I accept Joe Bastardi’s wager on global warming — and I also challenge him to one on Arctic sea ice

Anti-science long-range forecasts can cost people billions of dollars

Accuweather’s “expert long-range forecaster” Joe Bastardi has apparently issued some sort of a challenge to his critics. Let’s see if he has the nerve to back up his unscientific claims with two real bets, which I will lay out below. He ought to, given that if any of the industries who rely on such long-term forecast actually believed Bastardi, they could lose millions of dollars.

According to a National Review Online piece, “Bastardi’s Wager: A meteorologist has a challenge for climate scientists”:

Bastardi is in a position to change the conversation. He’s a meteorologist and forecaster with AccuWeather, and he proposes a wager of sorts. “The scientific approach is you see the other argument, you put forward predictions about where things are going to go, and you test them,” he says. “That is what I have done. I have said the earth will cool .1 to .2 Celsius in the next ten years, according to objective satellite data.” Bastardi’s challenge to his critics “” who are legion “” is to make their own predictions. And then wait. Climate science, he adds, “is just a big weather forecast.”

… Bastardi has done the thing that could make or break his credibility “” offer a way to test his theory. We’ll see if his critics, so certain of the authoritative consensus on global warming, do the same.

I think it is safe to say that I am one of Bastardi’s biggest critics (see links below). But I’m not merely going to offer my predictions. I’m going to propose two bets to see if Bastardi will put his money where his mouth is, as they say. If he won’t, then I think we can safely say his predictions are just what the critics say — anti-scientific BS, just so much bluster and hot air.

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I predict almost the exact opposite of what Bastardi does. I predict that this decade will be the hottest decade in the temperature record, 0.1°C to 0.2°C warmer than the last decade, 2000–2009.

I have devised a wager that provides a test of our two different predictions. I’m perfectly willing to use the satellite data, preferably an averaging of RSS and UAH.

First, since these are climate wagers, I would normally compare decade to decade, to remove the inevitable variations we see year-to-year, but this decade has already started and frankly I don’t want to wait to win. Bastardi says the cooling trend started three years ago (see video below), so if he’s right we should be deep in it by 2012.

So let’s define “Tbet” as “the average temperature from 2012 through 2020” minus “the average temperature of the 2000’s” (from 2000 through 2009). I think Tbet will be + 0.1 to 0.2°C and Bastardi thinks it will be negative: — 0.1° to — 0.2°C.

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The bet is that we each agree to donate money to the others designated charity using the following formula: Bastardi pays $1,000 plus [Tbet times $10,000/°C]. I pay $1000 minus [Tbet times $10,000/°C].

If there is no change in temperature, then we each pay the other’s charity $1000, which seems fair since we’d both be equally wrong. If we warm + 0.1°C, then I pay nothing and Bastardi pays $2000. A negative ‘payment’ means the other person owes that much more money. So being very wrong is doubly costly. If we warm + 0.15°C, then I still pay nothing, and Bastardi pays $3000. Obviously, if Tbet is negative and temperatures drop 0.15°C, then I’d pay $3000.

My second wager is on sea ice. Bastardi commented here on this very blog:

I simply believe given what I see that the earth will cool back, using objective satellite observations, back to levels we saw in the late 70s, and the ice will increase back to those levels in the N hemisphere….

In 2010, the minimum extent hit 4.60 million square kilometer according to NSIDC, whom Bastardi now says are “honest brokers” (after falsely accusing them of fraud). In the late 70s, the average monthly sea ice extent for September was around 7.5 to 8.0 million sq. km. So Bastardi thinks sea ice extent will increase some 3 million sq. km. (Msqkm) from its 2011 minimum. I predict it will decrease some 3 Msqkm.

Monthly September ice extent for 1979 to 2010 shows a decline of 11.5% per decade.

Let’s define “Ibet” as “the average of the Arctic sea ice extent minimum for the three years 2018–2020” minus 4.6 million sq. km

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The bet again is that we each agree to donate money to the others designated charity using the following formula: Bastardi pays $1,000 minus [$1,000 times Ibet/2 Msqkm]. I pay $1,000 plus [$1,000 times Ibet/2 Msqkm].

If there is no change in the sea ice extent minimum, we both pay $1000. If extent drops 2 million sq. km, then Bastardi pays $2000 and I pay zero. If extent grows 2 million sq. km, then I pay 2k and Bastardi pays zero. If extent grows 3 million sq. km, then I pay 3k and Bastardi pays zero. Again, being very wrong is doubly costly.

Note: I have a discussion of what should happen to the bets if there are two Pinatubo-sized volcanoes below.

I don’t think we need to put the money in escrow — we’re both ‘good for it’ I think. I am open to putting in an escape clause, that either side can throw in the towel on either bet before the end of 2015 for just the $2000 with immediate payment.

I am certainly open to other modifications of my proposed bets. But refusing to bet at all would I think be evidence that Bastardi doesn’t actually believe the anti-scientific nonsense he spouts, that he is in fact committing meteorological malpractice.

I don’t make these bets lightly. But I think what Bastardi is doing is the more than purely academic, more than mere anti-scientific nonsense. He is Accuweather’s “expert long-range forecaster” and if people actually believed him, there could be rather serious consequences.

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Companies and individuals (like farmers) and governments that do long-term planning and investing need science-based forecasts. Utilities, for instance, need accurate forecasting so they can avert blackouts by planning for new capacity or, preferably, by incorporating energy efficiency and demand response. If the prediction of the entire community of climate scientists — and the member governments of the IPCC — that our current temperature trend will continue for the foreseeable future were wrong, and if instead Bastardi was right that we truly were headed back toward the temperatures of the 1970s, it would have dramatic implications for billions of dollars of investment.

Similarly, it matters a great deal to Arctic countries and our national security whether the current sea ice trend continues, as the overwhelming majority of cryo-scientists predict, or whether Bastardi is right.

The point is long-range forecasting matters, and Accuweather ought to take it far more seriously than Bastardi does in his posts and this widely seen appearance on FoxNews:

“It’s called the triple crown of cooling: the natural reversal of the ocean cycles””three years ago, the Pacific went from its warm state into its cold state; solar activity, very low sunspot activity; and volcanic activity, not the kind you see in the tropics, but the kind we had up in the Arctic regions a couple of winters ago. And this is something that we opine could be causing a return to, for instance, the times of the Victorian era in Europe….”

Heck, people’s lives are at stake if, instead of planning for ever-worsening heat waves, governments and cities and businesses and individuals think we’re going back to the cooler temperatures of the 1970s.

No, I’m not going to address here the many scientific mistakes Bastardi makes in that video or the National Review Online piece. I’ve discussed them before (see links below)and the purpose of this post is to lay out the two bets and the rationale for why it matters.

I will say that since I don’t think Bastardi is in the business of predicting major volcanos, I assume his predictions aren’t based on some forecast of big volcanoes this decade, so I would propose, as I have in other bets, voiding the bets if there are two volcanoes the size of Mount Pinatubo or larger (roughtly 10 cubic Km of ash and 20 million tons of SO2) or one big volcano with more than 30 cubic Km of ejecta. I’ll give up one Pinatubo, but the purpose of this event is to test global warming vs. Bastardi’s ‘cycles’ theory, not whether we get a relatively rare decade with massive volcanic ejecta. [By comparison, the Icelandic eruption that disrupted air travel last year ejected some 140 million cubic meters, which is pretty small since there are 1,000 million cubic meters in a cubic kilometer.]

Bastardi spends a lot of time attacking climate scientists and insisting businesses actually listen to him:

Whereas a significant portion of today’s climate scientists are politically motivated, Bastardi has only one incentive in his job: accuracy. He won’t be denied tenure or publication if he ends up on the wrong side. He gets paid handsomely “” he won’t tell me just how much “” for long-term weather forecasts by traders who have an interest in commodities whose production is affected by the weather. And he still gets hired, despite his rising to fame and infamy as a global-warming skeptic. His credential, in other words, is that he’s passed the market test: “Because I know the physical drivers of the atmosphere . . . people see me on TV talking about things, but that’s the tip of the iceberg “” I get calls from companies when money is on the line. They want the right answer, the best answer, the quickest answer. Do you realize how much money you save if you get the weather right?”

Well, anybody can make that claim. If it were true, then Bastardi should jump at the chance to take this small bet. If he won’t, then I think we can safely say his predictions are just BS, just so much bluster and hot air, which is what I (and many others) have repeatedly asserted they are: