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Monday, August 22, 2005

Russian Simon Says

Julian Simon was one of the most well known and outspoken critics of environmentalist doomsayers in the 1970s and beyond until his death 1997. Paul Ehrlich was (and is still) one of the most well known doomsayers. He wrote The Population Bomb in 1968 which claimed with complete confidence that "[t]he battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate." Obviously, Ehrlich's prediction was about as far off the mark as a prediction can possibly be, but he nonetheless continued his doomsaying with unrelenting fervour.

Simon and Ehrlich had a famous bet in 1980:
Simon offered Ehrlich a bet centered on the market price of metals. Ehrlich would pick a quantity of any five metals he liked worth $1,000 in 1980. If the 1990 price of the metals, after adjusting for inflation, was more than $1,000 (i.e. the metals became more scarce), Ehrlich would win. If, however, the value of the metals after inflation was less than $1,000 (i.e. the metals became less scare), Simon would win. The loser would mail the winner a check for the change in price.

Ehrlich agreed to the bet, and chose copper, chrome, nickel, tin and tungsten.
All five metals dropped in price by 1990. Tin dropped a whopping 72%. Once again Ehrlich was about as far off the mark as possible. Yet people still take his predictions very seriously.

Well, that's a long winded introduction to the next long term environmental bet:
Two climate change sceptics, who believe the dangers of global warming are overstated, have put their money where their mouth is and bet $10,000 that the planet will cool over the next decade.

The Russian solar physicists Galina Mashnich and Vladimir Bashkirtsev have agreed the wager with a British climate expert, James Annan. [...]

To decide who wins the bet, the scientists have agreed to compare the average global surface temperature recorded by a US climate centre between 1998 and 2003, with temperatures they will record between 2012 and 2017. If the temperature drops Dr Annan will stump up the $10,000 (now equivalent to about £5,800) in 2018. If the Earth continues to warm, the money will go the other way.

I'm very interested in this bet. As I've written before, I'd be more supportive of trying to slow global warming if environmentalist doomsayers' predictions had been right in the past just once. If they finally win this bet, and if the global temperatures in the next 15 years actually track the climate change models, then I will be more interested in listening to them.

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