it too hard to simply say “no, it’s not”?

  26. JCH says:

    Can somebody give me a good, non-wise butt rule of thumb on how to tell the difference between some land and an ocean?

  27. russellseitz says:

    Steyn’s latest attempt at trampling out the grapes of wrath for Heartland . has ended with his foot in his mouth.

  28. Rob Nicholls says:

    It’s a shame dress sense isn’t perfectly (inversely?) correlated to scientific ability. 4 decades of scruffy dressing and I still can’t get my head around the equations in an undergrad physics textbook.

  29. Michael Hauber says:

    The 30 year average will keep going up as long as each new year added to the 30 year average is warmer than the old year from 30 years ago that drops off. If Heartland believed that temperatures are flat (except noise) they would probably not expect this bet to be favorable until 2028 when the 1998 value drops of. If Heartland believed the temperature was in a cycle then they would probably want to take the bet about 15 years after they believe the cycle has peaked (assuming a symmetrical cycle). If they believe the globe is warming at half the rate that IPCC predict they would probably never want to take the bet.

  30. JCH says:

    The bet is essentially about whether or not the 30-year GISSTemp land-only temperature average ending on 31 December 2015 will exceed any other 30 year average ending on the same date of a previous year.

    LOTI = land Only temperature index???????????

  31. JCH says:

    Whoops, now I see it: L-oti.

  32. Blair says:

    You do realize the Mark Steyn has not made large part of their career on attacking another person. Rather he has had a prominent career partially derailed by that person. You might want to look into his past a bit before commenting further.

  33. Blair,
    Good grief, go and tone troll somewhere else. For goodness sake.

  34. Ahhh, I’ve just noticed that I’ve made it onto Steyn’s blog. It appears that he doesn’t dispute that he has made a large part of his career attacking another person; he appears to justify it as being a consequence of the ill-feeling resulting from being sued.

  35. izen says:

    @-Blair says:
    “… Mark Steyn has not made large part of their career on attacking another person. ”

    Looking into his past reveals most of his career has been spent attacking other people.
    And writing alarmist warnings of imminent catastrophe derived from dubious interpretations of demographic numbers. Mainly feeding the confirmations biases of apocalyptically inclined RW Americans.

  36. toby52 says:

    That Heartland Keynote reminded me so much of Orwell’s Two-Minute Hate from 1984, it sent a shiver up my spine. Next year, wax Michael Mann dolls and pins will be handed out.

  37. Andrew Dodds says:


    Perhaps Mr Watts was thinking of an answer along the lines of ‘At the moment the fraction of CO2 emissions partitioning into the Atmosphere is less than 1, but continued warming may lead to a situation where the environment and/or oceans become a net source of CO2 in which case at least some of the rise will be due to temperature increases.’

    Bet that’s it.

  38. AD,
    I think you may be giving him a bit too much credit 🙂

  39. Andrew Dodds says:

    Michael Hauber –

    If we had 1998 temperatures this year, it would be completely unremarkable – or a bit below expectations.

    In 13 years time, I fully suspect that 1998-like temperatures would only happen with a big volcanic eruption or major la-nina event.

  40. Eli Rabett says:

    Opportunity knocks, let the Steynguys comment as long as they take part of the bet. The price of admission as it were.

  41. austrartsua says:

    The bet has an amusing premise. As far as I can tell, ATTP et al. are claiming that if the 30year record to the end of 2015 is warmer than any other year, then Heartland and all other climate sinners will look fools, will all go home and be content to let the Paris accord set arbitrarily high emissions cuts happily ever after. In doing so, you are following the lead of every major media outlet over the past 10 years or so. 20xx hottest year on record! Yeah, hottest by how much?

    As a 5yo could understand, the question is not: “is 2015 the hottest year to date” or is “1985-2015” the hottest 30yr period to date, it is How Much Hotter that matters! How much hotter is 1985-2015 than 1950-1980 etc…

    As it so happens, I doubt Heartland would take the bet as given. But put some numbers on it. Hottest by how much? 1C? 0.5C? This is a far more interesting bet.

  42. austrartsua,
    No, I think the bet is based on the idea that we really can’t go through – if we keep increasing our emissions – an extended period of cooling. Since Heartland seems to think that we can, then they should be willing to take the bet.

  43. Andrew Dodds says:

    austrartsua –

    Interesting shifting of goalposts there. So not only has it got to warm, but by ‘lots’. And you get to define lots (perhaps ‘however much it actually warms plus a bit’, then you can never be wrong)

  44. austrartsua says:

    @Andrew Dodds

    The goalposts were set out some time ago in the 90s when climate scientists made predictions about how much it would warm over the next two decades. How did they turn out? Let’s just say they’re no Jonny Wilkinson.

  45. BBD says:

    You cannot predict natural variability over the short term, austra.

    So perhaps you are being a teensy bit silly.

  46. Some people, like austrartsua, confuse a scientist’s carefully qualified projection— “given x, y, z, and if we carry on doing this, then that will happen”—with the sort of prediction made by soothsayers, astrologists and economists: “beware the ides of March”. As I understand it, with the exception of a few rash statements, it’s impossible for scientists to be ‘wrong’; because they’re usually well aware of what uncertainties might produce.

  47. Andrew Dodds says:

    austrartsua –

    Right, so this particular bet that has only just been issued and refers to the future, actually refers to something from decades ago without mentioning it?

    I’m glad we have you to interpret things for us. Otherwise it could get confusing.

  48. Kingb says:


    I’m not trolling, I merely point out for those of you not familiar with the man that he has a long career as an opinion journalist. You might even have read his work in The Independent, The Spectator and The Daily Telegraph although I would guess most of his writings were not consistent with your political leanings. In Canada, where I am from, he was featured in both right and centrist publications including the National Post (mostly right of center) and Maclean’s (strongly centrist). As a subscriber to both I read his work many years. In the last decade or so (after he moved away from Canada) he has skewed hard right and is now of the Fox ilk.

    I write this only to point out that the man had a career before he wrote the short blog post about Dr. M over which he is being sued. Moreover, he will have a prosperous career after his legal battle with Dr. M ends. To be clear, his popularity is in no way linked to the lawsuit but rather to the fact that, regardless about what you think about his views, he has a way with words and writes excellent, readable prose. He also has the ability to express his thoughts verbally in a way that is well suited to radio and apparently is very affecting in real life as he appears to have built a group of allies/friends that span the political spectrum.

  49. Kingb,
    I don’t think that changes the point though. You might dispute “large part” I guess, but given that “large part” isn’t particularly well-defined anyway, it’s would seem rather pointless debating it.

    He also has the ability to express his thoughts verbally in a way that is well suited to radio and apparently is very affecting in real life as he appears to have built a group of allies/friends that span the political spectrum.

    I certainly wouldn’t dispute this. However, the ability to express thoughts verbally in a way that is suited to radio has virtually nothing to do with whether or not what is expressed is nonsense.

  50. anoilman says:

    Kingb: You might want to consider how a shift in prevailing views can also affect your future employment and even its profitability.

    I live in Albertastan… and the shift was a long time in coming. In part because of dissatisfaction over how conservatives were running things, but also a hefty influx of people from the rest of Canada (politically centrist… and left wing) softening up our politics. Its left a lot of people scrambling to figure out what to do next.

    I don’t think any lawsuit with Mann will do much more than make a statement and hopefully hit the perpetrator in the pocket book. Fanboyz will be fanz… especially the conservative kind;

  51. Willard says:

    Since we’re into Canadian matters:

  52. Blair := file under pablum.

  53. russellseitz says:

    Steyn did good service as a deflator of political correctness before he stopped checking his facts and became a decreasingly funny comedian. It’s an all too familiar trajectory.

  54. Michael 2 says:

    “Quite how someone can base a large part of their career on attacking another person is beyond me.”

    It seems common enough. Hot Whopper comes to mind. In the case of television, almost everything from Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann or Chris Matthews seems to fall in that category. It is not only human nature but all animals are in competition with other members of their own species.

  55. Michael 2 says:

    Following up on that thought… How many readers, right here on this page, are writing positive words about someone he admires versus piling on the scorn? How much is original research being reported versus reactions to something someone else said?

    ATTP tries to be the most positive person here it seems to me occasionally saying something good about someone. For everyone else (except Willard, in a class by himself) it is just a pile-on of scorn. What radio and television common ‘taters accomplish is to earn a living doing it.

    On Huffington Post, the readers with the highest fan counts are also the most rude. A large market exists for voyeurs watching people attack other people. Essentially all professional sports exist to feed this desire. Carefully considered words, original thinking and skilled writing will get you about 100 fans on Huffington post. Scathing criticism and rude but witty one-liners will rack up 5000 fans.

  56. How much is original research being reported versus reactions to something someone else said?

    All I do is original research. Alas, this blog is not the best place to engage in discussion on original research. You have to go elsewhere, such as a collaborative science blog or forum to make any headway.

  57. BBD says:

    Michael 2

    Some things only merit scorn.

    Think about that before further tone trolling.


  58. Victor Petri says:

    What a stupid bet. Heartland claims temperature has stabilized since 1998. In a 30 year moving average and a stabilizing plateau since 1998, 2015 will increase the average with this scenario. This bet does nothing to disprove their position.

  59. anoilman says:

    Victor Petri: But temperatures never stabilized. They have been rising unabated;

  60. anoilman says:

    Michael 2: I bet you don’t score with either crowd on Huffington Post! *ba dump bump!*

    First, this isn’t a science blog. It was created to combat BS being disseminated by the high schooler, Anthony Watts.

    But frankly, since I see little, if any, science being offered up by the denial camp, there’s no much else to do.

    On the other hand, I have listened to oppositional ideology (such as yours), weighed its merits, and shifted my views accordingly. i.e. carbon tax not carbon trading, *check* Less government… *check*

    Anyways, here’s a fine Canadian politician who’s the brain trust behind the conservative party in Canada. He’s been listening as well.

    In the mean time, we live in a society which taxes goods, not bads. Sounds backasswords to me.

  61. vp,
    Maybe, but at least consider the possibility that the bet was designed to reflect the intellectual capabilities of those at the Heartland Institute.

  62. John Hartz says:

    I presume that the Heartland crowd is none too pleased about the diretion being taken by the New York Time in its articles about climate change…

    New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan believes the paper is making progress when it comes to using the more accurate term “denier” — rather than “skeptic” — to refer to those who reject the scientific consensus on climate change.

    In an interview with Media Matters, Sullivan described “denier” as the “stronger term” and the appropriate label “when someone is challenging established science.” Sullivan said that “the Times is moving in a good direction” on the issue, adding that the newspaper is using the term “denier” more often and “perhaps should be doing it even more.”

    She also likened the discussion to the Times’ process for evaluating whether to refer to “enhanced interrogation techniques” as torture, stating: “After a long time the Times came around to calling it torture and I thought that was a very good thing. I think we’re sort of in the same realm with the business about skeptics and deniers.”

    NY Times Public Editor: We’re “Moving In A Good Direction” On Properly Describing Climate Deniers by Andrew Seifter & Joe Strupp, Media Matters for America, June 22, 2015

  63. Victor Petri says:

    I didn’t say they stabilized…

  64. Victor Petri said on June 25, 2015 at 6:36 am,

    “I didn’t say they stabilized…”

    But you wrote on June 24, 2015 at 4:10 pm,

    “In a 30 year moving average and a stabilizing plateau since 1998,…”

    There is no “stabilizing plateau since 1998” in a 30 year running mean (30 year moving average). Here’s proof:

    Rather than embed again some graphs I gave before: In this comment
    on May 30, 2015 at 2:22 pm in the thread under “Hmmm, entering a cooling phase?”, I gave, with their sources, graphs of a 30 year running mean and a 6o year running mean, along with a graph of the NMO that shows its 50-60 year oscillations. (The NMO is more general than either the AMO or the PMO, the latter of which denotes the 50-60 year oscillations apparent in the PDO, according to Steinman, Mann, and Miller (2015).)

    The 30 year running mean shows only a slight slowdown in the upward increase when the last 17 years are averaged in, *not* a “stabilizing plateau” – and this graph shows that the term “plateau” is especially wrong as a description of what that part of the 30 year running mean since 1998 (cherry-picking, anyone?) looks like.

    Never mind that the graph of the 60 year running mean, which filters out the up to 60 year oscillations we all know and love, shows no slowdown whatsoever in that part where the mere slowdown of the last 17 years as well as much of the actual downturn 1940s-1970s are averaged in.

    To anticipate the possibility of a false objection, something along the line that 30 and 60 year running means can’t tell us about a “negative” phase that started around 2000: But they can. In general, with respect to oscillations of a given length, running means of this length can help tell us whether a given “negative” phase of an upward tracking oscillating function is strong enough to bend down the underlying positively accelerating curve of this oscillating function. That is, here, this 60 year running mean can help tell us whether the present “negative” phase of the NMO with its up to 60 year oscillations is powerful enough to bend down the underlying positively accelerating function suggested by this 60 year running mean, and it seems to be telling us so far that this “negative” phrase is *not* powerful enough to do so, which means that the models in terms of the long term projections are still on track.

    Note: Someone here at an earlier time made the mistake of putting forth a graph of 30 year trends as if it was a graph of a 30 year running mean (30 year moving average). Keep this in mind if you try to show a graph of a *30 year running mean* that shows a “stabilizing plateau since 1998”.

  65. Victor Petri says:

    Please read carefully and please, if you quote me, do not cherrypick the quote.
    “Heartland claims temperature has stabilized since 1998. In a 30 year moving average and a stabilizing plateau since 1998, 2015 will increase the average with this scenario.”
    Which obviously means, in the scenario which the Heartland claims; a stabilizing temp since 98 and a moving average of 30 yrs, 2015 would be bound to increase the average.

    I do hence not dispute anything you consequently say in your comment

  66. KeefeAndAmanda says:

    In reply to what I said on June 25, 2015 at 8:13 am, Victor Petri said on June 25, 2015 at 8:20 am,

    Please read carefully,…
    …I do hence not dispute anything you consequently say in your comment”

    Very well; I accept the correction. To explain: I interpreted the period (the punctuation mark) you wrote immediately after the first “1998” to mean that at that point, the text to be attributed to Heartland ended and that the text to be attributed to you began.

    I’m happy to see that you dispute nothing of what I subsequently wrote.

  67. anoilman says:

    Victor Petri: My comment isn’t directed at you. Its merely counter BS whether or not you are the source.

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